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State v. Vineyard

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Clermont

February 26, 2018

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
THOMAS J. VINEYARD, Defendant-Appellee.

         CRIMINAL APPEAL FROM CLERMONT COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS Case No. 2016CR00363

          D. Vincent Faris, Clermont County Prosecuting Attorney, Nicholas A. Horton, for plaintiff-appellant

          W. Stephen Haynes, Clermont County Public Defender, Robert F. Benintendi, for defendant-appellee

          OPINION

          PIPER, J.

         {¶ 1} Plaintiff-appellant, the state of Ohio, appeals a decision of the Clermont County Court of Common Pleas dismissing charges against defendant-appellee, Thomas Vineyard.

         {¶ 2} Vineyard overdosed on heroin, and was later revived after first responders gave him Narcan. After his release from the hospital, Vineyard admitted himself into a drug addiction treatment center in California. Vineyard completed three months of in-patient care, and three months of out-patient care in California before returning to his home in Ohio.

         {¶ 3} During the time that Vineyard was seeking treatment in California, the Clermont County Grand Jury indicted Vineyard on charges of possession of heroin and fentanyl, both fifth-degree felonies. However, given Vineyard's stay in California, the state did not serve the indictment upon Vineyard until he returned to Ohio.

         {¶ 4} Three months after the indictment was issued, the Ohio Legislature enacted a 'Good Samaritan' statute, which enabled certain offenders who sought medical assistance for drug overdose to avoid being arrested for, charged with, prosecuted for, convicted of, or penalized for possession of drugs that would constitute a misdemeanor or fifth-degree felony. Vineyard filed a motion to dismiss the charges against him based upon the statute.

         {¶ 5} The state opposed Vineyard's motion to dismiss, arguing that Vineyard's offenses occurred before the Good Samaritan statute was enacted and that the statute could not be applied retroactively. The trial court found that the Good Samaritan statute applied to Vineyard, and dismissed the case. The state now appeals the trial court's decision, raising the following assignment of error.

         {¶ 6} THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DISMISSING APPELLEE'S CASE AS IT UNCONSTITUTIONALLY APPLIED THE IMMUNITY AFFORDED BY SECTION 2925.11(B)(2) TO APPELLEE RETROACTIVELY.

         {¶ 7} The state argues in its assignment of error that the trial court erred in determining that R.C. 2925.11(B)(2)(b) applies to Vineyard.

         {¶ 8} According to R.C. 2925.11(B)(2)(b)

Subject to division (B)(2)(f) of this section, a qualified individual shall not be arrested, charged, prosecuted, convicted, or penalized pursuant to this chapter for a minor drug possession offense if all of the following apply:
(i) The evidence of the obtaining, possession, or use of the controlled substance or controlled substance analog that would be the basis of the offense was obtained as a result of the qualified individual seeking the medical assistance or ...

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