Prior juvenile convictions cannot be used to increase the prison sentences of adults in Ohio, said a divided state supreme court ruling reported by the Columbus Dispatch. Splitting 4-3, the justices declared that treating cases from juvenile court as prior convictions for adult sentencing violates the due-process clauses of the Ohio and U.S. constitutions, and is “fundamentally unfair.” Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger wrote for the majority that juvenile court proceedings are designed to protect the development of those under age 18 while they are rehabilitated. Adult felony sentences are designed to protect the public and punish offenders, she wrote. “In summary, juvenile adjudication differs from criminal sentencing – one is civil and rehabilitative, the other is criminal and punitive,” she said.
Because juveniles facing delinquency charges have no right to a jury trial, crimes committed by youths cannot be used to enhance prison sentences they later receive as adults, the opinion said. The ruling overturned an appellate court decision on the Dayton case of Adrian Hand Jr., who pleaded no contest as an adult to three first-degree felonies – aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery and kidnapping – while using a gun. The judge considered a juvenile court adjudication against Hand as a prior felony conviction and ordered him to serve a mandatory additional three years in prison consecutive to another three-year term.