The conviction of a Lorain man in connection to a 2012 fatal crash in Elyria has been reversed and sent back to the lower court by the 9th Judicial District Court of Appeals.
Juan Palacios, 37, pleaded no contest to aggravated vehicular homicide and DUI charge.
In 2016, Juan Palacios, 37, pleaded no contest to aggravated vehicular homicide and DUI charges, more than four years after a fatal May 20, 2012, crash that took the life of Linda Jasmine Latorre. Palacious said Latorre was his fianc￩e.
Judge James Miraldi found Palacios guilty on the charges and sentenced him to four years in prison. During the plea hearing, the court said it understood that Palacios planned to appeal a ruling Miraldi made regarding the suppression of evidence.
Palacios contended that the Ohio Highway Patrol had been given access to his medical records, which showed that his blood-alcohol level was above the legal limit and violated his expectation of privacy of the test results. Palacios’ attorney contended that the evidence should be suppressed due to troopers not acquiring a search warrant for the records.
Miraldi ruled against the suppression, which Palacios planned to appeal.
In its ruling, the Court of Appeals said the counts in the indictment did not mention blood-alcohol levels, which would mean that even if Palacios’ medical records were suppressed as evidence, it would not change the outcome since “a plea of no contest ‘is an admission of the truth of the facts alleged in the indictment, information, or complaint.’ ”
The Court of Appeals reversed the conviction, though, due to the belief that Palacios only changed his plea from not guilty to no contest because he planned to appeal the suppression ruling.
“While it is clear from the record that Palacios was left with the understanding and assumption that the issue could be decided on appeal, this assumption was erroneous,” the ruling said.
“Nonetheless, when a defendant enters a plea in a criminal case, the plea must be made knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily. Failure on any of those points renders enforcement of the plea unconstitutional under both the United States Constitution and the Ohio Constitution.”
The matter has now been sent back to Miraldi’s court. However, Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will said his office plans “to do something” with the matter, which could include appealing to the Ohio Supreme Court or asking the Court of Appeals to reconsider the matter.
While Palacios was sentence to four years in prison, he has not served any prison time yet, as he has remained free on bond while the issue works its way through the appeal process.