At once being hailed as landmark legislation and the first substantive revision & updating of Ohio sentencing law in 15 years, Ohio House Bill 86, two years ago, also generated its share of concern, apprehension, and confusion as well -- so much so that the General Assembly and Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission were early on being reported as being in the process of weighing those changes even as the corrections overhaul went into effect.
All told, there were at least four summaries/explanations released at the onset:
• The Ohio Judicial Conference issued summaries on the bill generally (here), Juvenile Justice
Provisions more specifically (here), and an outline of Changes in Juvenile Bindovers (here)
• The Ohio Public Defender's website had a summary by the Franklin Public Defender's Office
• The Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys' Association had a briefing on major Fully Retroactive H.B. 86 Changes to Judicial Release
• The Ohio Sentencing Commission compiled a summary & analysis of HB 86 ..
Now Senate Bill 160, passed Dec. 20th.. and going into effect on March 22nd., clears up at least some of the ambiguity in sentencing those who commit fourth and fifth degree felonies, allowing Ohio judges to now sentence those who commit fourth and fifth degree felonies, the lowest felony levels, to prison for a first time offense in more cases..
The issue became controversial, David Diroll, criminal sentencing commission director, was quoted by the Supreme Court's news service as saying, because certain sexual offenders and persons who betrayed the public trust, like theft in office, were no longer eligible for prison. "The new legislation means judges can now directly sentence an offender with a fourth or fifth degree felony to prison on a first offense if the crime involves a firearm, physical harm in many situations, a bail or bond violation, a violation of a community sanction imposed earlier, any sexual offense, any criminal act done for hire, or if the offender abused certain positions of trust such as in public office or law enforcement."
Senate Bill 160 also contained provisions relating to mandatory post-release controls for third degree felonies to go with the fourth & fifth degree provisions; judicial releases, crime victim notice provisions; “80%-of-service-served, and release from confinement of convict serving terms for serious felony mechanisms, mandatory community control sanctions, sexually violent predator sentencing provisions, and the inclusion of voluntary manslaughter “committed with a sexual motivation as a sexually oriented offense under sex offender registration & notification provisions.” [ Bill 160's legislative analysis ]