Ohio Attorney General, Hamilton Co prosecutor, GOP lawmakers call for bail reform to protect public

Ohio Attorney General, prosecutor, advocate for bail reform constitutional amendment
Published: Mar. 29, 2022 at 10:45 AM EDT|Updated: Mar. 30, 2022 at 5:07 AM EDT
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COLUMBUS (WXIX) - Working with three Republican Ohio lawmakers, Attorney General Dave Yost and Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters are calling for a constitutional amendment that would permit judges to set higher bail amounts, keep suspects locked up and protect the public.

If passed, judges would be required to consider public safety, a person’s criminal record, the likelihood the defendant will show up for court and the seriousness of the offense.

“There’s a difference between a presumption of innocence in court and pretending that a career criminal is no threat on the street,” Yost said in a joint news conference Tuesday from Columbus.” “This constitutional amendment is necessary to make our communities safe.”

The constitutional amendment could be placed on the ballot as soon as November so voters have the final say.

It takes 60 votes in the Ohio House and 20 in the Ohio Senate to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot. The deadline is August.

“The whole goal here is to make Ohio more safe,” Deters said. “That’s the bottom line.”

The three lawmakers who attended the news conference are backing the constitutional amendment and a related bill introduced earlier this week: Sen. Theresa Gavarone of Bowling Green and Reps. Jeff LaRe of suburban Columbus and D.J. Swearingen of Huron.

“Victims deserve to know they’re going to be safe from the criminals who have abused them,” Gavarone said.

These state leaders were all motivated to take action in light of a recent Ohio Supreme Court decision about a case out of Hamilton County called DuBose v. McGuffey and whether a $1.5 million bail in a murder case was excessive.

Justin DuBose, 26, is one of three men charged with gunning down Shawn Green during a robbery in Colerain Township in July 2020.

DuBose’s attorney appealed the bond and, ultimately, the state’s top court determined public safety is not a consideration with respect to the financial conditions of bail.

“Public safety, although of the utmost importance, is not a factor relevant to the calculation of the bail amount,” the opinion reads. “A court may not impose excessive bail for the purpose of keeping an accused in jail.”

All this does is put Ohioans at risk now when public safety should be a top priority, says one of the lawmakers sponsoring the proposed bail reform law change, says LaRe.

This Supreme Court decision, he notes, was already cited in recent weeks by a Youngstown judge as the reason for dramatically lowering the bond of a suspect facing a charge of aggravated murder and three counts of attempted murder.

Defense lawyers will increasingly use the Ohio Supreme Court ruling, LaRe warns, to argue for lower bonds, making it critical lawmakers move quickly.

Swearingen said their proposed law changes will ensure judges are able to consider all relevant information when setting bonds.

“Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty, but it’s important that judges are also able to take into account the safety of innocent Ohioans when letting a defendant out on bond,” Swearingen says.

This comes with two bipartisan companion bail reform bills already in the Ohio Legislature, House Bill 315 and Senate Bill 182.

If passed into law, however, those would mean there is a presumption for release instead of detention.

Courts would be required to make a preliminary release decision no later than 24 hours after someone is arrested unless a judge or prosecutor is concerned that person poses a specific threat.

If that is the case, then a hearing must be held within 48 to 72 hours.

This would mostly eliminate the use of cash bail statewide.

Deters has gone on record over the past year opposing the legislation, saying it puts dangerous people back on the street while they await trial and takes authority from judges.

Meanwhile, the Attorney General’s Office and Center for Justice Research (CJR) at Bowling Green State put out a request on Feb. 18 seeking applications/bids by April 1 for proposals for original research on bail reform in Ohio.

They want “concrete, meaningful, and actionable policy recommendations” for Yost’s office to improve bail, bond, and pretrial detention practices statewide, a copy of the request states.

One or more awards will be given out up to $90,000 total.

The Center for Justice Research is a partnership created last year between Yost’s office and Bowling Green State to empirically explore criminal justice statewide. Empirical evidence or study relies on practical experience rather than theories.

They are especially interested in projects/bids that provide research-based, objective, empirical evidence as to what the State of Ohio could do with the bail reform topic to improve public safety and reduce recidivism through fiscally responsible policies.

At a minimum, a successful proposal will be able to answer:

1. What are the current standard practices across the State of Ohio for bail/bond/pretrial detention?

2. Which bail/bond/pretrial detention policies are the most effective at reducing crime and recidivism in Ohio? Why?

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