Ohio legislature aims to make sentences for low-level possession of narcotics more lenient. Click here to learn more.

Ohio Legislature to Reduce Possession Offenders Punishment

Legislation in Ohio has been making a push to reduce the sentences carried out to offenders guilty of minor counts of drug possession. The bills being pushed through also aim to provide treatment resources for the offenders, rather than sentencing them outright. It is a result of the federal-level effort to reduce the prison population, which has seen a steady increase due to the epidemic of opioids.

Last month, the House passed a proposal which would fortify the treatment programs Ohio intends to implement. Namely, the proposal empowers judges to authorize rehabilitation therapy to offenders, rather than deliver a sentence. Alternatively, they could sentence the person if they feel that is the best course of action. Furthermore, the judge may deny an offending individual’s request to receive this therapy. However, the arbiter would have to provide logical reasons why they have come to that decision.

Additionally, a Senate bill strives to reclassify low-level possession of drugs — currently a felony — to a misdemeanor. These misdemeanor cases, then, could be put on hold until offenders complete their rehabilitation. Should they go through the therapy successfully, the patient would not face prosecution for their misdemeanor. Alternatively, if they fail to follow through on the program, their case would continue.

The legislature would make it possible to erase minor crimes from their records. These crimes include the aforementioned possession, as well as non-sexual and non-violent offenses.

Maureen O’Connor, Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice, has expressed support for the bill, in addition to the idea of treating addicts rather than imprisoning them. She has added that we cannot simply lock drug-dependent people up and hope the addiction epidemic goes away. However, while she lauds the idea behind the House bill, she remains skeptical of the Senate bill. She feels that it removes any consequences of committing any of the affected crimes.

Crimes related to opioid use and distribution have soared in Ohio during the last fifteen years. According to a report which the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services issued, the period from 2004 and 2014 had an increase of these crimes of around six hundred percent. The drugs in question were chiefly heroin and its synthetic subtypes. The growing prevalence of these narcotics saw them becoming Ohio’s second most common narcotic substance in 2011. The only substance more ubiquitous than these drugs is marijuana.

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