In re J.D.: Mutual Mistake of Law Warrants the Withdrawal of a Void Admission
By: Megan Patituce
The importance of staying up-to-date with the ever changing legal landscape cannot be understated. Attorneys who fail to maintain a current understanding risk participating in improper convictions which, once entered, become infinitely more difficult to correct.
This necessity applies equally to the judiciary and state with the importance thereof being on full display in In re J.D., 3rd Dist. Seneca No. 13-19-51, 2020-Ohio-3225. In 2017, J.D., a twelve-year-old child, was adjudicated delinquent for engaging in sexual conduct with a nine-year-old child and placed on probation with a suspended ODYS sentence. In 2019, the state moved to impose the suspended sentence alleging that J.D. had failed to successfully complete court-ordered programming.
The problem, however, was that J.D.’s original conviction was void as a result of the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision in In re D.B., 129 Ohio St.3d 104, 2011-Ohio-2671, issued six years prior to J.D.’s conviction, which had held the application of R.C. 2907.02(A)(1)(b) where both children are under the age of thirteen to be a violation of due process and equal protection. Specifically, where children under the age of thirteen engage in sexual conduct, each child is both a victim and an offender making enforcement against just one child arbitrary and discriminatory.
At the time of J.D.’s 2017 adjudication, the trial court, prosecution, and defense were operating under mistake of law which led to a “fundamental error in the acceptance of J.D.’s admission.” Although J.D. originally sought to correct this error through a petition for post-conviction relief, the Third District reframed the relevant issue as a motion for withdraw or vacate, noting that J.D.’s admission and adjudication were void. It followed, then, that the suspended ODYS sentence could not be imposed.
Attorneys defending alleged criminal conduct should always strive to stay abreast of the evolution of law in order to ensure zealous and accurate representation in all cases.