Felony and misdemeanor sentences must be concurrent unless law specifies otherwise, rules Ohio Supreme Court

The Ohio Supreme Court issued a ruling last week that settled a split among district courts in the state. The court ruled that unless Ohio law lists a specific exception, felony and misdemeanor sentences must run concurrently (at the same time), not consecutively. The case before the court originated in the 6th District, where Walter Polus was convicted on multiple counts of receiving stolen property, both felony and misdemeanor, and ordered to serve consecutive sentences for those crimes. Polus challenged the sentences for his first convictions arguing that they were not for crimes that were listed as having consecutive sentences under Ohio law.

The 6th District reversed the trial court, finding that under ORC 2929.41, the sentences must be served concurrently, not consecutively. The court found that the statute was not clear about whether consecutive sentences were permitted, and that this needed to be interpreted in the defendant's favor. The 6th District acknowledged that this decision conflicted with other Ohio appeals courts and certified the conflict to the Ohio Supreme Court.

The Ohio Supreme Court found that there was no ambiguity in the statute, and held that according to ORC 2929.41(A), felony and misdemeanor sentences cannot run consecutively unless ORC 2929.41(B) specifically allows it. The court addressed the argument that ORC 2929.41(B)(1) allows courts to order consecutive sentences, holding that this section only allows courts to order consecutive sentences for the crimes listed in that section of the statute and in section (B)(3). The court affirmed the 6th District and returned the case to the lower court.

Justice O'Neill wrote the 6-1 majority opinion. Justice O'Donnell dissented, but did not write a dissenting opinion. For more information about the case see this article from Court News Ohio and the online docket, available here. The Toledo Blade also provided coverage.

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