State Rep. Greta Johnson (D-Akron) this week introduced House Bill 478, new sentencing reform legislation to close a loophole that allows felons to continue harassing, intimidating and stalking their victims from behind bars. A recent Ohio Supreme Court decision left a victim of kidnapping and rape without the protection of a no-contact order, essentially allowing the imprisoned offender to continue contacting their victim until a civil protection order could be established through a separate court process.
“Every citizen deserves to feel safe under the protection of the law, especially victims of crime,” said Johnson. “Unfortunately, some criminals continue to harass and threaten their victims even from behind bars. The legislature must act immediately to close this loophole and ease the burden on victims seeking protection.”
In June 2015, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in State v. Anderson that a court couldn’t impose a prison term and no-contact order for the same offense. Under Johnson’s bill, a court’s authority to impose a no-contact order in addition to an offender’s sentence of incarceration would be fully restored.
“Justice for victims of horrific crimes is delayed and complicated by the state requiring victims to go through the additional and separate legal process of obtaining a civil protection order,” Johnson added. “I don’t believe Ohioans feel comfortable thinking their legislature intended to allow perpetrators of horrendous, dehumanizing violence to continue stalking, harassing and intimidating their victims from behind bars. This seems like an obvious mistake that we have the responsibility to fix before the legislature adjourns for the summer.”
In the court case, David Anderson was found guilty of kidnapping and rape and was sentenced to a total prison term of 17 years, in addition to having no contact with the victim. The Ohio Supreme Court ultimately ruled that, due to current state laws, it was out of the court’s jurisdiction to prevent Mr. Anderson from having contact with the victim.
The bill will now be assigned to a House committee for consideration.