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State v. Mix

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fourth District, Gallia

August 12, 2019

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
ERICA S. MIX, Defendant-Appellant.

          CRIMINAL APPEAL FROM COMMON PLEAS COURT

          W. Joseph Edwards, Columbus, Ohio, for appellant.[1]

          Jason D. Holdren, Gallia County Prosecuting Attorney, Gallipolis, Ohio, for appellee.

          DECISION AND JUDGMENT ENTRY

          PETER B. ABELE, JUDGE

         {¶ 1} This is an appeal from a Gallia County Common Pleas Court judgment of conviction and sentence. Erica Mix, defendant below and appellant herein, pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated trafficking in drugs, in violation of R.C. 2925.03(A)(2), and received an eleven year prison sentence. Appellant assigns one error for review:

ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR:
"A GUILTY PLEA IS COERCIVE WHEN IT IS INDUCED BY PROMISES MADE TO DEFENDANT-APPELLANT CONCERNING HER CO-DEFENDANT MOTHER'S CASE, WITHOUT ADEQUATE ADVICE BY COUNSEL AND THE COURT, CONTRA HER DUE PROCESS RIGHTS UNDER THE FIFTH AND FOURTEENTH AMENDMENTS AS WELL AS HER SIXTH AMENDMENT RIGHTS GUARANTEED BY THE OHIO AND FEDERAL CONSTITUTIONS (RECORD REFERENCE: TR. PP. 47-87)."

         {¶ 2} In May 2018, a Gallia County Grand Jury returned an indictment that charged appellant with (1) one count of aggravated trafficking in drugs (methamphetamine) in violation of R.C. 2925.03(A)(2), a first-degree felony, (2) one count of aggravated possession of drugs (methamphetamine) in violation of R.C. 2925.11(A), a first-degree felony, and (3) one count of operating a motor vehicle with a hidden compartment in violation of R.C. 2923.241(C), a second-degree felony.

         {¶ 3} Subsequently, and pursuant to a negotiated plea agreement, appellant pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated trafficking in drugs. At the hearing, the state informed the trial court that an officer stopped a vehicle in Gallia County and inside the vehicle, the officer found appellant, the driver, and a passenger, appellant's mother. Apparently, the cruiser's camera also recorded a conversation between appellant and her mother. During the conversation, appellant indicated that she had a controlled substance in her vehicle's hidden compartment. In that compartment, officers later found 439.5 grams of methamphetamine, an amount that warranted a major drug offender specification.

         {¶ 4} After negotiation between the parties and, in exchange for appellant's guilty plea, the state agreed to (1) dismiss counts two and three, and (2) reduce appellant's co-defendant mother's charge to a third-degree felony. At that point, the trial court, pursuant to the joint sentencing recommendation, sentenced appellant to serve a mandatory eleven-year prison term. Afterward, appellant filed a pro se motion for delayed appeal that this court granted on January 22, 2019.

         {¶ 5} In her sole assignment of error, appellant asserts that her guilty plea resulted from coercive tactics and, thus, violated her due process rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as her Sixth Amendment rights guaranteed by the Ohio and federal Constitutions. In particular, appellant argues that her plea resulted from promises that involved her co-defendant mother and without adequate advice from counsel and the trial court.

         {¶ 6} "When a defendant enters a plea in a criminal case, the plea must be made knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily. Failure on any of those points renders enforcement of the plea unconstitutional under both the United States Constitution and the Ohio Constitution." State v. Engle, 74 Ohio St.3d 525, 527, 660 N.E.2d 450 (1996). Crim.R. 11(C) governs the process that a trial court must use before it accepts a felony plea of guilty or no contest. With respect to the required colloquy, Crim.R. 11(C)(2) provides:

In felony cases the court may refuse to accept a plea of guilty or a plea of no contest, and shall not accept a plea of guilty or no contest without first addressing the defendant personally and doing all of the following:
(a) Determining that the defendant is making the plea voluntarily, with the understanding of the nature of the charges and ...

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