Ohio's Supreme Court ruled this morning that a portion of the state's gross sexual imposition statute ( ORC 2907.05), specifically regarding penalties, was unconstitutional. The specific provision said that a prison term was required when evidence – except for the testimony of the victim – validates the gross sexual imposition charge.
Why was it ruled unconstitutional?
The penalty provision of ORC 2907.05 was ruled unconstitutional because it violated the due process protection laid out in the Constitution. "Due process" as described in the Constitution is the criminal defendant's right to a fair and impartial trial. The high court ruled that the statute was not fair or impartial because it provided no rationale for differentiating between cases that have corroborating evidence and those that do not.
The Supreme Court also said it was unconstitutional to impose a mandatory prison term when a defendant pleads guilty to a 2907.05 charge based on corroborating evidence. They ruled this was unconstitutional because it infringes on the defendant's constitutional right to a trial by jury.
The Case That Prompted the Ruling
This decision originated from a case in Franklin County. The defendant (D.B.) pleaded guilty to two counts of gross sexual imposition in 2012. Based on the evidence submitted, the state found that it corroborated the charges so they imposed a mandatory prison term. Rather than sentencing D.B. to this mandatory prison term, the trial court imposed a lesser sentence. The state appealed and the decision was reversed by the Tenth District. After the reversal, D.B. appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court.
To read more about this ruling, view Provision in Gross Sexual Imposition Statute Found Unconstitutional or State v. Bevly Slip Opinion.