Ohio law could make it a crime for you to offer money to a child to rake your lawn. And that’s troubling Ohio’s Supreme Court justices.
M.L. Schultze of member station WKSU in Kent has more on the questions around Ohio’s child enticement law today.
Four state appeals courts have raised questions about the law, which makes it a crime to solicit anyone under age 14 from accompanying you in any way without the permission of that child’s parent or guardian.
Jason Romage ran afoul of that law in 2010 when he offered some kids quarters to move boxes into his Columbus apartment. The judge threw the case out, an appeals court agreed and the state went to the state high court.
Melanie Tobias defended the law to the justices, saying the state has a compelling interest in protecting children. But several justices questioned how the law does that without sweeping up innocent people as well.
And one, Justice William O’Neill, noted that even he may have violated the law.
“I moved from South Russell to Chagrin Falls last weekend. The going rate is $10. I had kids unload a truck. Did I break the law? I didn’t ask their parents. They’re kids that are known to me and to my kids. Did I break the law?”
“Well, potentially, you could have been in violation of the statute,” answered Tobias.
“Why ‘potentially’?” O’Neill asked. “It’s a per se violation.
“It’s not a per se violation. The state still has to prove that the activity you engaged in was enticement,” she argued.
“I did entice them. I gave them $10.”
“Well, I think you could make the argument that that doesn’t qualify as enticement.”
O’Neill wasn’t taking the out Tobias offered.
They wouldn’t have done it if I hadn’t given them the $10.”
Tobias then offered another option. “Then you could make the argument that the statute as applied to you would be unconstitutional.”
Tobias also maintained that the court could massage the law by removing the word “solicit” or by strictly defining it, rather than striking down that section down altogether.
The justices then raised questions about whether they should be the ones doing that or if it should be left to the state lawmakers who crafted and recently amended the law.