Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Denial of Motion to Modify Terms of Intervention-in-Lieu-of-Conviction Cannot Be Appealed

The Supreme Court of Ohio ruled today that a Guernsey County trial court's order denying Vernon Yontz’s motion to modify the terms of his intervention-in-lieu-of-conviction (ILC) for the illegal possession of oxycodone pills was not a final appealable order.

Because the order was not final, neither the Fifth District Court of Appeals nor the Supreme Court had jurisdiction to consider the trial court’s denial of his modification request. A Court majority vacated the Fifth District’s decision denying Yontz’s request and let trial court’s decision stand.

Yontz challenged the term of ILC that required him to cease the use of Suboxone to treat opioid-abuse disorder. Yontz had argued to the Supreme Court that he should not have to violate his ILC in order to take Suboxone prescribed to him for treatment.

Writing for the Court, Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor acknowledged that the concern that ongoing treatment with Suboxone might provide Yontz “the best possible chance of successful rehabilitation” does not procedurally allow him to appeal the order if the order does not meet the statutory definition of a final appealable order.

Justices Sharon L. Kennedy, Patrick F. Fischer, R. Patrick DeWine, Michael P. Donnelly, and Melody Stewart joined the chief justice’s opinion. Justice Jennifer Brunner concurred in judgment only.

Court Grants ILC With Conditions
In 2017, Yontz faced felony charges for aggravated possession of drugs for possessing oxycodone. In June 2019, he requested that the Guernsey County Common Pleas Court grant him ILC under R.C. 2951.041. As part of his request, Yontz agreed to comply with all terms and conditions imposed by the court. Yontz’s request acknowledged that an intervention plan may be established for him and that he would be required to abstain from using illegal drugs and alcohol. The trial court granted Yontz’s ILC request and placed him on “probation-like supervision” for at least one year and up to three years. The order required Yontz to obey any terms or conditions of his supervision imposed by the Adult Probation Department.

The trial court wrote in its entry that if Yontz violated any supervision term it could result in a conviction for his original drug charge and a sentence of up to one year in prison. The entry further ordered Yontz to meet immediately with the county probation department to sign a document outlining the terms and conditions of his supervision. The entry also noted that all proceedings in Yontz’s case were stayed pending his successful completion of treatment.

On the same day, Yontz signed the probation department’s written policy on prescription medications, which stated that Suboxone was not an approved medication and directed him to meet with his physician to obtain a safe titration plan to be weaned off the medication within 60 to 90 days. Yontz had a prescription for Suboxone at that time.


Modification of ILC Conditions Sought
About six months later, Yontz asked the trial court to modify his ILC supervision so that he could demonstrate that his access to Suboxone was medically necessary. Yontz stated he had used opiates for more than 20 years and was diagnosed with a severe opioid-use disorder. He maintained that blocking his use of the medication violated the federal Americans With Disabilities Act, and the equal protection clauses of the U.S. and Ohio constitutions.

The Guernsey County Prosecutor’s Office objected to the modification, and the trial court denied it. Yontz appealed to the Fifth District. The prosecutor’s office argued that Yontz’s appeal was moot because he had successfully navigated the ILC process, including having already tapered off the Suboxone.

The appellate court concluded his appeal was moot because there was no evidence that he used the medication after the time he was required to stop and there was nothing in the record indicating he was not complying with the conditions of ILC. The Fifth District found no reason to modify his ILC.

Yontz appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that he should not have to violate his ILC by taking Suboxone in order to challenge the terms of the ILC. The Court agreed to hear the case.

Supreme Court Applied Statutory Definition of a Final Order
Chief Justice O’Connor explained that before the Court could consider the merits of Yontz’s arguments, the justices had to determine whether Yontz was challenging a final appealable order.

The Court noted that R.C. 2505.02 describes when a court order is final and can be appealed. The opinion analyzed three provisions of the statute that permit a court order to be appealed. Two of those provisions, R.C. 2505.02(B)(1) and (B)(2), require that the court order affect a “substantial right.”

Another state law defines a “substantial right” as a “right that the United States Constitution, the Ohio Constitution, a statute, the common law, or a rule of procedure entitles a person to enforce or protect.”

The Court stated that ILC is not a substantial right because state lawmakers gave trial judges the discretion to offer to certain criminal defendants intervention instead of prosecution. Since ILC is not a substantial right, an order denying the modification Yontz wanted could not be appealed because it did not affect a substantial right.

R.C. 2505.02(B)(4) permits an appeal of a “provisional remedy” that can affect the final judgment in the case. The Court explained that state law defines provisional remedies and noted some examples, such as a preliminary injunction and a motion to suppress the evidence. Because granting or denying a preliminary injunction or a motion to suppress could impact the outcome of a case, the state allows for an appeal of that action before the trial court can proceed with the matter.

The Court found, under the circumstances, Yontz’s request to modify his treatment did not meet the law’s definition of a final appealable order because he requested the modification three months after he stopped using the medication.

“Thus, we cannot say that the order denying a modification of a condition of ILC supervision with which Yontz had already complied prevented a judgment in the action in his favor,” the opinion stated.

Because Yontz could not demonstrate the trial court’s decision was a final appealable order, he could not appeal it, the Court concluded.

2021-0382. State v. Yontz, Slip Opinion No. 2022-Ohio-2745.

Video camera icon View oral argument video of this case.

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.

Adobe PDF PDF files may be viewed, printed, and searched using the free Acrobat® Reader
Acrobat Reader is a trademark of Adobe Systems Incorporated.