COLUMBUS, Ohio (WTVN) --The Ohio Supreme Court Thursday ruled the state's child-enticement law is unconstitutional because it prohibits a significant amount of constitutionally-protected activity.
In 2010, Jason Romage of Columbus was charged with criminal child enticement for offering money to a child in the neighborhood to carry boxes to his apartment. The trial court sided with Romage and dismissed the case on the basis that the law was too broad. The state appealed to the decision to the Tenth District, which upheld the trial court's decision.
Thursday's 5-2 decision was authored by Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger, who noted that both a coach driving an elementary school student home to get a forgotten piece of equipment and a senior citizen offering to pay money to a 13-year-old for help with a household chore could be charged with criminal child enticement under the law.
Justice Judith L. French dissented in an opinion joined by Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor.
In her dissent, Justice French contended that the court should construe the term “solicit” narrowly instead of declaring the statute unconstitutional.
Even if the court narrowly defined the word “solicit” in the statute, the law “would still criminalize a substantial amount of activity protected by the First Amendment,” Justice Lanzinger wrote.
“The statute forbids anyone other than the legal custodian of a child, those listed in R.C. 2905.05(A)(2), or those who have the legal custodian’s express permission to solicit a child under the age of 14 to accompany the person ‘in any manner’ for any purpose,” she continued. “The motivation for the solicitation is irrelevant. There is no requirement that the offender be aggressive toward the victim. One need not have intent to commit a crime. Short of rewriting R.C. 2905.05(A), which is the province of the legislature rather than the court, we cannot construe the statute in such a way as to find it constitutional.”
She also reasoned that the court cannot sever the word “solicit” from the law to keep it from being declared unconstitutional.