An Ohio Court of Appeals has held that a defendant who wins an appeal cannot then receive a harsher sentence motivated by retaliation or vindictiveness by the trial judge.
The case is State v. Seymour , 2014-Ohio-72.
In 2011, the defendant was sentenced to 13 years in prison after pleading guilty to seven counts in the Butler County Court of Common Pleas. The indictment included one count of domestic violence, one count of aggravated burglary, two counts of assault, one count of grand theft, one count of failure to comply with an order or signal of a police officer, and one count of violating a protection order. The aggravated burglary conviction accounted for six years of that prison term.
The court of appeals reversed part of his sentence in 2012, holding that the domestic violence, aggravated burglary, and violating a protection order offenses were “allied offenses of similar import that should have been merged” for a single sentence.
The case was sent back to the Common Pleas Court for resentencing. The state chose to proceed under the aggravated burglary charge. The court imposed a seven year sentence on this count – one year more than the prior sentence.
The Defendant again appealed. He alleged that the trial court violated his due process of law when, motivated by retaliation or vindictiveness for a defendant’s successful appeal, the court resentenced him to a harsher sentence.
The court of appeals agreed. The court noted that there is a presumption that an enlarged sentence was the product of vindictiveness by the trial court. The court explained:
Although a court may still impose an enhanced sentence on remand, it must demonstrate that the enhanced sentence was not motivated by vindictiveness toward the defendant for exercising his rights. Thus, in order to ensure that a nonvindictive rationale supports the enhanced sentence . . . whenever a judge imposes an increased sentence after a successful appeal, there is a presumption of vindictiveness that can be rebutted only by objective information in the record justifying the increased sentence.
In this case, the defendant was entitled to a new sentencing hearing because the same trial judge presided over both sentencing hearings, but failed to explain the rationale for the enhanced sentence. At the new hearing, if the trial court decides to impose a harsher sentence than the sentence imposed originally, then the trial court must affirmatively state the reasons for imposing the harsher sentence. Those reasons may come to the judge’s attention from a variety of ways, including a new presentence investigation, the defendant’s prison record, or other sources.