The Ohio Supreme Court rules that payment of a fine in a traffic case does not eliminate the right of a motorist to appeal.
Ohio Supreme CourtThe Supreme Court of Ohio issued a ruling last month recognizing the right of motorists to appeal convictions for traffic offenses, even after a fine has been paid. A 5-2 majority of the court agreed that the imposition of driver's license demerit points can create enough of an ongoing hardship that appeals should be heard, despite the appearance of finality that comes with fine payment.
In the case at hand, a young motorist, identified only as "SJK" was accused of reckless operation of a vehicle on August 17, 2004. Six months later, a Summit County Juvenile court found the youth guilty over his objection that the court had violated his right to a speedy trial. SJK paid $82 and received four license points on his record.
SJK filed an appeal with the 9th District Court of Appeals which refused to hear the case because SJK paid the fine, ending the matter. The judges held that any hardship caused by license points was merely "speculative."
In its ruling, the state supreme court disagreed. License points affect the insurability of a motorist and, consequently, his right to drive at all. Under court precedent, the appeal should be heard if such a disability follows as a consequence of a legal judgment that had been challenged. The court found this to be true in this case.
"The points may also increase the severity of future penalties, raise insurance rates, or impair the ability to obtain insurance," Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton wrote for the majority. "Thus, the imposition of points is a penalty that constitutes a collateral disability flowing from a conviction for a traffic offense."
The full text of the decision is available in a 39k PDF file at the source link below.
Source: PDF File In re S.J.K. 2007-Ohio-2621 (Supreme Court of Ohio, 6/13/2007)