The Sixth District departs from prior holdings, bringing itself in line with other appellate courts, by holding that when a trial court does not follow R.C. 2937.07 by failing to obtain an explanation of the circumstances of an offense when accepting a no contest plea, the defendant should be acquitted rather than having the case simply remanded.
January 29, 2016
Lloyd was charged with an two OVsI and driving outside marked lanes on July 2, 2014. The court ultimately set a motion hearing and trial for the same date. On that date, the court denied a suppression motion without a hearing on the basis that the case had been pending since July 3, 2014, the motion was filed late, and the case would be overage before it could be reset for trial. As a result, Lloyd entered a no contest plea. Without addressing Lloyd regarding her plea, the court went directly to sentencing.
The Sixth District addressed two of Lloyd's arguments on appeal regarding the trial court's process, or lack thereof, of finding her guilty. To do so, it began by reviewing Criminal Rule 11:
In misdemeanor cases involving serious offenses the court may refuse to accept a plea of guilty or no contest, and shall not accept such plea without first addressing the defendant personally and informing the defendant of the effect of the pleas of guilty, no contest, and not guilty and determining that the defendant is making the plea voluntarily.
The Sixth District concluded that the penalty for two OVI defenses exceeded six months and were, therefore, serious offenses. Thus, the trial court was required to address Lloyd, which it did not do. Additionally, R.C. 2937.07 states, "A plea to a misdemeanor offense of "no contest" or words of similar import shall constitute an admission of the truth of the facts alleged in the complaint and that the judge or magistrate may make a finding of guilty or not guilty from the explanation of the circumstances of the offense." The trial court did not obtain an explanation of the circumstances of the offense.
The Sixth District rejected an argument by the State that relied on a purported waiver by Lloyd, instead finding, "plain error in the court's failure to call for an explanation of the circumstances of the offenses." Likewise, the Sixth District rejected an argument that Lloyd distracted the court, somehow relieving it of its duties.
The Sixth District then departed from its prior rulings, bringing itself in line with other appellate courts, by holding that failure to comply with R.C. 2937.07, "is more than mere trial error, but is instead a failure to establish facts sufficient to support a conviction. As such, double jeopardy attaches, thereby preventing the state from getting a second chance to meet its burden." It, therefore, acquitted Lloyd of the OVI offenses.