COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio's Supreme Court has ruled that prior juvenile convictions cannot be used to increase the severity of charges or the length of prison sentences those individuals receive as adults.
The justices ruled 4-3 Thursday that treating cases from juvenile court as prior convictions for adult-sentencing purposes is unconstitutional and "fundamentally unfair."
The Columbus Dispatch reports (http://bit.ly/2bm43R3 ) Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger, writing for the majority, said juvenile court proceedings are civil proceedings intended to protect the development of those under age 18 while they are rehabilitated. She said adult felony sentences are intended to protect the public and punish offenders.
The ruling said prior juvenile convictions can't be used to enhance prison sentences of adults because children facing delinquency charges have no right to a jury trial.
Justice Terrence O'Donnell, writing for the dissent, said six federal decisions and five state supreme courts have determined crimes committed as juveniles can be used later to sentence adults.
O'Donnell said lawmakers should be responsible for changing the state law and that it was inappropriate for the court to do so.
The ruling overturned a lower court's decision in the case of Adrian Hand Jr. Hand pleaded no contest as an adult to three felonies while using a gun. The judge considered a juvenile court adjudication against him as a prior felony conviction and added several years onto his prison sentence.
Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com