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Franklin County Criminal Law Casebook
Reproduced with permission from
Allen V. Adair and the Franklin County Public Defender Office

CRIMINAL LIABILITY (152)

Also see Complicity; Statute of Limitations; Culpable Mental States.

 

In general

Organizations and corporations

 

R.C. 2901.03 -- Common law offenses abrogated.

R.C. 2901.11 -- Criminal law jurisdiction.

R.C. 2901.13 -- Limitation of criminal prosecutions (statute of limitations).

R.C. 2901.21 -- Requirements for criminal liability.

R.C. 2901.23 -- Organizational criminal liability.

R.C. 2901.24 -- Personal accountability for organizational conduct.

In general

Maple Heights v. Ephraim, 178 Ohio App. 3d 439, 2008-Ohio-4576 -- Municipal ordinance made parents punishable for the delinquent acts of their children. (1) Ordinance was an exercise of police power, not self-government, and served a valid purpose. (2) R.C. 2901.21(A) is a general law. That provision requires a voluntary act, or omission to perform an act or duty, and proof of a culpable mental state. (3) While vicarious criminal liability applies to corporation through the doctrine of respondeat superior, and to a degree under conspiracy laws, generally personal responsibility is required as expressed in R.C. 2901.21(A). (4) Thus the ordinance and statute are in conflict. Court does not decide constitutional challenges.

State v. Tomaino (1999), 135 Ohio App. 3d 309 -- Video store owner was prosecuted for disseminating matter harmful to juveniles after clerk rented videos to a seventeen year old. Prosecutor's theory of reckless supervision was not supported by the statute and amounted to a common law crime. Prosecution as an aider and abettor might be possible on retrial, or state could resort to a more appropriate statute cited in the opinion.

State v. Cook (1997), 117 Ohio App. 3d 205 -- Defendant sold urine and blood stained mattress without required tag. Court rejects claim sale was not made "as is" since 90-day return policy operated as a warranty.

State v. Gaul (1997), 117 Ohio App. 3d 839 -- Prosecution of county treasurer after setbacks in investment of public funds found not to have amounted to an offense under R.C. 2921.44, the dereliction of duty statute.

State v. Neuvirth (1988), 53 Ohio App. 3d 27 -- It is not an offense under Ohio law to drive in violation of license restrictions imposed by the Registrar of Motor Vehicles. The traffic code defines no such offense and R.C. 2901.03 requires that criminal offenses are only as set forth in the Revised Code. Also see Dayton v. Anthony (1979), 14 Ohio Ops. 3d 120.

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Organizations and corporations

Cleveland v. Washington Mutual Bank, 125 Ohio St. 3d 541, 2010-Ohio-2219. Syllabus: “R.C. 2941.47 does not authorize a trial of a corporation in absentia in a criminal proceeding that is initiated by affidavit or complaint in a municipal court.” Case involved housing code violations. Bank owned properties, but didn’t defend when charged by complaint. It did appeal following conviction in absentia.

State v. Homesales, Inc., 190 Ohio App. 3d 385, 2010-Ohio-5572 – Trial court refused to allow property owner to be tried in absentia. Municipal ordinance provides this can be done, but it is in conflict with the general law of the state, specifically Crim. R. 43(A) and Article I, Section 10.

State v. Black on Black Crime, Inc. (2000), 136 Ohio App. 3d 436 -- City mistakenly wired in excess of $600,000 to the account of a nonprofit corporation. Funds were dissipated before the mistake was discovered and return demanded. Theft conviction of the corporation itself affirmed.

State v. CSX Transportation, Inc. (2000), 139 Ohio App. 3d 589 -- Railroad was subject to being fined under Title 29's organizational criminal penalties statute for a non-Title 29 offense.

Akron v. Holland Oil Company 146 Ohio App. 3d 298, 2001-Ohio-1415 -- Corporation was prosecuted for underage sale of alcohol in violation of R.C. 4301.69(A). At the pretrial the state was allowed to amend the complaint to allege a violation of R.C. 2901.23. Before trial the prosecutor realized that section related to organizational liability, but does not define an offense. No prejudice in allowing amendment back to original form. Initial complaint and a fax indicating amendment would be sought gave adequate notice to the accused.

State v. CECOS International, Inc. (1988), 38 Ohio St. 3d 120 -- Paragraph one of the syllabus: "Pursuant to R.C. 2901.23(A)(4), a business entity may be found guilty of a criminal offense only if the criminal act or omission was approved, recommended, or implemented by high managerial personnel with actual or implied authority to approve, recommend or implement same. High managerial personnel are those who make basic corporate policies."

State v. D.J. Master Clean, Inc. (1997), 123 Ohio App. 3d 388 -- A corporation may be found guilty of a criminal offense only if the criminal act or omission was authorized, requested, commanded, tolerated, or performed by the board of directors, trustees, partners, or by a high managerial officer, agent, or employees acting in behalf of the organization and within the scope of his office or employment. This was established with respect to a carpet cleaning company charged with dumping wastewater in a storm sewer where there was testimony concerning prior communications from the Ohio EPA concerning this practice.

State v. Beehive Limited Partnership (1993), 89 Ohio App. 3d 718 -- Evidence was not insufficient to convict organization of same conduct for which an individual defendant was acquitted. Compare State v. Worsencroft (1995), 100 Ohio App. 3d 255.

Warren v. Sanfrey (1992), 78 Ohio App. 3d 457 -- President of car dealership who resigned before taxes were due, and did not retain duty to make the filing, was improperly convicted of failure to pay taxes.

State v. Stirnkorb (1990), 63 Ohio App. 3d 778, 785-786 -- An employee does not have to be "high managerial personnel" to be convicted of a criminal act conducted within the scope of his employment.

State v. Patterson (1986), 35 Ohio App. 3d 14 -- Headnote: "The statutory agent of a corporation is not criminally liable for the acts of his corporation solely because of his agency."

State v. Airway Distributors (1986), 34 Ohio App. 3d 176 -- Evidence was sufficient to convict corporation of trafficking in counterfeit controlled substances when the person answering the telephone responded with the name of the corporation and accepted an order which was received at designated P.O. box.

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