Ohio Attorney Expresses Concern About Identifying a City as a ‘Victim’ in Supreme Court Case, Calls It a ‘Very Slippery Slope’

 

The City of Centerville in Montgomery County wants the Ohio Supreme Court to consider it a “victim” based upon the “rights of victims of crime” in the Ohio Constitution.

One Ohio attorney who wanted to remain nameless told The Ohio Star, “My Constitutional radar goes off when I hear stuff like this. I’m concerned that we may identify government as a ‘person’ and that could lend to a very slippery slope. After all, the Constitution was created to limit the rights of government, not the rights of citizens.”

The case stems from a situation where Centerville resident Michael Knap called 9-1-1 claiming an active shooter in his home. As reported in the Dayton Daily News, “Centerville wants the Ohio Supreme Court to determine that it is eligible for restitution under a constitutional amendment approved by state voters in 2017.”

It was further reported “that there was no active shooter and Knab was charged with and convicted of making a false report and improper use of the 9-1-1 system. As part of his sentence, Knab was ordered to pay $1,375.56 in restitution to the city. But that decision was eventually reversed by the Second District Court of Appeals.”

Centerville is now counting on the Ohio Supreme Court to agree it is a “victim” and thus entitled to money Knab was ordered to pay.

The city’s claim is: “1: A municipality qualifies as a ‘victim’ under the Ohio Constitution’s Bill of Rights, Article I, Section 10a, known as Marsy’s Law, and is entitled to ‘full and timely restitution’ when it is ‘directly and proximately harmed’ by the commission of a criminal offense or act.”

 

Ohioans voted overwhelmingly to add “Marsy’s Law” to the Ohio Constitution. The “Rights of victims of crime,” as it is called in Ohio law, was first introduced in California after a young co-ed, Marsy Nicholas, was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Her parents then ran into the man at a local market on their way home from Marsy’s funeral – he had made bail and no one notified the family nor was there any requirement to do so.

Marsy’s brother, Dr. Henry Nicholas III, has been pushing the law to give rights to victims and their families nationally. It has been adopted by eleven states including Ohio. Passage of the law here was especially significant for the family since Nicholas was born in Cincinnati.

Identified as State Issue 1, Marsy’s law passed with nearly 83 percent of the vote. It enumerates the rights of victims, and states in Article 1 Section 10A:

(D) As used in this section, ‘victim’ means a person against whom the criminal offense or delinquent act is committed or who is directly and proximately harmed by the commission of the offense or act. The term ‘victim’ does not include the accused or a person whom the court finds would not act in the best interests of a deceased, incompetent, minor, or incapacitated victim.”

The Second District Court of Appeals decision noted, “Although we agree that Marsy’s Law does expand the meaning of the term ‘victim,’ we do not find that it expressly authorizes sentencing courts to characterize law enforcement agencies as victims who are entitled to restitution due to their efforts in carrying out their official duties.” The court also noted the money paid to the first responders did not equate to an ‘economic loss’.

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Beth Lear is a reporter at The Ohio Star.  Follow Beth on Twitter.  Email tips to bethlearreports@gmail.com.
Photo “Ohio Supreme Court” by ohio.gov

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