Today, the Ohio Supreme Court reversed a lower court’s ruling and clarified that to convict someone for third degree robbery, the state does not have to prove that there was intent to use force or threatening to use force.
The law in question (R.C. 2901.21B) was enacted in 1974 by the Ohio General Assembly. Giving comment on the ruling, Justice Judith L. French said,
“Because R.C. 2911.02 defines every robbery to include the culpable mental states of the predicate theft offense, R.C. 2901.21(B) … does not apply, and the state need not prove a culpable mental state with respect to the force element in R.C. 2911.02(A)(3).”
She also wrote and clarified that the state does not have to provide evidence that confirms the mental state of the offender in robbery cases when it comes to the threat or use of force.
By reversing the Second District Court of Appeals’ ruling, the Supreme Court effectively affirmed the lower court’s conviction of Kevin Tolliver, a defendant accused of robbing a Dollar General.
This case pointed to a much larger issue that has divided our nation’s criminal justice system for some time, and that is, whether or not a defendant’s intent or state of mind must be proven in order to validate a conviction when the law is silent on that issue.
There have been two conflicting U.S. Supreme Court rulings on this issue – Morissette v. United States and
State v. Huffman. The former decided that when the law is silent, the state has to prove the defendant’s mental state, while in the latter, the court decided that the state does not have to prove intent when the law is silent.
At least in Ohio, the state is not required to prove intent or state of mind in order to convict a defendant of third degree robbery.