Ohioans will soon be voting on Issue 1, an amendment proposal that will remove the Ohio Supreme Court’s authority for determining bond amounts and restrictions and require the consideration of public safety in setting cash bail amounts.
Bail is a system that allows for the temporary release of certain accused individuals awaiting trial, usually on the condition that a determined amount of money must be paid to the court in exchange for release.
This proposal is in response to an Ohio Supreme Court case earlier this year where the bail set in a Cincinnati murder trial was originally $1.5 million. Through an appeal process, a lower local court was able to negotiate the bail to a lower $500,000. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled 4-3 in DuBose v. McGuffey that “the sole purpose of bail is to ensure an accused person’s attendance in court,” and that public safety is not a determining factor regarding bail amount.
According to Ohio’s current constitution, “bail is not granted to a person who commits a capital offense where the proof is evident or the presumption great,” or to a person who is charged with a felony where “the proof is evident or the presumption great and where the person poses a substantial risk of serious physical harm to any person or to the community.”
The new amendment to Ohio’s constitution will require courts to take several factors into consideration when determining the amount of bail, especially the safety of the public and the community.
“The court shall consider public safety, including the seriousness of the offense, a person’s criminal record, the likelihood a person will return to court and any other factor the General Assembly may prescribe,” states the proposed amendment.
It is worth noting that Ohio currently has a way to keep certain dangerous individuals incarcerated while they await trial, known as a pretrial detention hearing or “no bond” hearing.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio (ACLU) reports that approximately 60% of active inmates in Ohio jails have yet to be sentenced, and are currently awaiting trial.
Attorney General Dave Yost and Governor Mike DeWine are known supporters of the amendment, urging strongly that public safety should be considered in setting bail amounts.
Voters in support of Issue 1 wish to overturn the Supreme Court ruling of DuBose v. McGuffey and allow judges to continue the careful consideration of public safety when setting bail amounts, as they had been able to in the past.
Meanwhile, opponents of the bill believe that the Supreme Court got it right in DuBose v. McGuffey and that the amendment is unnecessary. The ACLU of Ohio called the amendment a “misguided initiative” that could potentially cement cash bail into Ohio’s constitution.
Shane Tieman, Scioto County Prosecutor shares his thoughts on the matter.
“I think it’s a good thing. I think it’s something that the citizens can directly vote on and say whether or not this is the way that it should be. I believe it promotes law and order,” expressed Tieman. “I’m hoping Ohio considers passing Issue 1 and making public safety one of the things we consider the most,” he states.
Tieman explains that the amendment’s reversal of Dubose v. McGuffey would put things back to how they had been prior to the January ruling.
“There’s case law from all over the state that courts should consider public safety, and they (Ohio Supreme Court) said ‘No we’re gonna reverse all that,” said Tieman. “This is really kind of rectifying a change in the court system.”
Scioto County Sheriff, David Thoroughman, also weighed in on his opinions regarding Issue 1.
“I feel it is necessary to have Issue 1 on the ballot. I believe it’s important that we take public safety into consideration when bonds are set. I was surprised when the Ohio Supreme Court took that away,“ says Thoroughman. “When you tie the judges’ hands, you take away their ability to protect the public. That’s just insane to me. We should always consider the safety of our communities.”