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State v. Hittle

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Third District, Logan

December 16, 2019

STATE OF OHIO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
ADAM W. HITTLE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.

          Appeal from Bellefontaine Municipal Court Trial Court No. 19TRC00496

          William T. Cramer for Appellant

          Daniel D. Carey for Appellee

          OPINION

          PRESTON, J.

         {¶1} Defendant-appellant, Adam W. Hittle ("Hittle"), appeals the June 18, 2019 judgment of sentence of the Bellefontaine Municipal Court. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         {¶2} On February 1, 2019, Hittle was driving on U.S. 33 when his vehicle veered off the road and struck a snow bank. (Doc. No. 22). Hittle's vehicle rolled onto its side and flipped several times before coming to rest on its roof. (Doc. Nos. 14, 22, 23, 24). The law enforcement officer who responded to the accident noticed beer cans scattered throughout Hittle's vehicle. (Doc. No. 14). The officer also detected a moderate odor of alcohol on Hittle's person and observed that Hittle's speech was slurred, that his eyes were bloodshot, and that he was unsteady on his feet. (Id.).

         {¶3} Hittle was issued citations charging him with one count of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol ("OVI") in violation of R.C. 4511.19(A)(1)(a), a first-degree misdemeanor; one count of driving under OVI suspension in violation of R.C. 4510.14(A), a first-degree misdemeanor; one count of operation without being in reasonable control of a vehicle in violation of R.C. 4511.202(A), a minor misdemeanor; one count of operating a motor vehicle without a valid license in violation of R.C. 4510.12(A), a first-degree misdemeanor; and one count of open container in a motor vehicle in violation of R.C. 4301.62(B)(4), a minor misdemeanor. (Doc. Nos. 1, 3, 14, 16). Hittle initially pleaded not guilty to the charges. (See Doc. No. 44).

         {¶4} A change of plea hearing was held on May 22, 2019. (Doc. Nos. 49, 55, 74, 76); (May 22, 2019 Tr. at 5). Under the terms of a negotiated plea agreement, Hittle withdrew his previous pleas of not guilty and pleaded guilty to one count of OVI and one count of driving under OVI suspension. (Doc. Nos. 48, 74, 76); (May 22, 2019 Tr. at 5). In exchange, the State agreed to move to dismiss the charges of operating a motor vehicle without a valid license, operation without being in reasonable control of a vehicle, and open container in a motor vehicle. (Doc. Nos. 48, 58); (May 22, 2019 Tr. at 4). The trial court accepted Hittle's guilty pleas and found him guilty. (May 22, 2019 Tr. at 5). The State then moved to dismiss the remaining charges against Hittle, which the trial court granted. (Id. at 6); (Doc. No. 58).

         {¶5} On June 18, 2019, the trial court sentenced Hittle to 180 days in the Logan County Jail and fined him $1, 000 for the OVI charge.[1] (June 18, 2019 Tr. at 8-9); (Doc. Nos. 74, 76). The trial court also suspended Hittle's driver's license for a period of seven years. (Doc. No. 76).

         {¶6} On July 8, 2019, Hittle filed a notice of appeal. (Doc. No. 79). He raises one assignment of error for our review.

         Assignment of Error

         The trial court abused its discretion in imposing a maximum jail term and maximum driver's license suspension after defendant pled guilty to operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

         {¶7} In his assignment of error, Hittle argues that the trial court erred by sentencing him to 180 days in jail and suspending his driver's license for seven years for his OVI conviction.[2] Specifically, Hittle questions whether it is "appropriate to impose maximum terms for a second offense OVI (fifth lifetime), when the defendant maintained sobriety for several years but relapsed due to difficult personal circumstances, the defendant pleads guilty to the OVI and accepts treatment for his alcoholism, and the prosecutor recommends minimum terms." (Appellant's Brief at i).

         {¶8} "'We review a trial court's sentence on a misdemeanor violation under an abuse of discretion standard.'" State v. Arnold, 3d Dist. Seneca No. 13-16-13, 2017-Ohio-326, ¶ 13, quoting State v. Nolan, 3d Dist. Marion No. 9-15-48, 2016-Ohio-2985, ¶ 12, citing R.C. 2929.22 and State v. Frazier, 158 Ohio App.3d 407, 2004-Ohio-4506, ΒΆ 15 (1st Dist.). An abuse of discretion is more than a mere error in judgment; it ...


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