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State v. Teeple

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Third District, Seneca

May 7, 2018

STATE OF OHIO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
ROBERT A. TEEPLE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.

          Appeal from Tiffin-Fostoria Municipal Court Trial Court No. TRC 1700514

          Eric Allen Marks for Appellant

          Charles R. Hall for Appellee

          OPINION

          ZIMMERMAN, J.

         {¶1} 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 only.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         {¶2} 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. (Id.).

         {¶3} 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.).

         {¶4} 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.

         {¶5} 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. (Id.).

         {¶6} 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).

         {¶7} 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 CONSTITUTION.
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.

         {¶8} Given the nature of the assignments of error, we elect to address them out of order.

         Second Assignment of Error

         {¶9} 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.

         Standard of Review

         {¶10} "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 (1984).

         Analysis

         {¶11} 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 collision.
(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 ...

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