Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Warren
APPEAL FROM WARREN COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS Case No. 07
P. Fornshell, Warren County Prosecuting Attorney, Kirsten
Brandt, for plaintiff-appellee
Lindsey M. Williams, defendant-appellant, pro se
1} Defendant-appellant, Lindsey Williams, appeals a
decision of the Warren County Court of Common Pleas denying
his motion for return of personal property.
2} Williams was involved in a stand-off with police
in 2006, during which time he utilized multiple guns and
ammunition he owned. After Williams was arrested, the police
seized Williams' guns and ammunition as evidence.
Williams eventually pled guilty to multiple charges and was
sentenced to 22 years in prison. Williams attempted no less
than four times to withdraw his guilty plea, but each motion
3} In 2017, Williams filed a motion for the return
of his personal property, including the guns seized in 2006.
While the trial court ordered the state to return several
items of personal property to Williams, it denied the motion
as to the guns and ammunition. Williams now appeals the trial
court's decision, raising the following assignment of
4} THE TRIAL COURT ERRED WHEN IT DENIED THE
APPELLANT'S MOTION TO RETURN HIS PROPERTY.
5} Williams argues in his assignment of error that
the trial court erred in not ordering the return of his guns
6} Williams does not challenge the initial seizure
of the weapons and ammunition, and instead, recognizes that
the state had authority to seize the weapons and ammunition
as evidence related to the charges. However, Williams argues
that the state no longer has authority to keep the weapons
and ammunition now that he has been convicted, his motions to
withdraw his guilty plea have been denied, and he is in the
process of serving his sentence.
7} Conversely, the state argues that Williams'
argument is barred by res judicata because he did not raise
the issue of forfeiture in any of his attempts to withdraw
his guilty plea. The doctrine of res judicata provides that a
final judgment of conviction bars a convicted defendant who
was represented by counsel from raising and litigating in any
proceeding except an appeal from that judgment, any defense
or any claimed lack of due process that was raised or could
have been raised by the defendant at the trial, which
resulted in that judgment of conviction, or an appeal from
the judgment. State v. Lawwill, 12th Dist. Warren
No. CA2017-03-027, 2017-Ohio-8432.
8} However, there are several procedural issues that
make the doctrine of res judicata inapplicable to the case
sub judice. The Supreme Court of Ohio has indicated that
"the forfeiture of items contemplates judicial action
and additional considerations that extend beyond a
defendant's criminal case, " including the need for
certain findings by the trier of fact. State v.
Harris, 132 Ohio St.3d 318, 2012-Ohio-1908, ¶ 33.
9} R.C. Chapter 2981 permits law enforcement
officers to seize property based on probable cause that the
property is subject to forfeiture.  Such property includes
"contraband, " "proceeds" from the
commission of an offense, and "instrumentalities"
involved in the commission of felonies and certain other
offenses. R.C. 2981.01(B)(13). A state or political
subdivision acquires provisional title to property
subject to forfeiture, upon commission of an offense giving
rise to forfeiture. R.C. 2981.03(A)(1). However, this
provisional title is subject to claims of third parties and a
final forfeiture adjudication. Id.
10} A prosecuting attorney may pursue forfeiture of
seized property in a criminal case according to R.C. 2981.04,
in a civil proceeding pursuant to R.C. 2981.05, or both. R.C.
2981.03(F). The state initiates criminal forfeiture by
including a forfeiture specification in the charging
instrument consistent with R.C. 2941.1417, or by providing
the defendant with "prompt notice, " in conformity
with Crim.R. 7(E), that the property is subject to
forfeiture. R.C. 2981.04(A)(1) and (A)(2). Civil forfeiture
is initiated by ...