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Ohio House Bill 355 – Prohibiting Sexting if under 21 and Allowing for Diversion from Penalty
  • Ohio House Bill 355, an anti-sexting bill, was passed unanimously on June 27. The bill prohibits anyone under 19, if the offender is not more than four years older than the minor depicted in the material and the minor is older than 13, from creating, distributing or possessing sexually explicit digital material of a minor through a telecommunications device.
  • Prosecutors have the option of charging teens and adolescents, anyone under 19, with a first-degree misdemeanor of “possessing sexually explicit digital material of a minor” instead of the more serious felony crime of child pornography or pandering sexually illicit material depicting a child. However, the individual must be a first-time offender, not been convicted of a previous sexual offense or accused of a more serious sexual crime at the time of prosecution. 
  • Prosecutors and judges are not precluded from charging an individual with a more serious crime if they deem it appropriate. 
  • Those charged and convicted of the first-degree misdemeanor possession crime must complete eight hours of community service, unless a judge imposes a different sentence. If a defendant has not been convicted of another sex offense, including other unlawful sexual actions or previously convicted of distribution of sexual material, they would be eligible for a diversion program in lieu of prosecution. 
  • The law also sets requirements for the educational diversion program and for the person refusing the program to be brought to trial or before juvenile court. 

Ohio Senate Bill 66 – Modifying Criminal Sentencing and Corrections Law
  • Expands the purpose of felony sentencing to include effective rehabilitation of the offender in addition to promoting public safety and punishing the convicted defendant. 
  • Permits judges to recommend non-violent, fourth and fifth-degree felonies that are not sexual in nature for community control, such as treatment programs or halfway houses, instead of prisons and removes the minimum one-year term of incarceration. 
  • Makes offenders convicted of non-violent and non-sex felonies of the fourth and fifth degree eligible for record sealing, so long as the number of felonies does not exceed more than five. 
  • A court may impose a new term of up to six months upon a parole or probationer as a penalty for violating a community control condition. The term can be served in a community-based correctional facility, jail or halfway house and may be in addition to any other post-release sanctions. The court may still specify the term should be served in a minimum-security jail if the offense is not one of violence or assault. 
  • Modifies how sentencing courts calculate confinement credits or the amount of days a prison sentence may be reduced for good behavior or participation in qualified prison programming. The bill now requires courts to include in their determination the total number of days the offender was confined for any reason arising out of the offense including pretrial detention, awaiting a competency examination, and inside of a juvenile detention facility but not awaiting transportation to a DRC facility. 
  • Modifies eligibility criteria and procedures for granting pre-trial diversion and intervention in lieu of conviction. 
  • Revises procedures for the Adult Parole Authority to grant a final release or terminate post-release control. 
  • Modifies the criteria for considering a prison term sanction for a post-release control violation.
  • This bill has passed both the Ohio House and Senate and is expected to be signed into law by Governor John Kasich. 

Ohio House Bill 561 – Remove Spousal Exceptions for Certain Sex Offenses
  • The bill eliminates exceptions to certain sex offenses (e.g. rape, sexual battery, unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, importuning [coercion], gross sexual imposition or sexual imposition) if the victim is the spouse of the offender. The new legislation, if passed, would allow a spouse to be convicted of the specified sex offenses if the victim is their married partner. 
  • Expands the proceedings in which a person may testify against their spouse to include prosecutions for any sex offenses stated in the bill. 
  • Current law only permits a spouse to testify against the offender if rape occurred when the two parties were living together but the bill modifies the language to include any living situation.

Ohio Senate Bill 235
Ohio Senate Bill 235 will amend sections 2929.17, 2953.32, and 2953.36 to enact section 2950.151 of the Ohio Revised Code to create a procedure for tier II sex offenders convicted of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor to petition a court for reclassification or removal from the sex offender registry and to permit record sealing in those cases. Only individuals who were under 21 at the time of the offense, have participated in an ODRC-certified sex offender treatment program and had consensual relations with the victim can be removed from the registry or have their tier reclassified by a qualified judge.

Ohio Neighborhood Safety, Drug Treatment, and Rehabilitation Amendment
The Ohio Organizing Collaborative and their partners are working together in support of a ballot initiative that will inform the criminal justice system and reinvest millions of dollars into drug treatment and community-based recovery programs. If OOC and their partners gather enough signatures the Ohio constitution amendment, and it passes, it will do four things:
  1. Reclassify drug possession felonies as misdemeanors: Any felony charge for obtaining, possessing, or using a drug or drug paraphernalia will be reclassified from a felony to a misdemeanor. The reclassification for felony drug possession and use would apply retroactively but felony drug trafficking convictions would remain unchanged. 
  2. Cut-off prison sentences for minor probation violations: Prohibit prison sentences as punishment for probation rule infractions that are not new crimes. 
  3. Incentivize personal rehabilitation in prison: The amendment would expand the ability for current inmates to earn modest sentence reductions. 
  4. Invest savings in community health: Monies saved from sending individuals to state prisons would be redirect the savings into local treatment and support programs for youth and adults.