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Reps. Thomas West, Phil Plummer introduce bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation

Bill would mandate interrogation recordings of suspected felonious homicide, sexual assault cases in Ohio
June 18, 2019
Democratic Newsroom

State Rep. Thomas West (D-Canton) today announced the introduction of House Bill (HB) 277, bipartisan legislation with Rep. Phil Plummer (R-Dayton) to implement mandatory recordings of suspect interrogations statewide for some of the most serious crimes, such as homicide and sexual assault cases. The two lawmakers unveiled their proposal at a press conference this morning with supporters from the Ohio Public Defenders office and the Ohio Innocence Project.

“The more transparency and accountability we can provide, the more trust Ohioans will have in our judicial and criminal justice systems,” said Rep. West. “This bill is just one piece of a bigger puzzle in ensuring all Ohioans are treated fairly, and feel safe and secure at home.”

“HB 277 will establish a statewide standard requiring agencies to keep audio or audiovisual recordings of custodial interrogations for those suspected to have committed felonious murder or sexual assault,” said Rep. Plummer. “This bill will protect the constitutional rights of the suspects and improve community trust.”

Nearly half of all states already require or encourage electronic recording of interrogations in their entirety. According to a survey done in 2017 by the University of Cincinnati, about 52 percent of law enforcement agencies in Ohio already have a written policy on recording suspect interrogations.

HB 277 outlines a few exceptions for recording, including if the person subject to the interrogations requests in writing or electronic recording that the interrogation not be recorded, if the recording equipment malfunctions and other circumstances. If the interrogation is not recorded and does not fit one of the exceptions, then the court must provide a cautionary instruction to the jury that the failure of the prosecution to record the interrogation is a violation of state law.

The bill now awaits committee assignment.