Presumptions and Inferences


Franklin County Criminal Law Casebook

Reproduced with permission from:
Timothy E. Pierce and the Franklin County Public Defender Office

Sandstrom v. Montana (1979), 442 U.S. 510 -- State may not be given the benefit of a conclusive presumption which overrides the presumption of innocence, and relieves the state of its burden of proof. Nor may there be non-conclusive presumptions which have the effect of shifting the burden of persuasion to the defense.
Connecticut v. Johnson (1983), 460 U.S. 73 -- (1) At p. 84. An instruction that a person is conclusively presumed to have intended the natural and necessary consequences of his voluntary acts is erroneous, having the effect of a directed verdict of guilty, which is not permitted in criminal cases, no matter how strong the proof. (2) Such constitutional errors are still subject to determination whether they were harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Also see Rose v. Clark (1986), 478 U.S. 570; Burger v. Kemp (1987), 483 U.S. 776, 781-782 (Harmlessness of failure to object to burden shifting instruction in the context of claimed ineffective assistance of counsel).
Mullaney v. Wilbur (1975), 421 U.S. 684 -- A defendant may not be given the burden of disproving an element of a crime through application of a presumption. Maine homicide statute provided a conclusive presumption of malice aforethought from proof that the homicide was both intentional and unlawful. To be found guilty of manslaughter, the defendant had to prove by a preponderance that he acted in the heat of passion or on sudden provocation.
Barnes v. United States (1973), 412 U.S. 837 -- A jury instruction regarding a permissive inference of guilty knowledge from unexplained possession of recently stolen property satisfies due process if it does not serve to excuse the prosecution from its burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Also see State v. Arthur (1975), 42 Ohio St. 2d 67; State v. Giles (August 7, 1980), Franklin Co. App. No. 80AP-297, unreported (1980 Opinions 2296).
Francis v. Franklin (1985), 471 U.S. 307 -- A recitation that a presumption may be rebutted does not avoid a due process violation if the charge may be interpreted as creating a mandatory presumption unless overcome by evidence put on by the defense. Also see Yates v. Aiken (1988), 484 U.S. 211 -- Francis v. Franklin applies retroactively. Compare Ulster County Court v. Allen (1979), 442 U.S. 140.
Cooper v. Oklahoma (1996), 517 U.S. 348 -- It is a violation of due process to require the defendant to establish by clear and convincing evidence that he is not competent to stand trial. The trial of a person who is not competent violates due process. The use of the clear and convincing evidence standard, instead of the usual preponderance, makes it possible to try a person who more likely than not is incompetent.
State v. Garner (1995), 74 Ohio St. 3d 49, 60 -- "The law has long recognized that intent, lying as it does within the privacy of a person's own thoughts, is not susceptible to objective proof. The law recognizes that intent can be determined from the surrounding facts and circumstances, and persons are presumed to have intended the natural, reasonable and probable consequences of their voluntary acts...Intent '"'"can never be proved by the direct testimony of a third person and it need not be. It must be gathered from the surrounding facts and circumstances....'"'"' Similarly, while guilt of aggravated murder requires proof of specific intent to kill, R.C. 2903.01 contemplates that such an intent may be inferred in a felony-murder when the offense and the manner of its commission would be likely to produce death." (Citations omitted.)
State v. Collier (1991), 62 Ohio St. 3d 267, 269 -- "It is well established that all legislative enactments must be afforded a strong presumption of constitutionality."
State v. Webb (1998), 126 Ohio App. 3d 808 -- In a driving under suspension case, the court may not instruct the jury that the defendant is conclusively presumed to have received notice of suspension upon proof the established procedure for giving notice was followed.
State v. Adams (1982), 3 Ohio App. 3d 50 -- In a prosecution for passing bad checks, inclusion of instructions on the presumption set forth in R.C. 2913.11(B) is proper even though defendant has introduced evidence rebutting the presumption. However, the instructions must also address the nature and effect of rebuttable instruction in a criminal case so that the charge does not have the effect of shifting a burden of proof to the defendant.
State v. Scott (1983), 8 Ohio App. 3d 1 -- Due process violation found in presumption of elements of theft of cable services from unreported possession of equipment capable of doing so.
State v. Wilcox (1983), 10 Ohio App. 3d 11 -- The OMVI per se offense set forth in R.C. 4511.19(A) does not create an unconstitutional presumption. Instead, the offenses is driving with a prohibited concentration of alcohol. Also see State v. Tanner (1984), 15 Ohio St. 3d 1, 6.
State v. Ebright (1983), 11 Ohio App. 3d 97 -- Headnotes 1 and 2: "(1) The underlying principle of the rule against drawing an inference from another inference is that the foundation of the second inference is so insecure that reliance upon it would result in an inferred fact which is merely speculative in nature. (2) The test to be applied to inferred ultimate facts in civil cases is whether or not the inferences drawn and relied upon were more probable than other inferences which might also have been drawn from the underlying facts. In a criminal case, the test for reliability is more stringent: when a conviction is to be based upon inferences drawn from underlying facts, the inferences which support guilt must be so strong that they exclude the drawing from the same underlying facts of reasonable inferences which support innocence."
Motorists Mutual Insurance Co. v. Hamilton Township Trustees (1986), 28 Ohio St. 3d 13 -- Syllabus: "Where a jury bases its verdict partly on a reasonable inference drawn from facts in evidence, and partly on an inference drawn both from those same facts and common human experience, the verdict is not the result of the impermissible stacking of an inference upon an inference."

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Published by Timothy E. Pierce
Copyright © Franklin County Public Defender and Timothy E. Pierce, 2015
Contents may not be duplicated without express permission.