Measuring Expanding Use of Cash Bail Gets First Ohio Senate Hearing
The attorney general’s bid to change cash bail limits got its first hearing in the Ohio Senate on Tuesday. The effort comes as a direct response to a state Supreme Court ruling and would require a constitutional amendment to take effect.
The purpose of bail is to ensure defendants return to court for their trial date, and Ohio judges already consider public safety for pretrial release when it comes to conditions such as supervision or restraining orders. The Supreme Court simply determined earlier this year that public safety is not a relevant criterion in setting the dollar amount.
Proponents of the bail proposal, SJR 5, argue that it is not enough and that judges should be able to impose high bail on defendants charged with violent crimes.
“It will give back power to our judges to determine an individual’s risk to victims, law enforcement and the community as a whole,” Senator Theresa Gavarone, R-Huron, explained in committee.
“Excessive” bail is prohibited by the constitutions of the United States and Ohio, and existing provisions of Ohio law already give prosecutors a means to hold many felony defendants in jail without bail. no kind. Prosecutors supporting SJR 5 and its companion House measure, HJR 2, argue that the hearings required for pretrial detention are too onerous.
Opponents, meanwhile, are quick to point out that setting a high amount does not guarantee public safety.
“If a person with a lot of money can meet that bond, while a person with very little money can’t meet that bond, and maybe that person who has a large amount of money can be a threat to the general public, how do you equate the difference between the two?” State Sen. Cecil Thomas, D-Cincinnati, pressed her.
Thomas is a co-sponsor of bipartisan Senate legislation to improve Ohio’s bail system on a different path. Lawmakers have been negotiating this proposal and an accompanying measure in the House for nearly a year — long before the decision to put a cash deposit on the ballot.
With the Ohio Supreme Court’s partisan balance up for grabs in the November election, statewide Republican officeholders like Attorney General Dave Yost are lining up behind the measure, and the proposal is moving quickly, putting a “law and order” provision on the ballot could be just as important to backers as the cogs and bolts of how judges set bail.
This story was republished from Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.