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Media > Newsletters > Law Enforcement Bulletin > May 2013 > State v. Allen, First District Court of Appeals (Hamilton County), April 16, 2013

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State v. Allen, First District Court of Appeals (Hamilton County), April 16, 2013

Question: Can an officer pre-sign and date blank complaints and have another officer fill in the facts later?
Quick Answer: No. Officers must follow Criminal Rule 3 and have their complaints made under oath.

Facts: An officer working an undercover vice operation signed a batch of blank complaints and then began her shift posing as a prostitute. When she was solicited for sex by Keith Allen, he was arrested and a different officer filled in the complaint. When the pre-signing practice came to light during trial, Allen moved to have the case dismissed under Criminal Rule 3.
The court held that Criminal Rule 3 requires all complaints to be made under oath. In Ohio, a complaint is made under oath if the party signing the complaint reviews the complaint to ensure its accuracy, and if the complaint is then signed by both the officer and the witness. Because the officer in this case signed complaints that were blank, she could not have ensured their accuracy before signing.
Why this case is important: Under the Criminal Rules, when a complaint is not made under oath, the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. This case went all the way through a trial and the conviction was overturned on appeal solely because of when the complaint was signed.
Keep in mind: Although it may seem more efficient to pre-sign complaints, doing so violates the Criminal Rules. It doesn’t matter who fills in the complaint, but the person who signs it should review the complaint for its accuracy before signing it.
View the Ohio First District Court of Appeals website to view the entire opinion.