“We hold that, under these circumstances and viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the state, a rational trier of fact could conclude that Ms. Ramsey believed Mr. Stiver would imminently carry out his threat, even though this act would be conditional on Mr. Stiver breaking free from the employee’s grasp.
State v. Stiver
2021 – Ohio – 3713
First District Appellate Court
Hamilton County, Ohio
October 20, 2021
Mr. Matthew Stiver and Ms. Amber Ramsey were employees at a fast-food restaurant and in a romantic relationship. For unknown reasons, Mr. Stiver and Ms. Ramsey feuded throughout the duration of their shifts, with the acrimony slowly simmering. Mr. Stiver persistently demanded that Ms. Ramsey relinquish her cell phone, but she kept it from him by passing it between other employees and hiding it in various nooks and crannies around the restaurant. Without access to the phone, Mr. Stiver’s suspicions deepened, and his mood darkened as he grew more and more agitated.
Eventually, Mr. Stiver’s frustrations boiled over, and he lunged at Ms. Ramsey. Fortunately, another employee intercepted him, restraining Mr. Stiver before he could assault her. Ms. Ramsey testified that, during this fracas, Mr. Stiver uttered something along the lines of “[I]f I was not being held back, you would be sorry.” He attempted to overpower the employee and advance towards Ms. Ramsey, but when those efforts failed, he stormed out of the building. The immediacy of his verbal threat as the heart of his conviction and appeal.
Earlier during her shift, concerned based on Mr. Stiver’s volatility, Ms. Ramsey contacted her father and alerted him to the situation. This prompted her father to drive over to the restaurant, arriving just in time to see Mr. Stiver drive away. Undisputed testimony established that Ms. Ramsey’s father owned the vehicle in which Mr. Stiver drove away. Ms. Ramsey’s father claims that he gave his daughter permission to drive the vehicle but says that he forbade Mr. Stiver from driving the vehicle on multiple occasions.
At a bench trial, Mr. Stiver was convicted of domestic violence on these facts. On appeal, he challenges the weight and sufficiency of the evidence.
Mr. Stiver attacks the sufficiency of the evidence regarding the imminent physical harm requirement because his threat was conditional “[I]f I were not being held back, you would be sorry.” In light of the conditional nature of the threat, his reasoning goes, Ms. Ramsey could not have believed that she would imminently suffer physical harm.
Testimony showed that Mr. Stiver was using all of his strength to break free from this restraint, and that Ms. Ramsey appeared afraid during the midst of all of this.
The First District Appellate Court upheld Mr. Stiver’s conviction “We hold that, under these circumstances and viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the state, a rational trier of fact could conclude that Ms. Ramsey believed Mr. Stiver would imminently carry out his threat, even though this act would be conditional on Mr. Stiver breaking free from the employee’s grasp. Accordingly, we overrule Mr. Stiver’s challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence for his domestic violence conviction.”.
Information for this article was obtained from State v. Stiver, 2021 – Ohio – 3713.
This case was issued by the First District Appellate Court and is only binding in Hamilton, County, Ohio.
- The First District Appellate Court held in State v. Collie, 108 Ohio App.3d 580 (1996) that a threat of Domestic Violence must be imminent. The court held “O.R.C. 2919.25 (C) has, as an element, the belief of a family member that the offender will cause imminent physical harm.”. In the Collie case the court determined that the suspect could have been convicted of Menacing but not Domestic Violence because the threat of “If I had a gun, I would shoot you.”, was not imminent and therefore did not rise to a Domestic Violence threat because it lacked imminency.
- What was key to the conviction is that Mr. Stiver’s threat was made while he made a feeble but violent attempt to inflict harm upon Ms. Ramsey. Stiver was being held back by fellow fast-food workers in the restaurant. His physical actions along with the conditional verbal threat did rise to the level of Domestic Violence.
- This Domestic Violence case is nuanced and reliant on the Collie case from 1996. Your agency and more importantly, state district court may have a different conclusion. Law enforcement should consult with the prosecutor in your jurisdiction for counsel and advice on a similar fact pattern.
- This case demonstrates the importance of properly documenting the exact words uttered by victims, witnesses, and suspects during any investigation. The unnamed officers involved in this arrest did a professional job in documentation. Well done unnamed officers!
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Don’t let your training fail you!
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