Public Safety Should be Considered When Setting Bail: Constitutional Amendment Could be on Ballot in November
COLUMBUS - Judges would have to consider the risk to public safety when setting bail for accused criminals, under legislation being proposed at the Ohio Statehouse.
The plan includes an amendment to the Ohio Constitution that may go before voters in November.
State Representatives Jeff LaRe and D.J. Swearingen introduced the constitutional amendment and a related bill today.
The proposals follow an Ohio Supreme Court decision earlier this year in a case out of Cincinnati. In that decision, DuBose v. McGuffey, the court ruled public safety is not a consideration with respect to the financial conditions of bail.
“Public safety should be top priority, but the court’s decision has put Ohioans at risk,” said LaRe (R-Pickerington).
The Ohio Supreme Court decision was 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.
The proposed constitutional amendment says that when determining the amount of bail, a court “shall consider public safety, a person’s criminal record, the likelihood a person will return to court, and the seriousness of a person’s offense.”
The bill LaRe and Swearingen introduced is similar. They hope to pass the bill quickly, then in November gain voter approval to make the change permanent in the Ohio Constitution.
LaRe believes defense lawyers will increasingly use the Ohio Supreme Court ruling to argue for lower bonds, making it critical lawmakers move quickly.
Swearingen (R-Huron) said the proposals will ensure judges are able to consider all relevant information when setting bond.
“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 said.
It takes 60 votes in the Ohio House and 20 in the Ohio Senate to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot. The deadline to put the issue on the November ballot is in August.