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Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Juvenile Must Receive Credit for Days Held in Confinement Pending Trial

The 286 days a juvenile offender served in confinement before reaching a plea agreement must be credited toward his two-year commitment to a juvenile detention facility, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled today.

A Supreme Court majority found a juvenile judge incorrectly refused to credit a 17-year-old with time served. The Cuyahoga County youth, identified as “D.S.” in court documents, spent nearly nine months in a juvenile detention center and in a county jail that houses adult prisoners. D.S. originally had been held in custody by the juvenile court, but the case was transferred to adult court. While the case was pending in adult court, prosecutors and D.S. reached a plea agreement and the state agreed to transfer D.S. back to juvenile court for sentencing. But at the sentencing hearing, the juvenile court judge refused to give D.S. credit for the time he had served in the detention center and county jail.

Writing for the Court, Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor determined the juvenile judge sentencing D.S. wrongly considered that D.S. was returned to juvenile court on a “new charge” and mistakenly believed the law did not require her to give D.S. credit for the time he had served. The Court determined the state law, R.C. 2152.18(B), clearly entitled D.S. to credit for that time.

Justice Sharon L. Kennedy wrote a concurring opinion in which she found the judge should have granted D.S.’s motion to withdraw his admission once it became clear that his plea was not knowing, voluntary, and intelligent because it was based on mutual mistake of law.

D.S. Confined for Robbery
In May 2013, prosecutors filed a complaint alleging D.S. approached a couple, brandished a firearm, and robbed them. If he were an adult, he would have been charged with two counts of aggravated robbery each with firearm specifications. At his initial appearance a week after the charges were filed, a magistrate ordered D.S to be held in a juvenile detention facility. A juvenile judge ordered him returned to the detention facility.

In July 2013, the juvenile court found probable cause that D.S. committed the offenses and transferred the matter to the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court. D.S. remained in the juvenile detention facility until he was transferred to the county’s jail in December 2013.

In common pleas court, D.S. faced two counts of kidnapping in addition to the two counts of aggravated robbery, with the firearm specifications now applying to all four counts. Prosecutors reached an agreement with D.S. to dismiss the common pleas court charges in exchange for him pleading delinquent in juvenile court to a single count of robbery with one three-year firearm specification. As part of the deal, D.S. agreed to a two-year commitment in juvenile confinement.

Case Returns to Juvenile Court
D.S. appeared before the same juvenile judge who had presided over the original case. At a hearing the judge characterized the case as a “refiling, an amended filing of what was originally filed” in her court. The judge recalled conducting the probable cause hearing, and during the disposition portion of the hearing, the prosecutor indicated the state would “be satisfied” if D.S. were ordered to a two-year commitment to the Ohio Department of Youth Services (ODYS). D.S.’s attorney asked the judge to accept the state’s recommendation.

The judge imposed the two-year commitment on D.S. and stated she was not giving him any credit for time served as she considered the complaint a “new charge,” which drew comments from D.S., his mother, and attorney, who indicated they understood they had a deal with the state to receive credit for time served. The judge told the prosecutor he did not inform her that the state was offering time served. Although the prosecutor apologized to the judge for not making clear that the plea included consideration of the time D.S. had served in custody, the judge refused to give D.S. credit for the time he had served prior to the plea.

D.S. appealed to the Eighth District Court of Appeals. The Cuyahoga County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office did not file a brief in opposition to D.S.’s claims that the juvenile court judge had improperly refused to give credit for time served. Instead, it filed a “notice to conceded error” and agreed with D.S. that under R.C. 2152.18(B), D.S. was entitled to credit for time served. The Eighth District affirmed the juvenile court’s order, and D.S. appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case.

Statute’s “In Connection With” Clause Impacts Decision
D.S. challenged not only that the lower courts did not correctly apply the state law, but also asserted that his rights were violated under the equal protection clauses of the U.S. and Ohio constitutions. Chief Justice O’Connor explained the Court did not have to consider the constitutional rights issues because the statute itself addresses D.S.’s confinement.

R.C. 2152.18(B) states: “When a juvenile court commits a delinquent child to the custody of the department of youth services pursuant to this chapter, the court shall state in the order of commitment the total number of days that the child has been confined in connection with the delinquent child complaint upon which the order of commitment is based.”

The chief justice wrote the Eighth District concluded that for the youth to be given credit for confinement, the confinement must be related to the “underlying complaint, not any proceedings under previously dismissed complaints or indictments.” She noted the appellate court ignored the terms “in connection with” in the law, and stated its interpretation of the law was “too narrow.”

“Judges must grant confinement credit under R.C. 2152.18(B) if the confinement stems from an original complaint and is sufficiently linked to the adjudication of the charges upon which the juvenile court orders commitment. The statutory language is clear and unambiguous, and permits no other construction,” Chief Justice O’Connor wrote.

Chief Justice O’Connor wrote that regardless of how the allegations against D.S. were framed, there is no dispute the original delinquency complaint in juvenile court, the charges in common pleas court, and the charge he pleaded to in juvenile court all arose from the same single incident and all focused on armed robbery. Despite the juvenile court judge’s characterizations that the complaint was “an amended complaint that was transferred,” “a new charge,” or “a different case,” the chief justice concluded the record of the hearing indicated the judge recognized the case stemmed from the original complaint she considered.

“As both D.S. and the state have argued throughout the proceedings, it would be fundamentally unfair to deny juveniles credit earned while awaiting the final disposition of the complaints against them by interpreting R.C. 2152.18(B) so narrowly that juveniles could lose all the credit they have earned simply because the original complaint was dismissed and a new complaint or indictment filed on the basis of the same incident for which the juvenile initially was charged and detained,” she wrote.

The Court remanded the case to the juvenile court for further proceedings consistent with its opinion.

Justices Paul E. Pfeifer, Terrence O’Donnell, Judith Ann Lanzinger, Judith L. French, and William M. O’Neill joined the chief justice’s opinion.

Justice Would Vacate Plea
Unlike the majority, Justice Kennedy did not address whether R.C. 2152.18(B) would have required the court to credit D.S. with time served because addressing that issue presumed that D.S.’s plea was valid even though it was not. Justice Kennedy wrote that in light of the circumstances, D.S.’s admissions could not have been entered “knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily,” and she would vacate his plea to “prevent a manifest injustice” and remand to the trial court for new proceedings.

“For a plea to exist, there must be a ‘meeting of the minds’ between the state and the offender as to the terms of the agreement,” Kennedy wrote. She noted that D.S.’s attorney and the assistant prosecutor told the judge they “understood you have to give credit.”

"At the time D.S. moved to withdraw his admission, there was a mutual mistake of law regarding his entitlement to credit for all time served in the prior case - a mistake that was material to the plea agreement," she wrote. "Because D.S. believed that the two-year ODYS commitment was 'holistic' and would include credit for time served, his admission was not knowing, voluntary, and intelligent." 

Justice Kennedy noted that while none of the parties challenged the acceptance of the plea bargain on appeal, the Supreme Court could examine and rule on the matter through its power to analyze "plain error." She wrote the standards that apply to an adult's guilty plea also apply to a juvenile's admission and must be knowing, intelligent, and voluntary.

2015-0505. In re D.S., Slip Opinion No. 2016-Ohio-7369.

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