Thursday, May 23, 2013

State v. Cowen case brief

State v. Cowen case brief 
103 Ohio St.3d 144
CASE SYNOPSIS: Defendant appealed a judgment from the Toledo Municipal Court (Ohio), which convicted him of violations of Toledo, Ohio, Code § 505.14(a) and Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 955.22. The trial court found that the state and local "vicious dog" laws were constitutional.

FACTS: Defendant owned three pit bull type dogs, which were family pets who had no history of aggressive or unlawful behavior. Upon a report of the dogs' presence being filed with the county dog warden, one dog was given away, one was confiscated and destroyed, and one was kept by defendant. Defendant was charged by the city with local and state statutory violations. The trial court denied defendant's dismissal motion, finding that Ohio Rev. Code Ann. §§ 955.22 and 955.11(A)(4)(a)(iii), and Toledo, Ohio, Code § 505.14(a) were constitutional, although it noted that pit bulls were not, as a breed, more dangerous than other breeds. On appeal, the court found that the statutes were unconstitutionally violative of procedural due process, as defendant could not rebut the presumption that his dogs were "vicious" before being charged. Further, the statutes were void for vagueness under that constitutional principle due to the subjective identification procedures. The statutes also violated equal protection and substantive due process where there was no rational basis to single out the pit bull as inherently dangerous, based on the current evidence regarding the breed.

CONCLUSION: The court reversed the judgment of the trial court and vacated defendant's convictions.

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