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City of South Euclid v. Bickerstaff

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

June 6, 2019

CITY OF SOUTH EUCLID, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
BRENDA V. BICKERSTAFF, Defendant-Appellant.

          Criminal Appeal from the South Euclid Municipal Court Case No. TRD 1800233A

          Michael Lograsso, Law Director, City of South Euclid, and Anthony J. Bondra, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for appellee.

          Brenda V. Bickerstaff, pro se.

          JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

          KATHLEEN ANN KEOUGH, J.

         {¶ 1} Defendant-appellant, Brenda V. Bickerstaff ("Bickerstaff"), appeals her sentence. For the reasons that follow, we affirm in part; modify in part; and remand.

         {¶ 2} In January 2018, Bickerstaff was issued a traffic citation for violating South Euclid Codified Ordinances ("S.E.C.O.") 331.34(c), full time and attention, a fourth-degree misdemeanor; S.E.C.O. 337.27(b)(1), driver seat belt, a minor misdemeanor; and S.E.C.O. 335.09(a)(1), failure to display a front license plate, a fourth-degree misdemeanor. The citation also noted that she was given a warning for "R.O.W." (right of way). Bickerstaff pleaded not guilty.

         {¶ 3} On July 25, 2018, the case was scheduled for a bench trial. Bickerstaff attempted to plead "no contest" to the charges; however, during the plea colloquy, she alleged that she was threatened by the prosecutor, which caused her to want to change her plea. After a lengthy conversation with the trial court, the court declined to accept Bickerstaff s plea because in light of the allegations she was making, the plea would not be voluntary.

         {¶ 4} Immediately thereafter, a bench trial was conducted, and the city presented testimony from Officer William Lozar, who issued the citation to Bickerstaff. The city also played the video recording from the body camera that Officer Lozar was wearing during the traffic stop. At the conclusion of the trial, the court found Bickerstaff not guilty of the full-time-and-attention offense, but guilty of not wearing her driver's seat belt and not displaying a front license plate.

         {¶5} Bickerstaff was sentenced immediately following the trial; no presentence investigation report was ordered. After a lengthy sentencing hearing, the trial court ultimately sentenced Bickerstaff on the offense for failing to display a front license plate to serve 30 days in jail, with 25 days suspended; pay a $200 fine plus court costs; serve six months of reporting probation; perform 75 hours of community service; be subject to random drug and alcohol screening; and to "not commit no same or similar offenses or other." On the seatbelt violation, Bickerstaff was ordered to pay a $30 fine. Her sentence was stayed pending appeal.

         {¶ 6} Bickerstaff now appeals, raising the following three assignments of error, which will be addressed together.[1]

I. The imposition of a sentence of community control, incarceration, 75 hours of community service[, ] and drug and alcohol screening for the crime of failure to display a license plate for a first[-]time offender constitutes an abuse of discretion.
II. It is patently obvious that the sentence imposed on appellant was not reasonable, proportional, or consistent with sentences imposed for similarly-situated defendants for commission of a fourth-degree misdemeanor of failure to display a front license plate.
III. The imposition of a sentence of probation or community control, incarceration, 75 hours of community service, and drug and alcohol screening violated appellant's Fifth and ...

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