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State v. Helfrich

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Third District, Seneca

February 20, 2018

STATE OF OHIO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
ROBERT C. HELFRICH, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT. STATE OF OHIO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
ROBERT C. HELFRICH, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT. STATE OF OHIO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
ROBERT C. HELFRICH, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.

         Appeals from Tiffin-Fostoria Municipal Court Trial Court Nos. CRB 0200218 A, B, C, CRB 0200443, and CRB 0200444

          Dorothy L. Williams for Appellant.

          Charles R. Hall, Jr. for Appellee.

          OPINION

          ZIMMERMAN, J.

         {¶1} This matter comes before us upon three consolidated appeals. Defendant-Appellant, Robert C. Helfrich ("Helfrich"), appeals the judgments of the Seneca County Tiffin Municipal Court denying his motion to seal the record of his convictions. On appeal, Helfrich asserts that: 1) the trial court erred in making an arbitrary ruling; 2) the trial court erred in ruling that Helfrich was not an eligible offender for expungement; 3) the trial court abused its discretion in ruling that the need of society to maintain the record outweighs the benefit to Helfrich by sealing the record; 4) the trial court abused its discretion by ruling that Helfrich is not fully rehabilitated; and 5) the trial court erred by basing its decision on an error of law. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the ruling of the trial court.

         Factual Background

         {¶2} On March 3, 2002, Helfrich was suspected for shoplifting cigarettes from a Kroger grocery store located in Tiffin, Ohio. (Case Number 02CRB218, Doc. No. 1).[1] Helfrich was detained by local law enforcement officers after a brief foot chase, and six packs of cigarettes were located on his person. (Id.).

         {¶3} Helfrich was arrested for theft and taken to the police station for questioning.[2] (Id.). During Helfrich's interrogation, the officer questioning Helfrich noticed that Helfrich had the odor of alcohol on his breath. (Id.). Because Helfrich was only nineteen (19) years old at the time of this arrest, the officer asked Helfrich if he had been drinking. (Id.). Helfrich admitted that he had been drinking beer at a local bar. (Id.). Helfrich also told the officer that he was at Tiffin University just prior to being arrested for the shoplifting charge. (02CRB444, Doc. No. 1).

         {¶4} However, Helfrich had been expelled from Tiffin University on February 5, 2002, and was informed by school officials that if he returned to school property criminal charges for trespassing would be filed against him. (Id.). So, due to Helfrich's admission that he was on Tiffin University's property, the Tiffin police department chose to investigate Helfrich's presence on university property and subsequently obtained evidence that Helfrich was, in fact, on Tiffin University's campus on March 3 and on March 6, 2002. (Id; 02CRB443, Doc. No. 1).

         Procedural Background

         {¶5} On March 4, 2002, criminal charges were filed in the Tiffin Municipal Court stemming from Helfrich's shoplifting arrest. (02CRB218, Doc. No. 1). Specifically, Helfrich was charged with: Underage Consumption, in violation of R.C. 4301.632, [3] a misdemeanor of the first degree, in case number 02CRB218A; Theft, in violation of R.C. 2913.02(A)(1), a misdemeanor of the first degree, in case number 02CRB218B; and Resisting Arrest, in violation of R.C. 2921.33(A), a misdemeanor of the second degree, in case number 02CRB218C. (Id.). Helfrich pled not guilty to all charges and the case was set for a jury trial. (02CRB218, Doc. Nos. 4; 5). Thereafter, and on April 3, 2002, Helfrich appeared in the trial court and changed his plea from "not guilty" to "no contest" to the Underage Consumption and Theft charges. (02CRB218, Doc. No. 9). Because Helfrich entered "no contest" pleas to the charges of Underage Consumption and Theft, the prosecutor dismissed the Resisting Arrest charge. (Id.). Helfrich was found guilty by the trial court of the Underage Consumption charge and was ordered to pay a fine of $150, plus court costs. He also received a suspended jail sentence of thirty (30) days. (Id.). Helfrich was also placed on probation for a period of one year. (Id.). The trial court also found Helfrich guilty of the Theft charge and he was ordered to pay a fine of $15 plus court costs. (Id.).

         {¶6} On May 2, 2002, two additional and separate criminal cases were filed against Helfrich in the Tiffin Municipal Court. (02CRB443, Doc. No. 1; 02CRB444, Doc. No. 1). These charges stemmed from Helfrich's trespasses on Tiffin University's property on March 3rd and March 6th, 2002. (Id.). Helfrich was charged in each case with Criminal Trespass, in violation of R.C. 2911.21(A), misdemeanors of the fourth degree. (Id.). Helfrich entered a plea of "not guilty" to the Criminal Trespass charge in case number 02CRB443 on May 16, 2002. (02CRB443, Doc. No. 4). On June 6, 2002, Helfrich entered a plea of "not guilty" to the Criminal Trespass charge in case number 02CRB444. (02CRB444, Doc. No. 5).

         {¶7} However, on August 1, 2002, Helfrich changed his pleas of "not guilty" to "no contest" in both trespassing cases in the trial court. (02CRB443, Doc. No. 12; 02CRB444, Doc. No. 10). As a result, Helfrich was found guilty by the trial court in both cases and sentenced to a fine of $150, and ordered to pay court costs in Case No. 02CRB443. (02CRB443, Doc. No. 12; 02CRB444, Doc. No. 10). The trial court also ordered Helfrich to serve thirty (30) days in jail, consecutive to any other misdemeanor jail time, with such jail term being conditionally suspended. (Id.). In case number 02CRB444, Helfrich was ordered to pay court costs, and sentenced to serve thirty (30) days in jail, consecutive to any other misdemeanor jail time, with such sentence also being suspended. (02CRB444, Doc. No. 10).

         {¶8} Approximately fifteen (15) years later, on June 9, 2017, Helfrich filed a motion in the trial court to seal the records of his convictions in all of his Tiffin Municipal Court cases. (02CRB218, Doc. No. 11; 02CRB443, Doc. No. 14; 02CRB444, Doc. No. 12). On July 6, 2017, the State of Ohio (Appellee herein) filed its objection to Helfrich's request. (02CRB218, Doc. No. 13; 02CRB443, Doc. No. 16, 02CRB444, Doc. No. 14). Specifically, the State of Ohio argued that Helfrich was not an "eligible offender" under R.C. 2953.32, which therefore precluded the sealing of his convictions. (Id.).

         {¶9} A hearing on Helfrich's motions to seal was held in the Tiffin Municipal Court on July 10, 2017, and on the September 11, 2017 the trial court denied Helfrich's motions, ruling that: "[b]ased upon review of said case the Court finds that the Defendant does not qualify pursuant to ORC. [sic] and therefore said motion is DENIED." (02CRB218, Doc. No. 12; 02CRB443, Doc. No. 15; 02CRB444, Doc. No. 13).

         {¶10} On October 11, 2017, Helfrich filed an appeal from the Tiffin Municipal Court's denial of his motion to seal his record. (02CRB218, Doc. No. 16; 02CRB443, Doc. No. 19; 02CRB444, Doc. No. 18). On appeal, Helfrich asserts the following assignments of error for review:

ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR NO. I
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN MAKING A RULING THAT APPEARS TO BE ARBITRARY WITH NO STATED FOUNDATION FOR SAME.
ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR NO. II
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN APPARENTLY RULING THAT APPELLANT IS NOT AN ELIGIBLE OFFENDER.
ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR NO. III
THE TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION IN APPARENTLY RULING THAT SOME UNDISCLOSED NEED OF SOCIETY TO MAINTAIN THE RECORD AS PUBLIC [SIC] OUTWEIGHS THE BENEFIT ...

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