Login | September 15, 2019

Supreme Court rejects bid for juvenile hearing by man in mid-20s

DAN TREVAS
Supreme Court
Public Information Office

Published: March 25, 2019

Even though a Gallia County man was in his mid-20s when he pleaded guilty to rapes he committed as a teen, he claimed he could not be sentenced as an adult without first appearing in juvenile court. The Ohio Supreme Court recently rejected the man’s argument and his request to be released from state prison.

In a unanimous per curiam opinion, the Supreme Court refused to issue a writ of habeas corpus sought by Samuel Bear. Bear maintained that Ohio law gives juvenile courts exclusive jurisdiction over children alleged to have committed acts that would constitute crimes if committed by an adult, and that he never appeared in juvenile court for a “bindover” hearing before appearing in adult court.

The opinion stated the bindover-hearing requirement is not based on the date when a crime is committed, but on the date the alleged offender is apprehended. In Bear’s case, he was an adult when he was arrested and charged with the crimes, and there was no requirement that he first appear in juvenile court.

Bear was accused of committing rape in 2009 and 2010 when he was 16 or 17 years old. In July 2017, when he was 24, he pleaded guilty to two counts of rape in Gallia County Common Pleas Court. He was sentenced to two concurrent eight-year prison terms and designated a Tier II sex offender.

In December 2017, Bear petitioned the Seventh District Court of Appeals for his release from prison, arguing that he could not be tried and sentenced as an adult without first appearing in juvenile court. The Seventh District rejected his motion, and he appealed to the Supreme Court, which is required to consider the case.

The opinion noted that while juvenile court has exclusive jurisdiction over children, there is an exception in R.C. 2152.12(J). The provision states that someone who is under 18 years old when alleged to have committed a crime, but is more than 21 years old when taken into custody or apprehended for the offense, is not under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court.

Bear was more than 21 when he was prosecuted in 2017 and was no longer entitled to a bindover hearing, the Court concluded.

Bear also maintained that if R.C. 2152.12(J) prevented him from receiving a juvenile court hearing, then the law is unconstitutional as it applies to him. He argued that he was denied his due process rights and that if he had been prosecuted when he was a teenager it is likely the court would not have found probable cause that a felony occurred and would not have transferred him to adult court.

The opinion stated Bear’s argument that the law is unconstitutional would not entitle him to a writ of habeas corpus and his release from prison. However, Bear can make his claim through a direct appeal of his sentence or through a petition for post-conviction relief, the Court concluded.

2018-0836. Bear v. Buchanan, Slip Opinion No. 2019-Ohio-931.


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