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State v. AAA Sly Bail Bonds

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth District, Richland

July 18, 2018

STATE OF OHIO Plaintiff-Appellee
v.
AAA SLY BAIL BONDS (JON MARTEL JEFFERSON) Defendant-Appellant

          Criminal appeal from the Stark County Court of Common Pleas, Case No. 2014CR0769R

          For Plaintiff-Appellee GARY D. BISHOP Richland County Prosecutor

          For Defendant-Appellant DOUGLAS BOND

          Hon. W. Scott Gwin, P.J. Hon. Patricia A. Delaney, J. Hon. Earle E. Wise, J.

          OPINION

          GWIN, P.J.

         {¶1} Defendant-appellant AAA Sly Bail Bonds ["Appellant"] appeals the May 25, 2017 Judgment Entry of the Richland County Court of Common Pleas overruling its objections and adopting the March 21, 2017 decision of the magistrate ordering the forfeiture of the bond of Defendant Jon Martel Jefferson and the May 22, 2018 Judgment Entry of the Richland County Court of Common Pleas overruling its Motion to Vacate Judgment pursuant to Civ.R. 60(B). The Appellee is the State of Ohio.

         Facts and Procedural History

         {¶2} On November 24, 2014, Jon Martel Jefferson ["Jefferson"] was charged in Mansfield Municipal Court with several felony offenses, including Fleeing and Eluding, Having Weapons While under Disability, Receiving Stolen Property, and two counts of Possession of Drugs. Jefferson's bond was set at $100, 000 cash or surety and personal recognizance, and Jefferson was ordered to be placed on Electronic Monitoring.

         {¶3} On November 26, 2014, Jefferson waived a preliminary hearing and Appellant posted his bond. The Mansfield Municipal Court transferred this bond to the Richland County Court of Common Pleas. Jefferson deposited a bond fee on December 2, 2014 in Court of Common Pleas.

         {¶4} On December 30, 2014, electronic monitoring Officer J.J. Bittinger issued a bench warrant for Jefferson's arrest requesting that his bond be revoked. On January 13, 2015, the Richland County Grand Jury indicted Jefferson and a warrant to arrest on the indictment was issued. On January 16, 2015, Jefferson's bond was set at $100, 000 cash and personal recognizance with electronic monitoring on his indictment. Arraignment was scheduled for January 27, 2015; however, there was failure of service on the indictment. It was subsequently determined that Jefferson had been arrested and sent to prison on other legal matters out of Franklin County, Ohio.

         {¶5} Jefferson was arraigned in the Richland County Court of Common Pleas on February 5, 2015, and his bond was continued. On July 23, 2015, a warrant was issued to convey Jefferson to the Richland County Court of Common Pleas because he was being released from prison on his Franklin County case. Jefferson's bond was again set at $100, 000 and personal recognizance with electronic monitoring. Brittany Scope[1] from the Richland County Clerk of Court's Office telephoned bonding agent Robert Hagen, an employee of Appellant, to confirm his desire to remain on the $100, 000 surety bond. Mr. Hagen's approval is noted on the bond form. (T., Feb 10, 2017 at 24-25). On July 27, 2015, Jefferson posted the bond set on July 23, 2015.

         {¶6} A jury trial was scheduled for February 1, 2016. Jefferson failed to appear for trial. As a result, the trial court issued both a bench warrant for Jefferson's arrest and an entry of bond forfeiture. An amended entry of bond forfeiture was journalized on February 12, 2016, with notice of the same to Appellant. Appellant was notified that judgment would be entered at the bond hearing on March 28, 2016 if Jefferson were not produced by that time.

         {¶7} On February 18, 2016, Appellant filed a motion to vacate and release surety. On April 11, 2016, Appellant filed a Memorandum in support of its motion. On February 10, 2017, a hearing was held on that motion. On March 21, 2017, the Magistrate filed his decision on Bond Forfeiture, which denied Appellant's motion. On April 4, 2017, Appellant objected to the Magistrate's ruling. On May 25, 2017, the Trial Court adopted the ruling of the Magistrate and ordered the bond forfeited. Up until this point, Appellant never produced Defendant to the Court.

         {¶8} On June 19, 2017, the Appellant filed a Motion to Vacate pursuant to Civ. R. 60(B). On June 23, 2017, Appellant timely filed Notice of Appeal in this matter.

         {¶9} By Judgment Entry filed April 25, 2018, this Court remanded the case to the trial court for a ruling on Appellant's Civ.R. 60 motion. Appellant filed a Supplemental Motion to Vacate and/or Motion for Relief from Judgment on May 21, 2018. By Judgment Entry filed May 22, 2018, the trial court denied Appellant's Motion to Vacate the Bond Forfeiture. On June 11, 2018, Appellant filed a supplemental brief addressing the trial court's May 22, 2018 ruling. On June 19, 2018, Appellee filed a supplemental brief in response to Appellant's June 11, 2018 brief. On June 26, 2018, Appellee filed a Notice of Supplemental Authority.

         Assignments of Error

         {¶10} Appellant raises seven Assignments of Error, {¶11} "I. THE TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION IN ITS JUDGMENT ENTRY DATED MAY 25, 2017 BY RULING THAT THE ACTION AGAINST BAIL IN THIS MATTER WAS A CRIMINAL PROCEEDING, AND THAT THE STATUTORY DEFENSE CONTAINED IN R.C. 2713.23 WAS INAPPLICABLE AND DID NOT EXONERATE THE APPELLANT FROM LIABILITY ON THE BOND.

         {¶12} "II. THE TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION BY ENTERING JUDGMENT AGAINST THE APPELLANT ON THE DEFENDANT'S BOND AS A NEW BOND SHOULD HAVE BEEN ORDERED WITH SEPARATE BONDING POWERS, AFTER THE DEFENDANT WAS INCARCERATED IN STATE PRISON IN OHIO, HIS ORIGINAL BOND WAS REVOKED, AND A NEW BOND WAS SET FOR A NEW CHARGE ON AN INDICTMENT.

         {¶13} "III. THE TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION BY ENTERING JUDGMENT AGAINST THE APPELLANT ON THE DEFENDANT'S BOND AS THE APPELLANT SHOULD HAVE BEEN GIVEN NOTICE AND AN OPPORTUNITY TO BE HEARD PRIOR TO THE CONTINUATION OF THE DEFENDANT'S BOND UPON HIS RELEASE FROM HIS INCARCERATION IN STATE PRISON.

         {¶14} "IV. THE TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION BY ENTERING JUDGMENT AGAINST THE APPELLANT ON THE DEFENDANT'S BOND BECAUSE IT INTERFERED WITH THE APPELLANT'S ABILITY TO RETURN THE DEFENDANT BY FAILING TO ISSUE A BENCH WARRANT FOR OVER EIGHT MONTHS AFTER THE DEFENDANT'S BOND WAS ORDERED FORFEITED.

         {¶15} "V. THE TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION BY ENTERING JUDGMENT AGAINST THE APPELLANT ON THE DEFENDANT'S BOND BECAUSE THE DEFENDANT WAS RETURNED TO THE COURT'S CUSTODY WITHIN 10 DAYS AFTER SAID JUDGMENT WAS ENTERED AGAINST THE APPELLANT.

         {¶16} "VI. THE TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION BY ENTERING JUDGMENT AGAINST THE APPELLANT ON THE DEFENDANT'S BOND AS THE TRIAL COURT FAILED TO PROVIDE THE APPELLANT 'WITH NOTICE OF THE DEFENDANT'S FAILURE TO APPEAR IN COURT ON DECEMBER 22, 2015.

         {¶17} "VII. THE TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION BY DENYING THE APPELLANT'S MOTION TO VACATE AS IT FAILED TO ADDRESS THE ISSUES RAISED BY APPELLANT IN ITS MOTION, AND INSTEAD THE TRIAL COURT TREATED THE MOTION AS IF IT WERE RULING ON A MOTION FOR REMISSION OF A FORFEITED BOND UNDER R.C. 2937.39."

         I.

         {¶18} In the First Assignment of Error, Appellant argues that R.C. 2713.23, rather than R.C. 2937.40 applies to this case.

         Standard of Appellate Review.

         {¶19} Appellants argument centers on an issue of law, not the discretion of the trial court. In other words, Appellants contend that the trial court applied the wrong statute to determine the bond forfeiture action.

         {¶20} "When a court's judgment is based on an erroneous interpretation of the law, an abuse-of-discretion standard is not appropriate. See Swartzentruber v. Orrville Grace Brethren Church, 163 Ohio App.3d 96, 2005-Ohio-4264, 836 N.E.2d 619, ¶ 6; Huntsman v. Aultman Hosp., 5th Dist. No. 2006 CA 00331, 2008-Ohio-2554, 2008 WL 2572598, ¶ 50.' Med. Mut. of Ohio v. Schlotterer, 122 Ohio St.3d 181, 2009-Ohio-2496, 909 N.E.2d 1237, ¶ 13." State v. Fugate, 117 Ohio St.3d 261, 2008-Ohio-856, 883 N.E.2d 440, ¶6. Because the assignment of error involves the interpretation of a statute, which is a question of law, we review the trial court's decision de novo. Med. Mut. of Ohio v. Schlotterer, 122 Ohio St.3d 181, 2009-Ohio-2496, 909 N.E.2d 1237, ¶ 13; Accord, State v. Pariag, 137 Ohio St.3d 81, 2013-Ohio-4010, 998 N.E.2d 401, ¶ 9; Hurt v. Liberty Township, Delaware County, OH, 5th Dist. Delaware No. 17 CAI 05 0031, 2017-Ohio-7820, ¶ 31.

         ISSUE FOR APPEAL.

         Whether R.C. 2713.23 applies to a bond forfeiture proceeding when the bond at issue was issued in a criminal case.

         {¶21} Chapter 2713 of the Ohio Revised Code contemplates "Arrest and Bail" in the civil context. R.C. 2713.01 provides that "[i]n a civil action, a defendant can be arrested before judgment only in the manner prescribed by [R.C] 2713.01 to [R.C] 2713.29." (Emphasis added.) R.C. 2713.02 sets forth that "[a]n order of arrest" is to be issued by the clerk of court upon the filing of an affidavit by the plaintiff stating the nature and amount of the plaintiffs claim and facts "establishing one or more of the [listed] particulars." R.C. 2713.03 requires the plaintiff or a surety to execute a bond that plaintiff will pay the defendant's damages up to double the amount in the affidavit in the event the order of arrest was wrongfully obtained. R.C. 2713.21 addresses the discharge of bail when a defendant is surrendered in a civil case, while R.C. 2713.23 sets forth when bail is exonerated in a civil case.

         {¶22} Crim. R. 46 Bail provides, in relevant part,

(I) Failure to Appear; Breach of Conditions. Any person who fails to appear before any court as required is subject to the punishment provided by the law, and any bail given for the person's release may be forfeited. If there is a breach of condition of bail, the court may amend the bail.

         {¶23} R.C. 2937.35, Forfeit of bail, provides,

Upon the failure of the accused or witness to appear in accordance with its terms the bail may in open court be adjudged forfeit, in whole or in part by the court or magistrate before whom he is to appear. But such court or magistrate may, in its discretion, continue the cause to a later date certain, giving notice of such date to him and the bail depositor or sureties, and adjudge the bail forfeit upon failure to appear at such later date.

         {¶24} In State v. Hughes, the Ohio Supreme Court noted,

The purpose of bail, as stated in Crim.R. 46(A) "is to insure that the defendant appears at all stages of the criminal proceedings." See, also, Bland v. Holden (1970), 21 Ohio St.2d 238, 257 N.E.2d 397');">257 N.E.2d 397 [50 O.O.2d 477]. The surety, by posting bail bond, guarantees that it will produce the defendant in court when called. State ex rel. Howell v. Schiele (1949), 85 Ohio App. 356, 88 N.E.2d 215');">88 N.E.2d 215 [40 O.O. 234], affirmed (1950), 153 Ohio St. 235, 91 N.E.2d 5');">91 N.E.2d 5 [41 O.O. 249]. If the defendant does not make a court appearance, there is a breach of a condition of the bond and the court must declare a forfeiture of the bail, Crim.R. 46(M), unless the surety is exonerated "as provided by law." Crim.R. 46(N).
Forfeiture proceedings are governed by R.C. 2937.36, which provides that a surety may be exonerated if good cause "by production of the body of the accused or otherwise" is shown. ...

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