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Date: 07-10-2019

Case Style:

STATE OF OHIO vs. BRYAN K. FISHER

Case Number: 18CA27

Judge: Matthew W. McFarland

Court: COURT OF APPEALS OF OHIO FOURTH APPELLATE DISTRICT ATHENS COUNTY

Plaintiff's Attorney: Keller Blackburn, Athens County Prosecuting Attorney, and Robert P. Driscoll, Assistant Athens County Prosecuting Attorney

Defendant's Attorney: Timothy Young, Ohio State Public Defender, and Craig M. Jaquith, Assistant Ohio State Public Defender

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The State charged Appellant with two fifth degree felonies:
aggravated possession of drugs and possession of drugs, both in violation of
R.C. 2925.11(A). Appellant pleaded guilty to both charges.
{¶5} On December 12, 2017, the trial court sentenced Appellant to
five years of community control sanctions, as well as the following
conditions including, among others: (1) enter and successfully complete
SEPTA, (2) submit to drug and alcohol assessments, (3) not possess or 1 SEPTA is a community based correctional facility that provides chemical dependency services, among others. https://drc.ohio.gov/septa 2 The Landing at Cedar Ridge is residential treatment facility that “provide[s] 24 hour medically monitored long-term intensive treatment services for men and women suffering from substance abuse disorders.” (https://www.crbhs.org/

Athens App. No. 18CA27 3
consume alcohol, and (4) not take or possess drugs, except for as ordered by
his physician.
{¶6} On February 8, 2018, the State filed a notice of violation of
community control sanctions alleging that Appellant committed four
violations, including a positive drug test and that he had been terminated
from SEPTA. The State moved the trial court to impose the underlying term
of incarceration.
{¶7} On March 12, 2018, Appellant filed a Motion for Furlough
asking the court to allow him to be examined by a medical professional
because of a leg problem.
{¶8} At a March 13, 2018 hearing, Appellant stipulated to violating
the terms and conditions of his community control sanctions.
{¶9} On April 13, 2018, the trial court issued a judgment entry
continuing Appellant’s five-year community control sanctions, but added
additional conditions, including that:
“[D]efendant is ordered to enter and successfully complete
The Landing FORTHWITH, and shall sign all requested
releases and follow any aftercare recommendations. If the
defendant leaves or is terminated from the Landing, he shall
Athens App. No. 18CA27 4
be transported to the Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail by the
Athens County Sheriff’s Office.”
{¶10} On May 31, 2018, the State filed a notice of violation of
community control sanctions and notice of hearing alleging that “[Appellant]
was terminated unsuccessfully from The Landing.”
{¶11} Then, on June 5, 2018, the trial court issued an entry granting
Appellant a medical furlough to receive medical treatment at Riverside
Methodist Hospital. The entry provided that he would only be released from
Riverside directly into the custody of the Athens County Sheriff’s office and
be returned to the Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail immediately.
{¶12} The State filed a supplemental notice of violation of community
control sanctions and notice of hearing on July 7, 2018, alleging that, in
addition to Appellant’s failure to complete The Landing, he was discharged
from treatment from Riverside Methodist Hospital to a family member, as
opposed to being released to a deputy and returned to jail as required, and
that his whereabouts were unknown.
{¶13} The trial court held a hearing to review both alleged violations
on August 8, 2018. The State moved the court to revoke Appellant’s
community control sanctions and impose the entire prison sentence.
Appellant asked the court to continue his community control sanctions. The
Athens App. No. 18CA27 5
trial court revoked his community control sanctions and imposed 12-month
sentences for each of the two underlying drug offenses to be served
consecutively for an aggregate 24-month sentence.
{¶14} Appellant has appealed that judgment to this court asserting a
single assignment of error.
APPELLANT’S ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR
{¶15} Appellant’s sole assignment of error contends “the trial court
erred when it imposed a sentence upon Bryan Fisher that was contrary to
R.C. 2929.15(B)(1)(c)(i), which imposes a 90 day sentence cap on fifth
degree-felony sentences imposed for violations of community control
sanctions that are either technical violations or a non-felony criminal
offenses.”
{¶16} Appellant argues that his community control sanctions violation
of failing to complete The Landing program was a mere technical violation,
and that leaving the hospital and not returning to jail did not constitute a
felony offense. Consequently, he argues, the 90-day sentence cap in R.C.
2929.15(B)(1)(c)(i) applied, making the trial court’s imposition of the 24
month sentence clearly and convincingly contrary to law.
{¶17} The State makes four different arguments in response to
Appellant’s assignment of error.
Athens App. No. 18CA27 6
{¶18} First, the State argues that when Appellant failed to return to
jail after his medical furlough, he committed a felony (escape), which would
mean that the 90-day sentence cap in R.C. 2929.15(B)(1)(c)(i) would not
apply because it only limits sentences imposing community control
sanctions violations that are not felony offenses.
{¶19} Second, the State argues that the 90-day sentence cap in R.C.
2929.15(B)(1)(c)(i) applies only if the underlying offense is a single fifth
degree felony offense.
{¶20} Third, the State argues that R.C. 2929.15(B)(1)(c)(i) sentencing
provision conflicts with R.C. 2929.14(A)(5) and R.C. 2929.15(B)(3), and is
therefore of no force and effect.
{¶21} Fourth, the State argues that Appellant’s failure to successfully
complete The Landing program was a not a technical violation, which means
that the 90-day sentence cap in R.C. 2929.15(B)(1)(c)(i) would not apply
because it only caps sentences for violations of community control sanctions
that are technical violations.
ANALYSIS
{¶22} Initially, we note that the issue of whether Appellant’s violation
of his community control sanctions was a technical violation was never
raised in the trial court. The general rule is that an appellate court need not
Athens App. No. 18CA27 7
consider an error that was raised in the trial court, absent plain error. State v.
Hill, 92 Ohio St.3d 191, 196, 2001-Ohio-141, 749 N.E.2d 274. To find
plain error, a reviewing court: (1) must find an error, (2) determine that the
error is plain, and (3) must find the error affected the outcome of the case.
State v. Deckard, 4th Dist. Gallia No. 16CA14, 2017-Ohio-8469, 100
N.E.3d 53, ¶ 24, citing State v. Layne, 4th Dist. Highland No. 11CA17,
2012-Ohio 1627, ¶ 8. “[N]otice of plain error under Crim.R. 52(B) is to be
taken ‘with the utmost caution, under exceptional circumstances and only to
prevent a manifest miscarriage of justice.’ ” Id., quoting Layne.
{¶23} An appellate court may reverse a sentence only if it is clearly
and convincingly not supported by the sentencing court's findings, or it is
otherwise contrary to law. State v. Abner, 4th Dist. Adams Nos. 18CA1061,
18CA1062, 20108-Ohio-4506, ¶ 10, State v. Marcum, 2016-Ohio-1002, 146
Ohio St.3d 516, 59 N.E.3d 1231, ¶ 23. “Clear and convincing evidence has
been defined as ‘[t]he measure or degree of proof that will produce in the
mind of the trier of fact a firm belief or conviction as to the allegations
sought to be established. It is intermediate, being more than a mere
preponderance, but not to the extent of such certainty as required beyond a
reasonable doubt as in criminal cases. It does not mean clear and
unequivocal.’ ” In re I.M., 4th Dist. Athens No. 10CA35, 2011-Ohio-560,
Athens App. No. 18CA27 8
¶ 6, quoting In re McCain, 4th Dist. Vinton No. 06CA654, 2007-Ohio-1429,
at ¶ 8.
{¶24} The provision that caps certain sentences imposed for
community control sanctions violations is found in R.C. 2929.15(B)(1),
which provides:
If the conditions of a community control sanction are
violated * * *, the sentencing court may impose upon the
violator one or more of the following penalties:
* * *
(c) A prison term on the offender pursuant to section 2929.14
of the Revised Code and division (B)(3) of this section,
provided that a prison term imposed under this division is
subject to the following limitations, as applicable:
(i) If the prison term is imposed for any technical violation of
the conditions of a community control sanction imposed for a
felony of the fifth degree or for any violation of law
committed while under a community control sanction
imposed for such a felony that consists of a new criminal
offense and that is not a felony, the prison term shall not
exceed ninety days.
Athens App. No. 18CA27 9
{¶25} Accordingly, in a case involving a fifth degree felony, if a
defendant commits a technical violation of community sanctions, the
sentence imposed by the trial court for that violation cannot exceed 90 days.
However, R.C. 2929.15 does not define “technical violation.”
{¶26} The Supreme Court of Ohio defined “ ‘technical violations’ [of
parole] as ‘those violations of the terms and conditions of the parole
agreement which are not criminal in nature[,] such as failure to report to the
parole officer, association with known criminals, leaving employment,
leaving the State, etc.’ ” State ex rel. Taylor v. Ohio Adult Parole Auth., 66
Ohio St.3d 121, 124, 609 N.E.2d 546 (1993), quoting Inmates' Councilmatic
Voice, supra, 541 F.2d at 635, fn. 2. This court adopted Taylor’s definition
of a technical violation in the context of community control sanctions,
holding that “a technical violation of community control for purposes
of R.C. 2929.15(B) is a violation that is not criminal in nature.” State v.
Abner, 4th Dist. Adams Nos. 18CA1061, 18CA1062, 2018-Ohio-4506, ¶ 13.
{¶27} However, in State v. Blake, 4th Dist. Hocking No. 18CA6,
2018-Ohio- 5413, ¶ 11, we recognized a slight narrowing of the definition of
a technical violation adopted in Abner, holding that the violation of a special
condition imposed as part of a community control sanction, even though not
Athens App. No. 18CA27 10
criminal in nature, was more than mere technical violation under R.C.
2929.15(B)(1)(c)(i).
{¶28} In Blake, the defendant entered guilty pleas to possession and
trafficking in drugs, both fifth degree felonies. Blake at ¶ 3. The court
granted the defendant intervention in lieu of conviction and placed the
defendant under the supervision of Adult Parole Authority for three years,
which included certain terms and conditions that included having no contact
with felons, and abstaining from using or possessing illegal drugs or alcohol.
Id.
{¶29} Blake violated her community control by associating with
criminals and drinking alcohol. Blake, ¶ 4. The trial court revoked her
treatment in lieu of conviction and sentenced her to 24 months, but
suspended the prison term and placed her on community control sanctions
for five years with certain conditions. Id.
{¶30} Blake admitted to a second violation of her community control
sanctions for using non-prescribed opiates (Percocet). Blake, ¶ 5. The trial
court continued the community control sanctions and imposed certain
conditions, including that she “enter the STAR Program and Aftercare
Program, successfully complete said programs and follow through with the
Athens App. No. 18CA27 11
recommendations made. Successful completion of said programs will result
in termination of probation.” Id.
{¶31} The State again alleged that Blake violated her community
control sanctions and asked that her supervision be revoked. Blake, ¶ 6. The
State alleged that Blake “ ‘knowingly caused STAR staff members to
believe that [she] would cause serious physical harm to them or their family
members’ ” and [she] failed to complete the STAR program, when * * *
[she] was unsuccessfully terminated from the STAR program.” Id. The trial
court revoked Blake’s community control sanctions and imposed a 24-month
sentence. Id.
{¶32} Blake appealed asserting that the trial court's 24-month prison
sentence was clearly and convincingly contrary to law because it exceeded
the 90-day sentence cap for technical violations of community control
sanctions pursuant to R.C. 2929.15(B)(1)(c)(i). Blake at ¶ 8.
{¶33} Blake reaffirmed that technical violations of community control
sanctions are violations that are not criminal in nature. Id. at ¶ 8, 9.
However, Blake also adopted the rationale from the Fifth and Twelfth
District Courts of Appeals that community based correctional facility
treatment was a rehabilitative requirement imposed as a special condition of
community control sanctions, and even though such a violation was not
Athens App. No. 18CA27 12
criminal in nature, it was nevertheless a non-technical violation, making the
90-day sentencing cap in R.C. 2929.15(B)(1)(c)(i) inapplicable for fifth
degree felonies. Blake, at ¶ 10 and 11, citing State v. Davis, 12th Dist.
Warren No. CA2017-11-156, 2018-Ohio-2672, ¶ 16-18, State v. Mannah,
5th Dist. Fairfield No. 17-CA-54, 2018-Ohio-4219, see also State v.
Calhoun, 6th Dist. Wood No. WD-17-067, 2019-Ohio-228, ¶ 33 (condition
requiring Calhoun to transfer community control sanctions to West Virginia
was not a technical violation), State v. Nelson, 2nd Dist. Campaign No.
2018-CA-5, 2018-Ohio-4763, ¶ 32 (no contact order was not a technical
violation). Such an interpretation is consistent with “[t]he [General
Assembly's] choice of the term ‘technical[,]’ [which] implies it has meaning
distinct from ‘non-criminal’ violations.” Mannah at ¶ 14.
{¶34} We applied this reasoning in assessing Blake’s violation:
“[A]ppellant was discharged from the CBCF; she did not
voluntarily sign herself out. Nevertheless, the end result is
the same - appellant failed to complete the STAR program,
which constitutes a violation of community control.
Therefore, consistent with Cozzone, Davis, and Mannah, we
conclude that the requirement for appellant to complete a
Athens App. No. 18CA27 13
CBCF is a special condition of community control and, thus,
a non-technical violation.” Blake at ¶ 11.
{¶35} Because Blake’s violation was not a technical violation, the 90
day sentence cap in R.C. 2929.15(B)(1)(c)(i) did not apply, and we affirmed
the trial court’s 24-month sentence. Id.
{¶36} We find that Blake is controlling of Appellant’s appeal.
Appellant has two underlying drug offenses. One of his conditions of
community control sanctions was to enter and complete SEPTA, which
treats substance abuse. He was terminated from SEPTA for drug use, and
then ordered to enter and complete The Landing, which also treats substance
abuse, but he was terminated from that program as well. Under Blake,
Appellant’s failure to complete SEPTA and The Landing were more than
technical violations of his community control sanctions, they were violations
of a substantive rehabilitation requirement imposed by the trial court as a
condition of Appellant’s community control sanctions, i.e. drug treatment.
Therefore, under Blake, R.C. 2929.15(B)(1)(c)(ii) did not cap Appellant’s
sentence at 90 days, which means the trial court’s imposition of a 24-month
sentence was clearly and convincingly not contrary to law. As a result, the
trial court committed no error, let alone an error that affected Appellant’s
substantial rights so as to create a manifest miscarriage of justice.
Athens App. No. 18CA27

Outcome: Accordingly, we overrule Appellant’s assignment of error and
affirm the judgment of the trial court.

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