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A Trial Court Must Explain To A Defendant The "Maximum Penalty Involved" When Accepting a Plea of Guilty or No Contest

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On May 5, 2020 the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that pursuant to Crim.R. 11(C)(2)(a), a trial court must explain to a defendant the “maximum penalty involved” when accepting a plea of guilty or no contest. When a trial court explained to a defendant sex offender who entered a plea of guilty or no contest that he is subject to the sex-offender registration scheme of R.C. Chapter 2950 as part of his penalty, the defendant is entitled to have his conviction vacated for lack of a more complete explanation only if he demonstrates prejudice.

Mr. Dangler challenged his plea and conviction arguing that the trial court did not fully explain the sex offender classification and reporting requirements. However, the Ohio Supreme Court concluded that there is nothing in the record indicating that Dangler would not have entered his plea had he been more thoroughly informed of the details of the sex-offender-classification scheme.

Yet, the Court did admonish trial courts to be thorough in reviewing consequences of a defendant’s decision to enter a plea, including those stemming from classification as a sex offender: the duty to register and provide in-person verification, the community-notification provisions, and the residency restrictions.

(State v. Dengler, No. 2017-1703, Decided May 5, 2020)