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Ohio Bills Would Reduce Punishment for Drug Possession

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In June 2019, the House and Senate proposed drug sentencing reform bills to combat the opioid crisis and reduce prison populations.

House Bill 1 would require judges to consider treating addiction, rather than obtaining a conviction in criminal court. In addition, those who were convicted for low-level nonviolent and non-sexual crimes to seal criminal records in order to put the past behind them for good.

If the House bill passes, the court will place misdemeanor cases on hold until offenders go through treatment. If they complete treatment, their case will be dismissed as if they have never been prosecuted. However, failure to complete treatment, offenders will be convicted or prosecuted on a misdemeanor.

Senate Bill 3 would reduce the punishment for low-level drug crimes—making felony drug possession an unclassified misdemeanor that is punishable by a maximum one-year jail term. Minor drug possession charges are often fourth- and fifth-degree felonies in Ohio.

However, charges involving fentanyl or the use of drugs to commit sex crimes would remain felonies. In addition, offenders in possession of a high amount of drugs will be automatically be charged with trafficking.

Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor supports the House bill and substance abuse treatment to address the opioid epidemic. Yet, she since worries that the Senate bill would make offenders not afraid anymore of the legal consequences of drug possession.

According to a report by the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services, Ohio experienced a 600 percent increase in opioid-related crimes. Heroin and other synthetic alternatives became the second most common substance involved in drug crimes in the state, overtaking cocaine.

Since many top Ohio lawmakers and judges back these two bills, they are may become law by the end of 2019.

For more information about drug crimes in Cleveland, contact Patituce & Associates today at (440) 471-7784 and request a free case review.