May Pre-1996 Juvenile Traffic Offense Be Counted To Increase Later Drunk Driving Charge to Felony?
Case Questions Retroactive Application of Repeat Offender Statute
State of Ohio v. Gary L. Adkins, Case no. 2010-0465
5th District Court of Appeals (Delaware County)
ISSUE: R.C. 2901.08, a state law that took effect Jan. 1, 1996, directs Ohio courts to count a defendant's juvenile traffic offenses as prior convictions in setting the level or the penalty for a subsequent adult traffic offense. Before 1996, juvenile offenses were not considered in setting the level or penalty for an adult offense. In this case, the Supreme Court is asked whether R.C. 2901.08 may be applied to count a juvenile offense that was committed before 1996 in determining whether an adult arrested for a subsequent drunk driving violation should be charged with a felony rather than a misdemeanor.
BACKGROUND: Ohio's "drunk driving" law, R.C. 4511.19, prescribes progressively more severe penalties for repeat offenders based on the number of their past convictions. R.C. 4511.19(G)(1)(d) specifies that if a person who is arrested for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs (OMVI) has five or more prior convictions for OMVI or a similar offense within the preceding 20 years, the defendant's current offense will be charged as a felony rather than a misdemeanor.