from Tiffin-Fostoria Municipal Court Trial Court No. TRC
Allen Marks for Appellant
Charles R. Hall for Appellee
Defendant-Appellant, Robert A. Teeple ("Teeple")
appeals his convictions from the Seneca County
Tiffin-Fostoria Municipal Court of one count of Driving While
Under the Influence ("OVI") in violation of R.C.
4511.19(A)(1)(a); one count Stopping after accident; exchange
of identity and vehicle registration ("Hit-Skip")
in violation of R.C. 4549.02; and one count of Operation
Without Reasonable Control ("Failure to Control"),
in violation of R.C. 4511.202. On appeal, Teeple argues that:
(1) he was denied his right to effective assistance of
counsel, and (2) the trial court erred in finding him guilty
of failure to stop after an accident when there was
insufficient evidence to make a finding of guilt. For the
reasons set forth below, we reverse the ruling of the trial
court as to Teeple's "Hit-Skip" conviction
and Procedural Background
On February 12, 2017, Trooper Sorg of the Ohio State Highway
Patrol was dispatched to a one-vehicle injury accident in
Seneca County. (8/31/2017 Tr. at 8). Trooper Sorg was advised
that the driver was attempting to change a tire and was
believed to be under the influence. (Id.). As a
result of the dispatch, the Seneca County Sheriffs Office EMS
responded to the area but could not locate the vehicle.
(Id.). However, Officer Taggart, of the Fostoria
Police Department, while in the area, was stopped by a
motorist who stated that they saw a maroon minivan pulling
into the parking lot of the union hall without a front tire.
(Id.). The vehicle description given to Officer
Taggart matched the description of the vehicle involved in
the crash to which Trooper Sorg was dispatched.
As a result of this information, Officer Taggart went to the
United Auto Workers ("UAW") union hall in an
attempt to locate the driver of the minivan. (Id.).
Individuals at the union hall told Officer Taggart that they
were aware of Teeple, the individual identified as the
minivan's driver, being in the union hall building but
they were not sure of his location therein. (Id.).
So, Officer Taggart searched the UAW hall and found Teeple in
the back room of the hall's kitchen with the lights off.
(Id. at 8-9). Officer Taggart secured Teeple into
the back of his patrol vehicle. (Id.).
Thereafter, Trooper Sorg obtained information from a witness
at the union hall who stated that they observed Teeple
consume alcohol at the UAW hall earlier in the day, before
his accident. (Id.). Another Ohio State Highway
Patrol Officer, Trooper Donovan, obtained a statement from
Teeple, wherein he (Teeple) stated that he had not consumed
any alcohol prior to the crash but may have had three
alcoholic drinks after the crash. (Id.). These
witness accounts were part of Trooper Sorg's report.
As a result of the Ohio State Highway Patrol's
investigation, Teeple was charged with one (1) count of OVI,
in violation of R.C. 4511.19(A)(1)(A); one (1) count of
Failure to Control, in violation of R.C. 4511.202; and one
(1) count of Hit-Skip, in violation of R.C. 4549.02. (Doc.
No. 1). Teeple's ticket alleged that at approximately
4:10 P.M. on February 12, 2017, Teeple was involved in an
injury crash upon County Road 25. (Id.).
Furthermore, Teeple's ticket also indicated that Teeple
had five (5) prior OVI convictions, from: 2014, 1996, 1985,
1984, and 1982. (Id.). Trooper Sorg personally
served Teeple with the traffic citation on February 12, 2017.
On February 14, 2017, Teeple's attorney filed written
pleas of not guilty to all three charges on Teeple's
behalf in the trial court. (Doc. No. 2). Teeple had his first
pre-trial on March 27, 2017. (Doc. No. 4). A second pre-trial
was scheduled, and it was indicated that Teeple was likely
filing a motion to suppress by April 17, 2017.
(Id.). However, a motion to suppress was never
filed, and at Teeple's second pre-trial on May 2, 2017,
Teeple's charges were set for a jury trial. (Doc. No. 5).
At Teeple's final pre-trial on July 6, 2017, Teeple
waived his right to a jury trial and a bench trial was
scheduled for August 31, 2017. (Doc. No. 10).
On his scheduled bench trial date, Teeple changed his pleas
of not guilty to pleas of no contest to all charges. (Doc.
No. 22). Upon his plea of no contest, the trial court found
Teeple guilty on all three counts and imposed a jail
sentence, fines, and probation conditions on Teeple.
(8/31/2017 Tr. at 9-10; Doc. No. 22). From this judgment
Teeple appeals, and presents the following assignments of
error for our review:
ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR NO. I
APPELLANT WAS DENIED HIS RIGHT TO EFFECTIVE
ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL IN VIOLATION OF THE SIXTH AND
FOURTEENTH AMENDMENTS TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION AND
ARTICLE 1, SECTIONS 1, 2, 10, 16, & 19 OF THE OHIO
ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR NO. II
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FINDING APPELLANT GUILTY OF
[SIC] STOPPING AFTER AN ACCIDENT WHEN THERE WAS
INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE UPON WHICH A FINDING [SIC]
GUILT COULD BE MADE.
Given the nature of the assignments of error, we elect to
address them out of order.
Assignment of Error
In his second assignment of error, Teeple argues that this
Court must dismiss his Hit-Skip conviction because the trial
court lacked sufficient evidence upon which a finding of
guilt could be made. For the reasons that follow, we agree
and reverse the ruling of the trial court.
"R.C. 2937.07 states: "A plea to a misdemeanor
offense of 'no contest' or words of similar import
shall constitute a stipulation that the judge or magistrate
may make a finding of guilty or not guilty from the
explanation of the circumstances of the offense.'"
State v. Provino, 175 Ohio App.3d 283,
2007-Ohio-6974, 886 N.E.2d 888, ¶ 5. "To find a
defendant guilty, 'the record must provide an
'explanation of circumstances' which includes a
statement of the facts supporting all of the essential
elements of the offense.'" Id. quoting
Broadview Hts. v. Krueger, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No.
88998, 2007-Ohio-5337, 2007 WL 2875156, at ¶ 10.
"This rule prevents the trial court from finding
offenders guilty 'in a perfunctory fashion.'"
Broadview, at ¶ 10, citing City of Cuyahoga
Falls v. Bowers, 9 Ohio St.3d 148, 150, 459 N.E.2d 532
In this case, Teeple was convicted of Hit-Skip, in violation
of R.C. 4549.02, which reads:
(A)(1) In the case of a motor vehicle accident or collision
with persons or property on a public road or highway, the
operator of the motor vehicle, having knowledge of the
accident or collision, immediately shall stop the
operator's motor vehicle at the scene of the accident or
collision. The operator shall remain at the scene of the
accident or collision until the operator has given the
operator's name and address and, if the operator is not
the owner, the name and address of the owner of that motor
vehicle, together with the registered number of that motor
vehicle, to all of the following:
(a) Any person injured in the accident or collision;
(b) The operator, occupant, owner, or attendant of any motor
vehicle damaged in the accident or collision;
(c) The police officer at the scene of the accident or
(2) In the event an injured person is unable to comprehend
and record the information required to be given under
division (A)(1) of this section, the other operator involved
in the accident or collision shall notify the nearest police
authority concerning the location of the accident or
collision, and the operator's name, address, and the
registered number of the motor vehicle the operator was
operating. The operator shall remain at the scene of the
accident or collision until a police officer arrives, unless
removed from the scene by an emergency vehicle operated by a
political subdivision or an ambulance.
(3) If the accident or collision is with an unoccupied or
unattended motor vehicle, the operator who collides with the
motor vehicle shall securely attach the information required
to be given in this section, in writing, to a conspicuous
place in or on the unoccupied or unattended motor vehicle.
(B)(1) Whoever violates division (A) of this section is
guilty of failure to stop after an accident. Except as
otherwise provided in division (B)(2) or (3) of this section,
failure to stop after an ...