5/25/2009Ohio Court Strikes Down Wrongful Entrustment Charge
Ohio Appeals Court exonerates father punished because his son drove on a suspended license.
The Court of Appeals for the Twelfth District of Ohio last week struck down a "wrongful entrustment" ticket handed to a father who had allowed his son to borrow his Jeep. West Chester Township police were intent on collecting $500 plus court costs from John R. Tranovich because his son Mark's license was suspended on June 21, 2008 when the twenty-year-old took the vehicle. A trial court heard the case and imposed a suspended six-month jail sentence on the father.
Ohio's wrongful entrustment law imposes harsh penalties that include the mandatory seizure of a vehicle's license plate for thirty-days on a first offense and permanent seizure of the loaned vehicle on a third offense.
"No person shall permit a motor vehicle owned by the person or under the person's control to be driven by another if the offender knows or has reasonable cause to believe that the other person does not have a valid driver's license," Ohio Code 4511.203 states.
Mark Tranovich had previously had a one-year suspended license. After it had expired, his father had arranged for an SR22 automobile insurance bond, giving him every reason to believe his son's license was fully restored. John Tranovich never received any notification from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles about his son's second suspension, and so he testified that he did not know anything about it. A previous appellate court decision established that there is "no affirmative duty" to check drivers' licenses before lending one's car.
"Given appellant's testimony and the officer's admission that appellant never told him he knew about Mark's current suspension, we find the state failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that on June 21, 2008, the day of the entrustment of the Jeep to Mark, appellant knew or had reasonable cause to believe Mark had no legal right to drive," Judge William W. Young wrote for the three-judge panel. "Given the evidence presented, the trial court could not reasonably find that the state proved the offense of wrongful entrustment beyond a reasonable doubt."
The court tossed out John Tranovich's conviction for his son's offense. Judge Young has a special connection with father-son issues as he was the first Ohio judge to serve on the bench with his father, Warren C. Young. A copy of the decision is available in a 40k PDF file at the source link below.