Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Proof of Insertion by Another Required for Rape Conviction

A conviction for rape requires evidence that the accused inserted a body part or object into another person, not that the accused compelled another to insert a body part or object into the accused, the Supreme Court of Ohio ruled today.

Applying that ruling in the case of a Highland County woman who admitted that she directed her 2-year-old son to insert a sex toy into her vagina while she filmed the act, the Supreme Court concluded that, although those actions were grounds for a charge of gross sexual imposition (GSI), they technically do not constitute rape as defined by state law.

In a unanimous decision authored by Justice Patrick F. Fischer, the Court reversed a Fourth District Court of Appeals decision affirming Miranda Smith’s conviction of rape of a child under the age of 13. The Court remanded the case to the Highland County Common Pleas Court with direction to modify Smith’s sentence on the charge to GSI and resentence her for the crime.

Woman Charged for Sex Crimes With Minor
Smith pleaded no contest to multiple charges for filming the sex act with her child and sending the video to her boyfriend. She was sentenced to a prison term of 10 years to life on the rape charge. 

She did not dispute the allegations, but appealed her conviction for rape of a child under 13 based on language of R.C. 2907.02(A)(1)(b). She stated a rape can only be committed by a person who inserts a body part or object into another.

The Fourth District concluded that there is nothing in “the plain language of the statute that requires the defendant [to] be the one doing the inserting,” and that it would be “absurd” to read the statute in a way that did not consider Smith’s conduct as rape.

R.C. 2907.02(A)(1)(b) provides that “[n]o person shall engage in sexual conduct with another who is not the spouse of the offender … when … [t]he other person is less than thirteen years of age, whether or not the offender knows the age of the other person.”

Justice Fischer noted that R.C. 2907.01(A) defines “sexual conduct” as the unprivileged “insertion, however slight, of any part of the body or any instrument, apparatus, or other object into the vaginal or anal opening of another.”

The opinion pointed to the significance of the word “another” in the law. The Court noted “there is a legally significant distinction between engaging in sexual conduct with another and causing another to engage in sexual conduct.” Smith maintained to support a rape charge she would have had to insert an object into another, not direct another to insert an object in her.

“Reading these statutes together, a conviction for rape based on insertion must be supported by evidence that the defendant inserted a body part or object into another,” the Court stated.

The Highland County prosecutor asked the Court to ignore the word “another,” the opinion stated, and “to conclude that Ohio law requires only an act of insertion and that it does not matter whether it is the victim or the defendant who does the inserting.” The opinion stated the prosecution was asking the Court to rewrite the law “to make the statute fit the facts of this case.”

Lesser Crime Applies to Circumstance
While Smith’s actions did not constitute rape, the Court noted it does not mean no criminal act was committed. The opinion noted that GSI is defined under R.C. 2907.05(A) as causing another person to have sexual contact with the offender. Smith conceded in her arguments to the Court that while there was insufficient evidence to support her rape conviction, there was sufficient evidence to support a GSI conviction, the opinion noted.

The Court stated when there is sufficient evidence to sustain a lesser-included offense of a crime, Ohio law permits a court to modify the verdict without ordering a new trial. Instead of directing the trial court to retry Smith, the Court remanded the case with instructions to modify Smith’s conviction to GSI and to resentence her for that crime.

2021-0051. State v. Smith, Slip Opinion No. 2022-Ohio-269.

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