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Franklin County Criminal Law Casebook
Reproduced with permission from
Allen V. Adair and the Franklin County Public Defender Office

HOUSING AND ENVIRONMENTAL VIOLATIONS (302)

Cleveland v. Washington Mutual Bank, 125 Ohio St. 3d 541, 2010-Ohio-2219. Syllabus: “R.C. 2941.47 does not authorize a trial of a corporation in absentia in a criminal proceeding that is initiated by affidavit or complaint in a municipal court.” Case involved housing code violations. Bank owned properties, but didn’t defend when charged by complaint. It did appeal following conviction in absentia.

State v. Homesales, Inc., 190 Ohio App. 3d 385, 2010-Ohio-5572 – Trial court refused to allow property owner to be tried in absentia. Municipal ordinance provides this can be done, but it is in conflict with the general law of the state, specifically Crim. R. 43(A) and Article I, Section 10.

State v. Downie, 183 Ohio App. 3d 665, 2009-Ohio-4643 – Defendant faced a series of housing code violation charges involving decrepit properties in Youngstown Negotiations were headed in the direction of demolition with the city being reimbursed for expenses. Defendant failed to follow through and ended up with eight consecutive 60-day sentences. Thirty days of each was suspended, but he faced going to jail for eight months, and was told to bring a toothbrush and a good story when he returned to court. Defendant has limited luck on appeal. Waiver of counsel was invalid as to one set of charges, and it was error not to include a specific amount of restitution as to another, but the court has no trouble with the jail sentences.

Willoughby v. Taylor, 180 Ohio App. 3d 606, 2009-Ohio-183 – Ordinance addressed to blighted conditions was not unconstitutionally vague because it used language requiring property owners to retain a "level of maintenance in keeping with the neighborhood standards of the immediate neighborhood."

State v. Kelley, 178 Ohio App. 3d 569, 2008-Ohio-5167 -- Pastor was cited for code violations not spelled out in the opinion. City argued strict liability applied. Court finds recklessness is the default culpable mental state.

State v. Bontrager, 149 Ohio Misc. 2d 33, 2008-Ohio-5651 -- Amish defendant maintained replacement of the septic system on recently acquired property with a system requiring the use of electricity would violate his freedom of religion. Looking to the tenets of his particular sect, the court first concluded that the defendant‘s beliefs are sincerely held. But in the second phase of analysis it concluded that the provision at issue is religion neutral, and the state‘s interest in preventing discharge of untreated sewage upon the general public is of sufficient magnitude to override the prohibition of the use of electricity by the defendant‘s church.

Toledo v. Schmeiderbusch, 192 Ohio App. 3d 402, 2011-Ohio-284 –Homeowners claimed not to have received notice to repair or demolish premises. Clerk’s testimony notice was prepared and put out to be mailed was sufficient to establish proof of mailing and a presumption of due delivery. Homeowners’ denial receipt creates a factual issue question as to mailing and delivery, but is not conclusive on those issues.

Lakewood v. Krebs, 150 Ohio Misc. 2d 1, 2008-Ohio-7083 – Suburban municipal court judge orders landlord of properties found in violation of municipal code to live in those properties under house arrest until they are brought up to code as a condition of community control.

City of Fostoria v. CSX Railroad (1999), 134 Ohio App. 3d 171 -- Municipal "Existing Structures Code" held not to apply to railroad bridge. Bridges are not specifically mentioned in code. Code is directed at housing stock in the community and is meant to insure health, safety and welfare of the community, not esthetics.

State v. Mezget, 169 Ohio App. 3d 714, 2006-Ohio-6347 -- Interpreting a township zoning resolution, a zoning certificate was not required for tents, trailers or structures without a foundation. An "accessory building" requires a fixed location or attachment to something with a fixed location.

Miamisburg v. Wood (2000), 137 Ohio App. 3d 623 -- Littering from a vehicle ordinance interpreted not to apply to distribution of free newspaper.

Cleveland v. Chebib (2001), 143 Ohio App. 3d 295 -- Housing code violations reversed for failure to secure a proper waiver of the right to counsel.

State v. Johnson (2000), 139 Ohio App. 3d 952 -- Ordinance calling for pavement of driveways and parking areas held unconstitutionally vague based on reference to useability.

West Chester Township Zoning v. Fromm (2001), 145 Ohio App. 3d 172 -- Homeowner was prosecuted for building a fence without a permit and for having the unfinished side facing the neighbors. Enactment of the ordinance was within the township's zoning authority. Use of the term unfinished does not render the ordinance unconstitutionally vague.

State v. Shugars, 165 Ohio App. 3d 379, 2006-Ohio-718 -- Defendant pled no contest to a housing code offense for which the culpable mental state was declared to be recklessness. Since the complain failed to allege an essential element, and there was nothing in evidence establishing recklessness, there was insufficient evidence to support conviction. Even a guilty plea does not waive insufficiency of the complaint. Since the complaint did not state an offense, double jeopardy would not bar refiling.

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