Ohio Legislature passes sweeping Criminal Justice Reform Bill

Senate Bill 288 now waits for Gov. DeWine’s decision
WTAP News @ 6
Published: Dec. 21, 2022 at 5:06 PM EST
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A sweeping criminal justice reform bill, Senate Bill 288, has passed in the Ohio House and Senate and is on its way to Governor DeWine’s office.

The bill addresses many issues that officials say will have impacts at both the state and local levels.

Some of the provisions in the bill include inmates earning more time off their prison sentences for participating in job training and rehab programs, and decriminalizing fentanyl test strips.

Chief Deputy Mark Warden also talked about the local impact people may feel from provisions aimed at distracted driving and domestic violence.

Chief Deputy Warden said the distracted driving provision’s goal is to make the roads safer in the state of Ohio.

”It addresses anybody who is either holding a cell phone or pushing the button while they’re driving. It makes it a primary offense to pull over. If cited, it goes against your driving as points... it goes against your driving record. And it’s an enhanced crime too. So, if you’re caught within a second year it enhances... If you’re caught three times in a two year period doing it, you could actually have your license suspended.”

Chief Deputy Warden advises drivers to use Bluetooth and hands-free devices.

Warden also discussed the impact domestic violence victims could feel if the DeWine signs the bill into law.

He explained that if this bill is signed into law, strangulations that happen during a domestic violence episode become a felony charge. He says this better protects domestic violence victims.

“Because there’s a high rate of homicides related to strangulation in domestic violence and it addresses that. It moves that to a felony level. And then the distracted driving. Too many accidents out there on the road from distracted driving. I think that’s going to be our biggest impact that we see.”

There are several others issues the bill addresses including expunging and sealing certain criminal records earlier

Chief Deputy Warden explained that expunging and sealing of criminal records currently exists, but this new bill allows a person to enact it at an earlier date.

He also explained the bill will enhance the minimum jail sentence of aggravated vehicular manslaughter for those victims who are firefighters and EMS. Warden said there is currently a provision for law enforcement, but none for firefighters and EMS.

Governor DeWine’s office says it has been monitoring the bill, but has not received it yet.

Once it does reach his desk, he has 10 days to either sign it into law or veto. Those ten days will be affected by the Christmas and New Year holidays