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Title: Ohio SB1: Review drug laws
Status: Passed, Effective 10/31/18
Summary: Unchanged by the law, fentanyl remains a Scheduled II controlled substance under the narcotics-opiates subcategory. However, the law increases the penalty for drug trafficking and aggravated funding of drug trafficking for fentanyl-related compounds with additional mandatory prison terms of 3 to 8 years. Determining the bulk amount of a drug when mixed with fentanyl or a fentanyl-related compound was updated by the bill as well as a new possession sentencing provision. Amount of the drug involved, degree of offense and applicable sentencing range is included in the bill. Dosages of one to ten grams carry a minimum sentence of a Felony 4 or 5 charge, higher amounts carry heavier penalties and potentially longer periods of incarceration. More information is in the bill.
Committees: Senate Conference Committee on SB1, House Conference Committee on SB1, House Criminal Justice, Senate Judiciary

Title: Ohio HB6: Prohibit Fees for Correcting Criminal Record Information
Status: Passed
Summary: The law prohibits a person engaged in publishing or disseminating criminal record information from soliciting or accepting payments for removing, correcting, modifying or refraining from publishing information. A violation of the law is a first-degree misdemeanor and the victim can be awarded specified damages, in addition to attorney’s fees, costs, and other remedies. The new law is a useful tool for repairing erroneous information.
Committees: Senate Judiciary, House Criminal Justice

Title: HB 347 - Modifying Civil and Criminal Asset Forfeitures
Status: Passed
Summary: In early 2017, Ohio H.B. 347 changed many law enforcement agencies’ practices around civil and criminal asset forfeiture. In the past, law enforcement officers could seize property they suspected of being involved in the commission of, or attained through, a crime. Likewise, prosecutors had to prove by a preponderance of the evidence (e.g. the likelihood it was used) that a person’s property or money was likely attained through a crime and thus forfeitable. The law amended these practices to better regulate forfeitures and require property valued less than $25,000 to require a criminal conviction. However, if the accused dies, leaves the jurisdiction or cannot be located, or if the property remains unclaimed, the property can be forfeited.
Committee: Ohio Senate Government and Oversight and Reform, House Judiciary

Title: Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018
Status: Pending
Summary: Farm Bill Amendment Would Ban SNAP for Formerly Incarcerated; A troubling amendment was adopted in the House farm bill. The amendment would impose a lifetime ban on SNAP for individuals convicted of certain violent felonies. The ban would apply regardless of when the crime was committed, sentence completion, and compliance with terms of release. It would also impact the families of the formerly incarcerated, by counting their income toward total household income when determining benefit levels. This could reduce total benefits to a household in need and led to the most vulnerable losing financial support.
Committees: House Committee on Agriculture and Senate Committees on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry

Title: Ohio House Bill 355 – Prohibiting Sexting if under 21 and Allowing for Diversion from Penalty 
Status: Pending
Summary: Ohio House Bill 355, an anti-sexting bill, was passed unanimously on June 27, 2018. 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, could not have 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.
Committee: House Committee for Criminal Justice

Title: Ohio Senate Bill 66 – Modifying Criminal Sentencing and Corrections Law 
Status: Passed
Summary: SB66 expands the purpose of felony sentencing to include effective rehabilitation of the offender in addition to its previous purpose of promoting public safety and punishing a convicted defendant. It also 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. Other changes include allowing 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. Read more below:
  • 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.

Title: Ohio Senate Bill 235 - Allow Sex Offender Convicted of Sex with Minor Petition for Relief
Status: Pending, Referred to Committee
Summary: 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.
Committee: Senate, Judiciary

Title: Ohio Neighborhood Safety, Drug Treatment, and Rehabilitation Amendment
Pending Vote in November
Summary: The Ohio Organizing Collaborative and their partners are working together in support of a ballot initiative that will reform the criminal justice system and reinvest millions of dollars into drug treatment and community-based recovery programs. If the constitutional amendment passes, it will do four things:
  1. Reclassify F4 and F5 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, including individuals trafficking fentanyl-compound drugs, 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. Individuals committing new criminal offenses could still be sent to a correctional facility by a judge.
  3. Incentivize personal rehabilitation in prison: The amendment would expand the ability for current inmates to earn modest sentence reductions by participating in programming such as literacy courses, victim awareness workshops or job training. Individuals who are not eligible for additional earned credit are persons convicted of murder, sexual offenses and sexual assault of a minor.
  4. Invest savings in community health: Monies saved from sending individuals to state prisons would be redirected into local treatment and support programs for youth and adults. 70 percent of the cost savings would be directed to the Ohio Mental Health Board, 15 percent to victim support services by way of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and 15 percent to improve community safety and promote local development.

Title: Ohio Safe Harbor Bill
Status: Passed
Summary:In June 2012, the Ohio Legislature passed House Bill 262, Ohio’s Safe Harbor Law. The statue raised the penalty for trafficking in persons from a second degree to first-degree felony with a mandatory prison term of 10 to 15 years. Additionally, sex traffickers were also required to register as sex offenders. Juvenile judges to hold hearings to determine if a minor was a victim of sex trafficking and gave procedural steps to temporarily set aside prostitution-related charges, and other crimes related to the person’s victimization, until the completion of the diversion program. Lastly, the bill created expungement provisions for victims of sex trafficking. Only some records were being expunged.

Title: Ohio Senate Bill 4 - Expand Expungement and Intervention for Sex Trafficking Victims
Status: Passed
Summary: After the passage of the Safe Harbor Bill, some courts interpreted the law to only allow three prostitution-based crimes. Primary sponsors of SB4, Senators Stephanie Kunze of Franklin County and Scott Oelslager of Stark County, drafted the legislation to standardize how courts were handling sex trafficking victims and expunging their cases. the bill, which becomes effective September 29, 2018, allows the court to expunge any crime other than murder, aggravated murder and rape. For more information, read the bill summary.