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Date: 06-10-2021

Case Style:

State of Ohio v. Jacob Zambrano

Case Number: L-19-1224

Judge: Gene A. Zmuda

Court: IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF OHIO SIXTH APPELLATE DISTRICT LUCAS COUNTY

Plaintiff's Attorney: Julia R. Bates, Lucas County Prosecuting Attorney, and Kevin M. Pituch, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney

Defendant's Attorney:


Toledo, Ohio Criminal Defense Lawyer Directory


Description:

Toledo, Ohio - Criminal defense attorney represented Jacob Zambrano with a attempted, aggravated arson charge.



{¶ 2} After an incident at his girlfriends’ home on March 31, 2019, appellant was
indicted on three counts of aggravated arson in violation of R.C. 2909.02(A)(1) and
(B)(1) and (2), felonies of the first degree, one count of aggravated arson in violation of
R.C. 2909.02(A)(2) and (B)(1) and (3), a felony of the first degree, and one count of
domestic violence in violation of R.C. 2919.25(A) and (D)(1) and (2), a misdemeanor in
the first degree. After plea negotiations, appellant entered a plea of no contest to one,
amended count of attempt to commit aggravated arson in violation of R.C. 2923.02 and
2909.02(A)(1) and (B)(1) and (2), a felony of the second degree, with the state dismissing
the remaining counts. The terms of the plea agreement included an agreed-upon,
indefinite sentence with a minimum term of three years and a maximum term of four and
a half years, consistent with the newly enacted R.C. 2967.271.
{¶ 3} As part of the hearing on appellant’s no contest plea, the trial court
thoroughly explained the application of R.C. 2967.271, in detail, and then summarized
the law for appellant, as follows:
Trial Court: It’s a lot of language, a lot of code sections, but, in
general, lay terms, they are going to have to consider releasing you at the
minimum term, looking at your behavior, looking at other things that they 3.
consider to be something that they can rebut, which means get past, the
presumption that you get out and then at no point can they keep you past
the maximum term; do you understand that?
Appellant indicated he understood, and after the trial court went through the required
Crim.R. 11 colloquy and ensured appellant understood his plea and the rights he gave up
in entering a plea, appellant entered his plea of no contest and the prosecutor recited the
facts that would have been proven at trial. The trial court found appellant guilty and
proceeded directly to sentencing.
{¶ 4} The trial court imposed the agreed-upon sentence of a minimum of three
years and a maximum of four and a half years, as provided by R.C. 2967.271. The trial
court also determined appellant to be an arson offender, subject to the life-time, annual
registration requirement set forth in R.C. 2909.13 to R.C. 2909.15.
{¶ 5} Appellant filed a timely appeal.
III. Assignments of Error
{¶ 6} Appellant now challenges the judgment, assigning the following as error:
1. Appellant’s Due Process Rights Were Violated As The Plea Was Not
Knowingly And Voluntarily Made as the Court Did Not Comply With
Criminal Rule 11.
2. The Trial Court Committed Plan [sic.] Error When It Allowed Appellant
To Be Sentenced Under An Unconstitutionally Vague Law. 4.
3. Appellant Received Ineffective Assistance of Counsel as His Trial
Counsel Failed to Object to Appellant Being Sentenced in Violation of
Due Process and to an Unconstitutionally Vague Law.
IV. Analysis
{¶ 7} In his first assignment of error, appellant argues his plea was not knowing,
intelligent, and voluntary, because he could not possibly understand the application of
minimum and maximum terms under R.C. 2967.271, as the law was so new. Thus, he
argues the trial court did not comply with Crim.R. 11(C)(2)(a), which requires a
defendant to understand both the nature of the charges and the maximum penalty that
applies. In response, the appellee, state of Ohio, argues that the trial court substantially
complied with Crim.R. 11(C) regarding its obligation to ensure understanding of the
maximum penalty. A plea must be knowing, intelligent, and voluntary, as it involves a
waiver of constitutional rights; a plea that is not knowing, intelligent, and voluntary may
not be enforced, as unconstitutional. State v. Dangler, 162 Ohio St.3d 1, 2020-Ohio2765, 164 N.E.3d 286, ¶ 10, citing Parke v. Raley, 506 U.S. 20, 28-29, 113 S.Ct. 417,
121 L.Ed.2d 391 (1992); State v. Clark, 119 Ohio St.3d 239, 2008-Ohio-3748, 893
N.E.2d 462, ¶ 25.
{¶ 8} Appellant did not seek to withdraw his plea or otherwise raise a challenge
in the trial court. His failure to raise the issue, however, is not waiver, but forfeiture by
failing to preserve an objection. Forfeiture “does not extinguish a claim of plain error
under Crim.R. 52(B).” State v. Payne, 114 Ohio St.3d 502, 2007-Ohio-4642, 873 N.E.2d 5.
306, ¶ 23, quoting State v. McKee, 91 Ohio St.3d 292, 299, 744 N.E.3d 737, fn 3 (Cook,
J. dissenting); State v. Ferguson, 11th Dist. Lake No. 2020-L-031, 2020-Ohio-5578, ¶ 18
(forfeiture precludes all but plain error review).
{¶ 9} “When a criminal defendant seeks to have his conviction reversed on
appeal, the traditional rule is that he must establish that an error occurred in the trial-court
proceedings and that he was prejudiced by that error.” Dangler at ¶ 13, citing State v.
Perry, 101 Ohio St.3d 118, 2004-Ohio-297, 802 N.E.2d 643, ¶ 14-15 (additional citations
omitted.). However, an appellant need not demonstrate prejudice in challenging a
criminal plea when a trial court fails to address the constitutional rights set forth in
Crim.R. 11(C)(2)(c) at the plea hearing. Id. at ¶ 14, citing State v. Clark, 119 Ohio St.3d
238, 2008-Ohio-3748, 893 N.E.2d 462, ¶ 31; State v. Veney, 120 Ohio St.3d 176, 2008-
Ohio-5200, 897 N.E.2d 621, syllabus. The non-constitutional rights, in contrast, follow
the traditional rule, and “a defendant is not entitled to have his plea vacated unless he
demonstrates he was prejudiced by a failure of the trial court to comply with the
provisions of Crim.R. 11(C).” Dangler at ¶ 16, citing State v. Nero, 56 Ohio St.3d 106,
108, 564 N.E.2d 474 (1990).
{¶ 10} Here, appellant argues the trial court failed to ensure understanding of the
maximum penalty, as required by Crim.R. 11(C)(2)(a). “[T]he maximum penalty
advisement is not a constitutional requirement.” Dangler at ¶ 23. Therefore, despite
appellees argument of substantial compliance, the only relevant questions are: “(1) has
the trial court complied with the relevant provisions of the rule? (2) if the court has not 6.
complied fully with the rule, is the purported failure of a type that excuses a defendant
from the burden of demonstrating prejudice? and (3) if a showing of prejudice is
required, has the defendant met that burden?” Id. at ¶ 17.1
{¶ 11} Based on the written plea and the trial court’s thorough explanation of the
minimum and maximum sentence, pursuant to R.C. 2967.271, we find the trial court
complied with Crim.R. 11(C)(2)(a). Considering the trial court’s attention to detail,
followed by a summary in lay terms, we are hard-pressed to imagine a more compliant
explanation of the maximum penalty by a trial court, considering the newness of the
statute and lack of legal precedent to clarify it. The only uncertainty, moreover, was in
the application of R.C. 2967.271 as a result of appellant’s own conduct while serving his
prison term, with the trial court warning appellant that any conduct, in violation of any
rule, might be used to overcome the presumption of appellant serving his minimum
term.2
{¶ 12} In arguing his plea was not knowingly, intelligently, or voluntarily made,
appellant challenges only the trial court’s lack of certainty regarding how the minimum
and maximum sentences might ultimately be imposed, or how earned time credit might

1
In Dangler, the Ohio Supreme Court rejected consideration of “substantial” and
“partial” compliance, finding the “different tiers of compliance with the rule” have
“muddled” the analysis and “have served to unduly complicate what should be a fairly
straightforward inquiry.” Danger at ¶ 17.
2
At his plea hearing, appellant assured the trial court he understood the statute did not
enumerate specific conduct that would rebut the presumption of release at the earliest
date, and that he understood that, potentially, “all behavior is on the table from taking an
extra packet of sugar or roll to criminal behavior[.]” 7.
reduce his indefinite sentence. The trial court explained the application of R.C.
2967.271, however, and we place no obligation on the trial court to anticipate every
possible outcome based on circumstances entirely within appellant’s control. We do not
require prescience of a trial court in engaging in the Crim.R. 11 colloquy. Therefore,
while the trial court failed to inform appellant of specific consequences for all potential,
future, bad behavior, we find the trial court satisfied its duty to inform appellant of the
maximum penalty, and his first assignment of error is not well-taken.
{¶ 13} In his second and third assignments of error, appellant challenges the
enforceability of R.C. 2967.271 and argues his trial counsel was ineffective in failing to
assert this challenge. In doing so, appellant acknowledges our decision in State v.
Maddox, 6th Dist. Lucas No. L-19-1253, 2020-Ohio-4702, motion to certify allowed, 160
Ohio St.3d 1505, 2020-Ohio-6913, 159 N.E.3d 1150; see also State v. Velliquette, 2020-
Ohio-4855, 160 N.E.3d 414 (6th Dist.), motion to certify allowed, 161 Ohio St.3d 1415,
2021-Ohio-120, 161 N.E.3d 708.
{¶ 14} In Maddox, we found both issues not ripe for review, with this decision in
conflict with decisions of the Second and Twelfth District Appellate Courts and accepted
by the Ohio Supreme Court for review. In addition to Maddox, we have addressed
multiple constitutional challenges and found the issue not ripe for review in Velliquette;
State v. Montgomery, 6th Dist. Lucas No. L-19-1202, 2020-Ohio-5552; State v. Sawyer,
2020-Ohio-6980, 165 N.E.3d 844 (6th Dist.); State v. Acosta, 6th Dist. Lucas Nos. L-20-
1068, L-20-1069, 2021-Ohio-757; State v. Bothuel, 6th Dist. Lucas No. L-20-1053, 2021-8.
Ohio-875; State v. Savage, 6th Dist. Lucas No. L-20-1073, 2021-Ohio-1549; and State v.
Crenshaw Rottman, 6th Dist. Lucas No. L-20-1061, 2021-Ohio-1618. In Velliquette, we
noted that the “possibility” of an extended prison term might never be realized, and that
ripeness issue remains pending with the Ohio Supreme Court.
{¶ 15} Appellant attempts to avoid this precedent by arguing his case is
distinguishable, because R.C. 2967.271 does not clearly enumerate the type of “behavior
that will lead him to being kept in prison longer.” Therefore, appellant reasons, this issue
presents a current, rather than future, potential harm based on the lack of certainty
regarding behavior. In considering appellant’s challenge, however, we find the issues
presented are identical to those in Maddox, and the “harm” argued is a longer than
minimum sentence.
{¶ 16} As in Maddox, the issue is not ripe for review because appellant “has not
yet been subject to the application of these provisions, as he has not yet served his
minimum term, and therefore has not been denied release at the expiration of his
minimum term of incarceration.” Maddox at ¶ 7. Furthermore, as the issue is not ripe for
review, appellant’s trial counsel could not be ineffective in failing to raise a premature
and therefore meritless objection. See State v. Conkright, 6th Dist. Lucas No. L-06-1107,
2007-Ohio-5315, ¶ 50 (no ineffective assistance in failing to file a meritless motion).
{¶ 17} Accordingly, based on our precedent, we find appellant’s second and third
assignments of error not well-taken as they present issue not yet ripe for review. 9.

Outcome: For the forgoing reasons, we affirm the judgment of the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas. Appellant is ordered to pay the costs of this appeal pursuant to App.R. 24.

Judgment affirmed.

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