Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Adult Court Cannot Indict and Try 22-Year-Old for Acts He Committed as Youth

The general division of the Mahoning County Common Pleas Court had no authority to indict and try a suspect who was arrested when he was 20 years old for acts he allegedly committed as a juvenile, the Supreme Court of Ohio ruled today.

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court rejected an attempt by the Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office to avoid pursuing charges against Frankie Hudson Jr. in juvenile court by dropping the charges against him and refiling the charges when Hudson was 22 years old.

Writing for the Court, Justice Sharon L. Kennedy stated that Ohio law is plain and unambiguous that when a juvenile suspect is arrested before turning 21 years old, the juvenile court has exclusive jurisdiction over the juvenile.

Man Faced Multiple Charges Stemming From Teen Years
In August 2013, Hudson was about to turn 21 when he was indicted in the common pleas court general division for crimes he allegedly committed three and four years earlier.

Hudson was indicted on three counts related to events from when he was a 17-year-old juvenile. The same indictment included three charges from when Hudson was an 18-year-old adult.

The offenses were split into two groups and were to be tried separately. On the charges stemming from the adult offenses, Hudson was acquitted of two charges but found guilty of possessing a weapon under disability and was sentenced to three years in prison.

State Refiled Charges
In 2015, the prosecutor’s office recognized that its original indictment on the charges stemming from Hudson’s offenses as a juvenile were jurisdictionally defective. It asked the trial court to dismiss the counts without prejudice. The same day the court agreed to dismiss the charges, the prosecutor sought to have the grand jury immediately reindict Hudson for the same acts allegedly committed when he was 17. Hudson was 22 at the time of the second indictment.

While those charges were pending, the grand jury indicted Hudson on additional charges, all related to acts he allegedly committed when he was over 18. Hudson sought to dismiss the last indictment, arguing the charges belonged in juvenile court and the court’s general division had no jurisdiction to try the case.

The trial court denied his request. Hudson agreed to plead no contest to the crimes he committed as a juvenile in exchange for dismissing the added adult charges. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison. The trial court agreed to run the sentence concurrently with sentences he was already serving for the illegal firearms conviction and unrelated cases.

Hudson appealed his conviction for the juvenile charges to the Seventh District Court of Appeals, which affirmed the trial court.

Hudson appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case.

Supreme Court Analyzed Law
Hudson claimed that under R.C. 2152.02(C)(3) and R.C. 2151.23(I), only the juvenile court had jurisdiction over him since he was arrested before he turned 21. The prosecutor’s office acknowledged its original indictment was defective, but argued that it cured the defect by  reindicting Hudson.

Justice Kennedy explained that a court must have “subject matter jurisdiction” before it has any power to consider a case and render a judgment. The Ohio Constitution gives the common pleas court jurisdiction to consider most criminal cases, but allows the legislature to grant jurisdiction of specific matters to other courts. The General Assembly has granted Ohio juvenile courts with exclusive jurisdiction for alleged crimes committed by those under 18, the Court explained.

R.C. 2152.02(C)(3) states that anyone under 18 who committed an act that would be a felony if committed by an adult, but is taken into custody or apprehended after they turn 21 years old is no longer considered a child and is no longer under the juvenile court’s jurisdiction, the opinion stated. Similarly, the Court explained that R.C. 2151.23(I) states the juvenile court has no jurisdiction to hear any portion of a case where a person is alleged to have committed the act before age 18 but not apprehended until after turning 21.

The opinion stated that under the plain and unambiguous language of R.C. 2152.02(C)(3) and 2151.23(I) the court’s general division has jurisdiction only if the juvenile is taken into custody or apprehended after turning 21. While lawmakers have not defined “taken into custody” in this section of the code, another state law indicates a child is taken into custody when arrested, the Court wrote.

The opinion stated it was undisputed that Hudson was a juvenile when he allegedly committed the three counts in the original indictment. The state also acknowledged that Hudson was 20 years old when he was arrested for those charges in 2013. Because he was arrested at 20, the jurisdiction of the court’s general division was never invoked. The juvenile court had exclusive jurisdiction and dismissing the original indictment and reindicting Hudson when he was 22 years old “was of no consequence,” the Supreme Court ruled.

The Court reversed the Seventh District’s decision and instructed the trial court to dismiss the second indictment against Hudson.

2020-1111. State v. Hudson, Slip Opinion No. 2022-Ohio-1435.

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