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Terms of Postrelease Control Need Not Be Repeated Verbatim in Sentencing Entry

When a judge imposes postrelease control on an offender, the judge is required to provide all of the statutorily required notifications at a sentencing hearing. But the court’s follow-up written entry of the sentence can be a summary and does not have to quote the judge verbatim, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled today.

A Muskingum County Common Pleas Court decision to send Bradley E. Grimes back to prison for violating his postrelease control obligations was affirmed by the Supreme Court. Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor’s majority opinion indicated that when a judge fully explains during sentencing the statutory postrelease control notification to an offender the subsequent written entry only needs to contain three essential points.

The decision reverses a Fifth District Court of Appeals ruling that found the trial court’s written entry did not adequately inform Grimes that he could be sent back to prison for a postrelease control violation. The appellate court released him from incarceration, and now the case has been remanded to the trial court for further proceedings.

Three justices who concurred in judgment only found either that the law does not require any notifications regarding postrelease control in the sentencing entry or that an entry that improperly imposes postrelease control may only be challenged on direct appeal.

Trial Court Summarizes Sentence
Grimes was convicted of robbery and vandalism in 2011. Part of the sentencing entry stated that because of the offenses, postrelease control was mandatory. The entry also stated the control would last for three years, and the consequences for violating the conditions would be imposed by the parole board under R.C. 2967.28. It also indicated that Grimes was “ordered to serve as part of this sentence any term for violation of that post release control.”

Grimes was released in December 2012 and began serving his three-year period of supervision by the state’s Adult Parole Authority. In September 2013, while still under postrelease control, Grimes was charged and pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, a fourth-degree felony.

The trial court sentenced Grimes to a one-year prison term and classified him as a Tier II sex offender. For violating the conditions of postrelease control, the trial court converted the remaining control time into prison time and ordered it to be served consecutively with his new one-year sentence.

After completing his term for unlawful sexual contact with a minor, Grimes asked the trial court to vacate the judicially imposed sanction for violating the terms of his postrelease control. He argued the court in 2011 did not validly impose the sanction. The trial court denied the request and Grimes appealed to the Fifth District.

The Fifth District concluded the trial court’s sentencing entry was “silent as to the consequences of violating post-release control,” and failed to inform Grimes that if he violated the terms, the parole board could impose a maximum prison term of up to one-half the prison term originally imposed. The Muskingum County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office appealed the decision, and the Supreme Court agreed to hear it.

Entries Can Be Summaries
Chief Justice O’Connor wrote the Court has repeatedly stated that trial courts must provide notice of postrelease control at sentencing hearings and the sentencing entry must incorporate the notice. The Court in this case is being asked to identify what information must be in the sentencing entry to make the postrelease control order valid. She noted that Grimes does not dispute that the judge orally provided all the required information during the sentencing hearing.

The Court stated the law requires the judge at the sentencing hearing to notify an offender who is subject to postrelease control if the supervision is mandatory or discretionary. The judge must state the duration of the postrelease control term, and advise that if supervision terms are violated, then the parole board may impose a prison term.

While Grimes argued the entry did not specify that the Adult Parole Authority could send him to prison for a violation, the state countered that the entry referenced R.C. 2967.28, which was sufficient to incorporate into writing the consequences the judge stated.

“We agree with the state that in order to validly impose postrelease control, the trial court must incorporate into its sentencing entry the notifications it provides to the offender relating to postrelease control at the sentencing hearing but that it need not repeat those notifications verbatim in the entry,” the opinion stated.

To comply with the law, an entry at its minimum must state contain these three elements: (1) whether the control is discretionary or mandatory; (2) the duration of the postrelease control period; and (3) a statement sufficient to notify a reader that postrelease control will be administered according to R.C. 2967.28, and violators may be subject to the consequences set forth in that section. The opinion stated that the trial court’s entry could have been more comprehensive in Grimes’ case, but it did incorporate all that was required by law.

Chief Justice O’Connor cautioned that the ruling is limited only to those cases where the trial court made the proper oral advisements at the sentencing hearing, and it does not reach a conclusion on what is required in the written entry when the oral sentencing was deficient.

Justices Terrence O’Donnell, William M. O’Neill, and Patrick F. Fischer joined the majority opinion.

Concurring Justice Cites Problems in the Court’s Postrelease-Control Jurisprudence
In a concurring opinion, Justice R. Patrick DeWine agreed that the entry was sufficient, but found the majority’s opinion was premised on prior Ohio Supreme Court postrelease-control decisions that were fundamentally flawed from the outset and have since led to confusion among lower courts.

The first line of decisions involves when and how a defendant could challenge postrelease control. Justice DeWine wrote that the Court improperly allowed Grimes to challenge the purported postrelease-control error even though his time to file an appeal had long passed. Justice DeWine explained that Grimes should not now be allowed to challenge his sentence because he failed to do so before his appeal time to file a direct appeal ran out.

Justice DeWine also faulted the Court for continuing to ignore the plain language of the sentencing statute. Nothing in the statute requires information about postrelease control to be placed in a judicial entry. Rather, he pointed out the statute merely requires that postrelease-control notification be provided “at the sentencing hearing,” and that the offender be informed of two things -- whether the control is discretionary or mandatory and that the parole board may impose a sentence for a violation. 

Justice Judith L. French concurred in judgment only and wrote that she agreed with Justice DeWine’s position that the Court should revisit its position on when and how offenders can challenge their postrelease control.

Justice Sharon L. Kennedy concurred in judgment. She wrote that while she agreed with the majority that the trial court validly imposed postrelease control, she disagreed that the sentencing entry was required to contain “the duration of the postrelease control period.” Instead, Justice Kennedy agreed with Justice DeWine’s opinion that only the two specified notifications must be provided at the sentencing hearing.

2016-0215. State v. Grimes, Slip Opinion No. 2017-Ohio-2927.

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Please note: Opinion summaries are prepared by the Office of Public Information for the general public and news media. Opinion summaries are not prepared for every opinion, but only for noteworthy cases. Opinion summaries are not to be considered as official headnotes or syllabi of court opinions. The full text of this and other court opinions are available online.

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