EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

Thursday, December 8, 2011

No Contest: Court Of Appeals Of Ohio Deems Conviction Resulting From No Contest Plea Inadmissible

Similar to its federal counterpartOhio Rule of Evidence 410(A)(2) states in relevant part that

evidence of the following is not admissible in any civil or criminal proceeding against the defendant who made the plea or who was a participant personally or through counsel in the plea discussions:

(2) a plea of no contest or the equivalent plea from another jurisdiction....

So, let's say that a defendant pleads "no contest" and is convicted of the crime charged. Clearly, evidence of his plea is inadmissible under Rule 410(A)(2). But what about evidence of the resulting conviction? According to the recent opinion of the Court of Appeals of Ohio, Seventh District, in State v. Hubbs, 2011 WL 5995622 (Ohio App. 7 Dist. 2011), evidence of the conviction is inadmissible as well.

In Hubbs, Thomas Hubbs was initially charged with misdemeanor failure to control his vehicle, pleaded no contest, and was convicted. Hubbs was then charged with driving under the influence based upon the same event that gave rise to his first conviction. While the trial court deemed evidence of Hubbs' "no contest" plea inadmissible under Ohio Rule of Evidence 410(A)(2), it deemed the resulting conviction admissible.

The Court of Appeals of Ohio, Seventh District, disagreed, finding that in its recent opinion in Elevators Mut. Ins. Co. v. J. Patrick O'Flaherty's, 125 Ohio St .3d 362 (Ohio 2010), the Supreme Court of Ohio concluded that 

"'The purpose behind the inadmissibility of no contest pleas in subsequent proceedings is to encourage plea bargaining as a means of resolving criminal cases by removing any civil consequences of the plea....The rule also protects the traditional characteristic of the no contest plea, which is to avoid the admission of guilt....The prohibition against admitting evidence of no contest pleas was intended generally to apply to a civil suit by the victim of the crime against the defendant for injuries resulting from the criminal acts underlying the plea....The plain language o Evid.R. 410(A) prohibits admission of a no contest plea, and the prohibition must likewise apply to the resulting conviction. To find otherwise would thwart the underlying purpose of the rule and fail to preserve the essential nature of the no contest plea

The court then noted that while Elevators  was a civil case, its logic extended to criminal case such as the case before it. According to the court,

The fact that it was a civil case does not make the above reasoning inapplicable. Rather, it provides greater support for the position that it is applicable. A criminal defendant faces the potential loss of his personal liberty and, as such, has much more at stake than a civil litigant that is asserting or contesting a claim for damages. For that reason, the law typically affords greater protection to the criminal defendant and his rights. Thus, since Evid.R. 410...prevents the introduction of a no contest plea in any subsequent proceeding, the fact that the Ohio Supreme Court in a civil case stated that the conviction based on a no contest plea is likewise barred from admission does not hinder its application to a criminal defendant in a criminal proceeding.



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