Thursday, May 23, 2013

State v. Cowen case brief

State v. Cowen case brief
103 Ohio St.3d 144
CASE SYNOPSIS: The State appealed from a judgment of the Court of Appeals for Portage County (Ohio), which reversed the convictions imposed on defendant by the trial court, based on the appellate court's determination that Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 955.22 unconstitutionally deprived defendant of her due process rights. Defendant had been convicted of various offenses arising from incidents involving her dog.

FACTS: Defendant's neighbor informed a dog warden that defendant's dogs had attacked his wife. The warden made the determination that defendant's dogs were vicious. The warden informed defendant of her responsibilities as to confining the dogs under the vicious-dog law. On two subsequent occasions, the warden was summoned to defendant's residence due to complaints that her dogs were not confined pursuant to the vicious-dog law. Charges were filed against her under various sections of § 955.22. Her motions to dismiss, based on challenges to the statute's constitutionality, were denied, and she was convicted and sentenced. On appeal, the appellate court reversed the convictions, finding that § 955.22 violated defendant's due process rights by allowing the warden unfettered discretion to label the dogs as dangerous and/or vicious, and because there was no appeal mechanism. On further review, the court found that the inability of defendant to have contradicted the warden's opinion prior to his determination having been made violated her due process rights. Further, even at her criminal trial, the jury did not consider whether the dog met the definition of "vicious" or "dangerous."

CONCLUSION: The court affirmed the judgment of the appellate court.

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