The Ohio Supreme Court has held that when a judge fails to properly impose statutorily mandated postrelease control as part of a defendant’s sentence, the postrelease-control sanction is void.
The case is State v. Hold croft, Slip Opinion No. 2013-Ohio-5014.
In 1999, the Defendant was found guilty of aggravated arson and arson, pursuant to a jury verdict. The trial judge imposed a prison term of ten years for Holdcroft’s aggravated-arson offense and a prison term of five years for Holdcroft’s arson offense. The trial court ordered that the prison terms be served consecutively.
The issue in this case arose because the trial court notified Holdcroft that a postrelease-control sanction (a/k/a parole) would be imposed, but it failed to state the duration of the sanction and did not state whether it was part of the sentence for aggravated arson, arson, or both offenses.
At a resentencing hearing, the trial court also imposed a mandatory term of five years of postrelease control.
The Ohio Supreme Court first asserted that the trial court could not resentence the Defendant in order to impose postrelease control once the defendant has served his entire sentence of incarceration. The court said: “[W]hen a judge fails to properly impose statutorily mandated postrelease control as part of a defendant’s sentence, the postrelease-control sanction is void.”
The court emphasized the importance of finality to an offender in setting forth the rules for review of sentences:
First, when a sentence is subject to direct review, it may be modified; second, when the prison-sanction portion of a sentence that also includes a void sanction has not been completely served, the void sanction may be modified; and third, when the entirety of a prison sanction has been served, the defendant’s expectation of interest in finality in his sentence becomes paramount, and his sentence for that crime may no longer be modified. Put another way, either the defendant or the state may challenge any aspect of a sentence so long as a timely appeal is filed. . . . But once the time for filing an appeal has run, Ohio courts are limited to correcting a void sanction. And once the prison-sanction portion of a sentence for a crime has been fully served, the structure of Ohio felony sentencing law and the defendant’s legitimate expectation in finality in his sentence prevent a court from further modifying the sentence for that crime in any way. A trial court does not have the authority to resentence a defendant for the purpose of adding a term of postrelease control as a sanction for a particular offense after the defendant has already served the prison term for that offense. Although it is true that some other sanctions (such as restitution) may yet be outstanding, a sentence served is a sentence completed.