Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Constitutionality of Law Prohibiting Firearm Use While Intoxicated Challenged

Image of the barrel of a shotgun

A Felicity man who was holding an unloaded shotgun when police responded to a 911 call to his house has appealed his conviction to the Ohio Supreme Court.

Image of the barrel of a shotgun

A Felicity man who was holding an unloaded shotgun when police responded to a 911 call to his house has appealed his conviction to the Ohio Supreme Court.

The Ohio Supreme Court will hear an appeal next week about a state law that bans carrying or using a firearm while intoxicated. A Clermont County man was convicted for violating the statute, and he maintains the law is unconstitutional in his circumstances.

The cities of Akron, Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, Lima, and Toledo have submitted an amicus brief pointing out the dangers to police and the public when guns and alcohol mix, and arguing the law should be upheld. Two national centers that work to prevent gun violence also filed an amicus brief supporting the law.

Wife Calls 911 about Husband
In the early morning hours of Feb. 17, 2018, police went to Fredrick Weber’s home in Felicity after his wife called 911 and reported that Weber was drunk and had a firearm. A deputy and a sergeant from the Clermont County Sheriff’s Office arrived at the house, and Weber’s wife said Weber had put away the firearm and everything was OK.

She allowed the officers into the house, and Weber came out holding a shotgun by the stock with the barrel pointed down. He said it was unloaded and he had been cleaning it. The officers checked the gun and confirmed it contained no ammunition. While talking to Weber, the officers noticed he smelled of alcohol, was slurring his words, and was unsteady. He said several times he was drunk, and he failed a field sobriety test.

Weber was found guilty of violating R.C. 2923.15, which prohibits carrying or using a firearm while intoxicated, a first-degree misdemeanor. The court imposed a suspended 10-day jail sentence and one year of community control.

After losing his appeal to the Twelfth District Court of Appeals, he appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court.

Man Argues Law Infringes on Right to Bear Arms
Weber stresses that the shotgun was unloaded and he wasn’t carrying or using his shotgun when the police arrived. He maintains he only possessed the gun, and compares his case to District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned a law prohibiting the possession of handguns in District of Columbia homes. He argues Ohio has no compelling interest to prevent the possession of firearms in the home after someone consumes alcohol. The law violated his constitutional right to bear arms in his home, he asserts.

State Maintains Law Is Limited and Protects Public
The Clermont County prosecutor contends that the Ohio law doesn’t prohibit the possession of firearms when drunk. It instead bars carrying or using firearms while intoxicated. Noting that Weber’s wife felt compelled to call 911, the prosecutor states that the dangers to others are the same regardless of whether someone is drunk and handling a firearm inside or outside the home. The prosecutor maintains that the law is narrowly tailored, rather than a complete ban, and doesn’t infringe on the U.S. or Ohio constitutional rights to bear arms.

Oral Argument Details
The Supreme Court will consider this case – State v. Weber – and three others on Feb. 25. The Court will hear four more cases on Feb. 26. Oral arguments begin at 9 a.m. at the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center in Columbus. All arguments are streamed live online at and broadcast live and archived on The Ohio Channel.

In addition to these highlights, the Court’s Office of Public Information released preview articles today about each case, available through the case-name links.

Tuesday, Feb. 25
After drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana with friends, a 16-year-old Ottawa County boy and 17-year-old girl sat at the kitchen table with girl’s mother and a 20-year-old male family friend. The adults noticed the girl was highly impaired. The girl and the two males slept in the same room, and she reported that she blacked out and had trouble remembering what happened, but suspected she was sexually assaulted. In In re L.S. Jr., the boy denied having sex with the girl, but was adjudicated delinquent in juvenile court for impaired-consent rape. The boy appealed the decision, and argues before the Court that the rape law is unconstitutional when applied to two impaired minors where one is charged with a crime and the other isn’t.

A woman was charged with three criminal misdemeanors in Hamilton County Municipal Court that were ultimately dismissed . The woman applied to have the records in the three cases sealed. At the time of her request, she was serving a period of community control for a in an unrelated case. The trial court denied her sealing application, stating that the law doesn’t allow for sealing when the requester is under a pending criminal proceeding.  In State v. Floyd, the woman asks the Court to find community control isn’t a “pending” criminal proceeding, and that she is entitled to have the dismissed cases sealed.

A woman visiting Cleveland reported to police that she was awakened in her hotel room by an acquaintance who was sexually assaulting her. At the Cleveland man’s trial on rape charges, the court allowed the man’s former stepdaughter to testify about his felonious assault conviction stemming from his actions toward her three years earlier, when she was 12. In State v. Hartman, the Cuyahoga County prosecutor argues the testimony was permissible because it indicated the man targeted sleeping women and countered his argument that he and the woman had a consensual sexual encounter. The man maintains the earlier case was too dissimilar from this one to be admitted at the trial.

Wednesday, Feb. 26
In Sherman v. Ohio Public Employees Retirement System, a reemployed retiree filed a lawsuit claiming that his retirement system violated his right to equal protection under the Ohio Constitution by giving an extra health insurance subsidy to some retirees but not to others. The retirement system argues it has a legitimate public interest in responsibly managing money for more than 1 million public employees. It asserts it can withhold the subsidy from retirees who take another job covered by its retirement system because it’s notified that they’re working again and they need the money less. The retiree counters that the distinctions are arbitrary and irrational.

In 2015, a Sandusky County man was indicted on multiple counts related to trafficking cocaine. Prior to his trial, he chose to represent himself. Before the trial started, the man changed his mind and requested that the court appoint two new attorneys to represent him. The judge denied the request, noting the man waived his right to an attorney. The judge agreed to appoint the man’s fired attorney as standby counsel to assist with the defense, and informed the man that his standby counsel would be present after voir dire. The man was convicted on most charges. In State v. Jones, the Court will consider if the inability to have the standby counsel participate in jury selection led to an error that requires a new trial.

An Ohio-based company with a manufacturing facility in Kentucky used an Ohio-based temporary staffing agency to supply employees. A temp worker was injured at the Kentucky plant and was awarded $1.4 million in workers’ compensation benefits that was to be paid by the staffing agency and its insurer. The two businesses then filed a lawsuit in Cuyahoga County seeking to recoup the benefits it paid from the manufacturer. The manufacturer contested the location of the lawsuit, and a trial judge dismissed the case without prejudice, suggesting it should be heard in Kentucky. In Crown Services v. Miami Valley Paper Tube, the Court will consider if a trial court’s order to move a case can be appealed before any further proceedings take place.

Two individuals were convicted based on video footage from one day in March 2016 of them packaging and selling drugs from a Columbus home. Their convictions included a sentence for engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, which was overturned on appeal. The Franklin County prosecutor argues in State v. Dent and State v. Walker that there are no time periods required to demonstrate a pattern of corrupt activity. The state maintains that the footage depicts continuous crimes committed over several hours that were part of a drug operation that had been operational in the house for many weeks. The men respond that a conviction for this offense requires activity over a significant time period and more than serial drug sales.

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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