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Ohio Legal Issues Blog

Butler County Judge Admits Bias In Sex Offense Cases

Butler County Judge Charles Pater has refused to preside over future cases involving sex crimes. His recusal is due to a written admission issued two months ago stating he may have been biased in sentencing a defendant based upon Judge Pater's own personal experience with a family member who was a victim of a sex crime.

The defendant whose sentence may have been impacted by Judge Pater's experience is Dustin Lawrence. He was convicted in 2016 of raping his girlfriend's 16 year-old daughter. 

High Risk of Criminal Prosecution for Marijuana Users: Many Criminal Penalties Remain Despite Legalization of Medical Marijuana in Ohio

Medical marijuana was effectively legal in Ohio on September 8, 2018 and the first dispensaries opened in early 2019. In the coming months and years, we anticipate Ohio will see more dispensaries and more medical marijuana patients. Despite the legalization, medical marijuana patients and marijuana users have a number of legal pitfalls and restrictions.

THC and Marijuana Metabolite

The active ingredient in marijuana is Tetrahydrocannabinol (referred to as THC). THC causes psychological and physiological effects on the human body. The most accurate way to determine if a person's mind is altered by the use of marijuana is measuring the THC content of a person's blood or urine. Unfortunately, Ohio law is outdated and punishes marijuana users even when the effects of marijuana have dissipated. 

A Fresh Start? Examining Ohio's Updated Expungement Law

Those with a history of low-level drug and theft charges that were previously prevented from having their cases expunged will be happy to know that the law has changed. Starting this year, the Ohio legislature has expanded the number and type of cases that can be expunged. This will benefit those who have long been haunted by past mistakes on background checks. 

Holiday Gift Sponsors Over 200 Warren County Students

The holiday season is a time for giving. This holiday season, Rittgers & Rittgers is giving $10,000 to a program that helps feed students in Warren County public schools through the Lebanon Warrior Backpack Program.

The Lebanon Warrior Backpack Program provides six meals to take home every Friday for students who qualify for free and reduced school lunch. The program partners with Kroger which provides bags for meals and Life House Church which provides a building for storing and packing food. Food is purchased from Shared Harvest Foodbank in Butler County. Because of the generous program partners, sponsorship for one student for the entire school year is only $45. 

Long Overdue, Church Order To Release Names Of Abusive Priests

On Monday, December 17, 2018, the Midwest and Maryland provinces of the Society of Jesus, commonly known as the Jesuits, plan to release lists of priests dating back to 1955 who were accused of sexually abusing minors. As the largest male religious order in the Catholic Church, this revelation is long overdue and is due, in part, to the tireless work of attorneys across the country - like Rittgers & Rittgers' own Konrad Kircher and Ryan McGraw - on behalf of survivors of priest abuse.

Since the Boston Globe Spotlight series in 2002, demand has grown for church leaders to disclose the names of priests who were accused of abuse and how they responded. For too long, these calls went unanswered. Coupled with the Pope's recent summoning of Cardinals to the Vatican in yet another attempt to reevaluate the Church's response to child abuse and the recent Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report on sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, perhaps this revelation is a sign that things are finally changing for the better. 

Ohio's New BMV Program May Help You Get Your Driver's License Back

The Reinstatement Fee Amnesty Initiative 

On January 31, 2019, more than one third of the 1.1 million Ohioans with suspended driver's licenses will have an opportunity to petition the BMV to reduce their reinstatement fees or waive them entirely. This opportunity falls under a new six month program called the Reinstatement Fee Amnesty Initiative.

Not all individuals with suspended driver's licenses are eligible to apply for the program. For instance, the opportunity is not available for individuals convicted of an offense involving alcohol, drug abuse, or a deadly weapon, or where the basis of the charge involved any such factors. Instead, there are 25 specific offenses listed in the new law eligible for reinstatement relief. These include, but are not limited to: reckless operation, non-compliance/FRA suspensions, and failure to stop after an accident. 

Homeowner's Insurance Policies Part 2: Definition or Exclusion?

As you read your homeowner's insurance policy one thing that you will inevitably encounter are terms referencing other terms, referencing definitions, referencing back to other terms (never mind all of the exclusions). It can be maddening. A logical next question is whether these definitions are there to exclude coverage, or simply to define coverage. While our previous discussion about exclusions should give you some peace of mind that anything not specifically excluded should be covered under Ohio law, courts are instructed to read policies in their entirety, and not to ignore one part of a policy to the benefit of another.1 Courts must "give meaning to every paragraph, clause, phrase and word."2

For example, many policies define the place being insured as the "residence premise." They then define the "residence premise" as "the place where you reside." This begs the question, if you have insurance on a property where you are not living, is it covered? Here are some tips to help you determine the answer.

Domestic Violence Charge Dismissed

We recently represented a hard-working single father with no criminal record who is thirty-seven years old. His girlfriend told him that she would accuse him of domestic violence if he ended the relationship. When he ended the relationship, she followed through with her threat and called 911. She told the arresting officer he hit her a few times in the back of the head and pulled her hair. Our client denied harming her or any woman. Even though the officer noted in the complaint that he did not observe any injuries, he felt as though he had probable cause to charge and arrest our client and charge him with first degree misdemeanor domestic violence based solely upon the ex-girlfriend's statements.

Attorney Steve Kilburn spoke with our client's employer who received a call from a strange individual accusing his client of smoking marihuana. She called back and told his employer she had lied about the false accusation concerning the marihuana. There was no doubt in our mind this was our client's disgruntled ex-girlfriend who had falsely accused him of domestic violence around that same time. Additionally, while the case was pending, our client received a text message explicitly stating the ex-girlfriend had falsely accused him of domestic violence. The text message was sent from a phone number that matched the phone number on the ex-girlfriend's written witness statement. 

Recent Changes in Ohio's Intervention in Lieu of Conviction ("ILC") Statute

For the second time this year, Ohio has expanded its Intervention in Lieu of Conviction ("ILC") statute, once again benefitting defendants across the State. Effective on October 29, 2018, the new ILC statute gives a person countless opportunities to enroll in ILC. In other words, even if a person has previously been given an opportunity for ILC, the court now has the discretion to permit a defendant to enroll into the program again.

Ohio's ILC statute changed earlier this year when it removed its mandatory revocation policy upon any violation of ILC terms and conditions. Instead, the statute gave a judge the discretion as to whether to revoke the defendant's ILC upon a violation. Common ILC violations include new criminal charges, failing a drug or alcohol test, and missing required probation meetings. 

Homeowners Insurance Policies Part 1: Is It Excluded?

Reading your homeowner's insurance policy can be a daunting task. The policies often feel intentionally designed to get you not to read them. One reason might be so that you do not realize all the occurrences that happen in your daily life that may be covered. This primer is designed to go over some basics of reading your policy and ensure that you start maximizing the value that you get for diligently paying premiums.

Let's start with exclusions. Most of us know that insurance companies do everything they can to keep from paying a claim. The good news is that under Ohio law "an exclusion in an insurance policy will be interpreted as applying only to that which is clearly intended to be excluded."1 In other words, if your policy does not explicitly say that a certain occurrence is excluded, then you have a good argument that it should be covered. We recently had a case where a woman was denied coverage when her house burned to the ground because she did not reside in the home at the time of the fire. The good news is that the exclusion section of the insurance policy did not explicitly discuss fire damage when the home was vacant, and the insurance company is attempting to deny the claim based on the definition section of the policy. We believe we have a good argument to get our client coverage.

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