Supreme Court of Ohio: A presentence investigation report is required before a felony offender is sentenced to community control

On July 24, 2014 the Supreme Court of Ohio ruled that a trial court must order and review a presentence investigation report before sentencing a felony offender to community control sanctions, State v. Amos, Slip Opinion No. 2014-Ohio-3160. The case arose from the 8th District Court of Appeals, which heard two cases involving felony offenders who were sentenced to community control without presentence investigations. The 8th District made contrary rulings in these two cases, holding that a presentence investigation was only required when a party requested it in State v. Amos, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 97719, 2012-Ohio-3954 and holding that a presentence investigation was mandatory inState v. Richmond, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 97531, 2012-Ohio-3946.

Although the parties to these cases (the State in Amos and the Defendant in Richmond) requested that the 8th District hear the cases en banc to resolve the conflict, the court declined to do so and appeals were taken to the Ohio Supreme Court, which consolidated the two cases into one.  Justice O’Neill drafted the opinion for the majority. The Court ruled that although requiring a presentence investigation for felony offenders sentenced to community control in cases where the trial court had found one unnecessary “…creates an unnecessary burden on the court’s resources, inconsistent with the general directive of R.C. 2929.11(A),” courts must order one to comply with the revised code. Justice O’Neill wrote that the plain language of R.C. 2951.03(A)(1) and Crim.R. 32.2“place(s) an unavoidable duty on the trial court to obtain a presentence investigation report in every felony case in which a prison sentence is not imposed.” The Court thus reversed the holding in Amos and upheldRichmond.

Justices O’Connor, Kennedy and French concurred in judgment only, Justices Lanzinger and Pfeifer concurred in part and dissented in part and Justice O’Donnell dissented. Justice Lanzinger drafted a concurring opinion in which Justice Pfeifer joined. Justice Lanzinger argued that the Court is not automatically required to reverse a sentence just because a presentence investigation was not ordered. She wrote that when the parties have not waived the report or objected to the lack of one, “a sentence imposing a community-control sanction for a fourth- or fifth-degree-felony offense should not be disturbed on appeal unless plain error is shown.”Justice Lanzinger asserted that in order to reverse, the sentence must be shown to be “clearly and convincingly contrary to law” and that “the court’s failure to first order and review a PSI report is not a flaw in the sentence itself. Rather, it is a flaw in the sentencing procedure.” She concluded that in these cases, the sentences did not meet the standard.

In his dissent, Justice O’Donnell objected to the Court taking action in this case at all, stating that the Court has never resolved intracourt conflicts on questions of law, but instead requires districts to hear the cases en banc to resolve these issues. He asserted that the cases should be remanded to the 8th District to conduct an en banc proceeding.

For more information about this case see the individual case docket pages: 2012-2093 and 2012-2156 and this article from Court News Ohio