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New felony sentencing guidelines take effect

PrisonerOhio judges can now sentence those who commit fourth and fifth degree felonies, the lowest felony levels, to prison for a first time offense in more cases. The new Ohio bill went into effect on March 22.

In September 2010, Senate Bill 86 limited the ability of judges to send many first-time felons to prison for committing fourth and fifth degree felonies. Those typically include drug possession, various thefts and some assaults.

“This became controversial because certain sexual offenders and persons who betrayed the public trust, like theft in office, were no longer eligible for prison,” said David Diroll, criminal sentencing commission director.

The Ohio General Assembly then passed Senate Bill 160 in December 2012. Diroll said the new legislation means judges can now directly sentence an offender with a fourth or fifth degree felony to prison on a first offense if the crime involves a firearm, physical harm in many situations, a bail or bond violation, a violation of a community sanction imposed earlier, any sexual offense, any criminal act done for hire or if the offender abused certain positions of trust such as in public office or law enforcement.

Ohio Common Pleas Judges Association President Howard “Hank” Harcha said the new bill clears up a lot of questions judges had with the previous legislation. He said some judges would send low felony offenders for certain crimes to prison while others would not.

“It clears up some of the ambiguity created by Senate Bill 86,” Judge Harcha said. “Many judges found the language of this statute prevented the imposition of a prison sentence for the lower felony offenders.”

Content courtesy of Court News Ohio.

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