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Court News Ohio

Eighth District: Drunk Man Who Punched Firefighter Loses Appeal

A man who said his felony assault conviction should have been dropped because he was drunk the night he punched a firefighter lost his appeal in the Eighth District.

In November 2012, Cody Koballa’s girlfriend called police after she became concerned about Koballa’s state of consciousness due to the amount of vodka he consumed the night before. When emergency crews arrived at her home and tried to transport Koballa to a hospital, he became “aggressive” and punched a firefighter.

Koballa’s assault charge was elevated to a fourth-degree felony because the victim was a firefighter. During his trial, multiple witnesses gave conflicting testimony about whether Koballa was conscious and “aggressive” or unconscious and subdued. A Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court jury found Koballa guilty and sentenced him to six months in jail.

Koballa appealed his conviction to the Eighth District Court of Appeals and argued that “his act of punching the firefighter was an involuntary act because he was in a state of alcohol-induced unconsciousness during the incident.”

The appeals court disagreed with Koballa’s reasoning.

“As a general principle, self-induced intoxication would not be a defense to any crime,” Judge Tim McCormack wrote in the court’s unanimous decision. “In State [v] Milton, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 97245, 2012-Ohio-2386, the appellant was convicted of assaulting a police officer, and he claimed his ‘self-induced’ intoxication prevented him from forming the ‘knowing’ state of mind necessary to have committed the crime of assault. This court held that under the amended R.C. 2901.21(C) that defense was no longer available.”

The General Assembly in 2000 amended R.C. 2901.21 by stating: “Voluntary intoxication may not be taken into consideration in determining the existence of a mental state that is an element of a criminal offense.”

As to Koballa’s argument of an involuntary act which is defined as ‘[r]eflexes, convulsions, body movements during unconsciousness or sleep, and body movements that are not otherwise a product of the actor’s volition’, the court said it had to rely on the jury’s decision.

“As the choice between credible witnesses and conflicting testimony rests solely with the jury, we defer to the jury the determination of whether Koballa’s state of alcoholic stupor rose to the level of unconsciousness rendering his act of striking the firefighter involuntary,” Judge McCormack wrote. “Having reviewed the record, we cannot say the jury clearly lost its way and crated such a manifest miscarriage of justice that the conviction must be reversed and a new trial ordered.”

Judges Mary Eileen Kilbane and Melody J. Stewart concurred in the decision that overruled Koballa’s two assignments of errors.

State v. Koballa, 2014-Ohio-3592
Criminal Appeal From: Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas
Judgment Appealed From Is: Affirmed
Date of Judgment Entry on Appeal: August 21, 2014

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