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Ohio Supreme Court: Can Gun Specifications Apply to an On-Duty Officer?

Gun and bullets on table

In his original trial, a former Ottawa Hills police officer was convicted of felonious assault with a firearm specification for shooting and paralyzing a motorcyclist. The count of felony assault would have led to a seven-year prison sentence, but the firearm specification automatically increased that sentence by three years. In 2013, however, the Toledo 6th District Court of Appeals called for a new trial, ruling that this three-year addition was based on an unconstitutional application of the gun specification law. Now the Ohio Supreme Court is reviewing the appeal. The court's ruling could carry significant implications for all of Ohio and how weapons offenses can be charged and sentenced.

Firearm Specifications in Ohio

The law in question, R.C. § 2941.145, states that if someone "brandished" or used a gun in the commission of a crime, a mandatory prison sentence of three years must be added to any other sentences that are enforced. Other gun specifications would impose an additional one-year sentence for having a firearm on one's person during a crime ( R.C. § 2941.141), or a six-year sentence for having an automatic firearm or a silencer ( R.C. § 2941.144). A person cannot be convicted of more than one firearm specification.

The Debate

On the one hand, the county assistant prosecutor argued that the officer never had to use his weapon, that when he committed assault, he had committed a crime which included the firearm specification. In a similar line of reasoning, some state Supreme Court justices doubted that someone's status could protect them from this law. Other Ohio Supreme Court justices, however, said that this gun specification was created with armed criminals in mind, and they called into question the application of this law on an officer who would always have a gun on their person while on duty. The officer's criminal defense lawyer, argued that the jury in the original trial should have been instructed that it was possible for the officer to have committed an error, and not necessarily a crime, when discharging his firearm.

Charged with a weapons crime in Ohio?

Any charge of weapons crime is a serious matter, one that could lead a lengthy prison sentence and extensive fines. Depending on the outcome of this case, the law could become even stricter. Even now, anyone who faces a weapons charge requires the rigorous defense of an aggressive and experienced Ohio criminal defense attorney. At Ian N. Friedman, our legal team can provide the tenacious defense you need and deserve on your side. If you have been charged with a weapons-related offense, do not hesitate to contact us or to fill out a free case evaluation today!