Court of Appeals upholds decision by Judge Ringland

September 9th, 2007    Author: Rodney Beckwith    Filed Under: News

Clermont trial judge Robert Ringland recently saw one of his decisions supported by a higher court in a case that will likely reach the supreme court.

In a decision in favor of the state, Ringland ruled in the case of Ohio v. Garland Billings that it is constitutional for the state to require Billings to live at least 1,000 feet from a school, a decision which the 12th district circuit court agreed with.

“Basically, this gentleman is a convicted sex offender, and after he was released from prison, he moved in with his wife,” said Judge Ringland. “The residence he moved into was within 1,000 feet of a school. The state, under the law, required him to move from the house. The defense argued that the law requiring people to move outside 1,000 feet was unconstitutional. They argued there are other ways to protect children.”

While Judge Ringland agreed that there could be a better way to protect children from registered sex offenders, he said that he is not tasked with finding a better way, but with determining the legal rights in the case he hears. In this instance, he determined that the state retains the right to make a law protecting children from sex offenders, and that this law was a way of doing so.

"Assuming that's true, it's not my job to say the best way, but to see if it's a way," said Judge Ringland. "This is a way the legislature can legislate to help solve the problem. Arguably, if it's the best way or not, it's not for me to decide. I'm determining if the legislature can make a law to deter sex offenders. This is certainly a way. I found it constitutional and the court of appeals agreed with me. I just met with his counsel, and they are going to ask for a stay to not force him to move out until the supreme court rules on the matter."

Ringland said that he typically hears a few cases like this each year, usually when a sex offender either knowingly or unknowingly moves into an inappropriate location and it is brought to the attention of the authorities. Then, said Ringland, the case is brought before a judge to order the relocation of the sex offender. While this decision upholds the validity of this law, he said that some other decisions in separate district courts of appeal will result in a supreme court hearing.

"The significance of this ruling is, right now, the law saying that sex offenders can't live within 1,000 feet of a school is still a law and on the books," said Ringland. "Prosecutors are going to enforce this to keep sex offenders away from school grounds. This has been challenged up north by a few other appellate courts, and this was a test case down here. One court ruled it unconstitutional, and another ruled it constitutional, so it's a split of authority, meaning it will eventually be ruled on by the supreme court."
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