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Involuntary Manslaughter and Mandatory Time: Imposition in Error where Unsupported by Facts

By: Megan Patituce

           The Sixth District Court of Appeals recently reinforced the plain interpretation of R.C. 2903.04 in holding that the imposition of mandatory time following a conviction of involuntary manslaughter without the underlying findings is error.  State v. Moore, 6th Dist. Lucas No. L-19-1032, 2020-Ohio-2653 (Apr. 24, 2020)

            Mid-trial, Mr. Moore entered a plea of guilty to one count of involuntary manslaughter.  In exchange for Mr. Moore’s plea of guilty, the state dismissed the remaining counts in the indictment, including aggravated murder, murder, and aggravated burglary, all of which included firearm specifications.

            At the first sentencing hearing, the trial court determined that it had erred in failing to advise Mr. Moore of the possibility of mandatory time.  For that reason, the trial court again conducted a plea hearing at which time Mr. Moore again entered a plea of guilty to involuntary manslaughter.  At the subsequent sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed a mandatory eleven-year term of incarceration.

            On appeal, the Sixth District restated the relevant provisions of R.C. 2903.04 as they relate to the imposition of mandatory time.  Those provisions allow for the imposition of mandatory terms of incarceration in certain circumstances, including when the conviction stems from an underlying OVI offense involving alcohol or drugs.  In the instant case, Mr. Moore’s conviction stemmed from an underlying burglary allegation, not as a result of any OVI-type offense.  As such, the trial court erred in imposing a mandatory term of incarceration.

            The Sixth District also noted that its prior decisions indicated that trial courts were not obligated to advise defendants of the mandatory term during a plea colloquy if that mandatory term would not be applicable.  As such, the decision in Mr. Moore’s case falls directly in line with this prior holding.  When the underlying facts do not support the imposition of mandatory terms of incarceration, trial courts are not required to advise as to the non-existent possibility of imposition and are barred from the imposition of mandatory time.

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