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Ohio Supreme Court approves rule changes that further expand bail reform

Supreme Court
Public Information Office

Published: April 7, 2021

Ohio made important strides toward bail reform this month.
The Ohio Supreme Court approved rule changes requiring that:
• Counties establish as their first choice the release of an individual on nonmonetary personal recognizance before resorting to formal bail
• Counties with more than one municipal or county court adopt a uniform bail schedule.
The changes take effect July 1 and were proposed by the group charged with implementing the 2019 recommendations of the Ohio Task Force to Examine the Ohio Bail System.
Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and justices Patrick F. Fischer, Michael P. Donnelly, Melody J. Stewart, and Jennifer Brunner approved the changes. Justices Sharon L. Kennedy and R. Patrick DeWine dissented.
“Ohio made great progress a year ago when courts were instructed to use the least-restrictive bond conditions and least amount of monetary bail to ensure a defendant’s appearance,” Chief Justice O’Connor said. “These latest changes expand both the fairness and the public safety in our system.”
A crucial aspect of the pretrial process is deciding whether an accused person should be released until the person’s court date – or detained in jail because of concerns about public safety or to ensure court appearances, the task force has explained.
“Bail” refers to the conditions a person must adhere to in order to be released before trial. Although often associated with secured money bail, the term also can mean nonmonetary conditions, such as agreeing to regular check-ins with a pretrial officer, or drug or alcohol testing.
The new rule establishing the presumption of release on personal recognizance – Rule 5.02 of the Rules of Superintendence for the Courts of Ohio – follows updates made last year to Rule 46 of the Ohio Rules of Criminal Procedure based on task force recommendations.
Mirroring Crim.R. 46(B), the new superintendence rule prioritizes nonfinancial conditions of release and calls for courts to “release the defendant on the least restrictive conditions that, at the discretion of the court, will reasonably assure the defendant’s appearance in court, the protection or safety of any person or the community, and that the defendant will not obstruct the criminal justice process.”
Having uniform monetary bail schedules in counties with more than one municipal or county court affects 28 Ohio counties. The change is designed to provide each county’s citizens continuity and equal treatment across jurisdictional lines within the county on bail issues.
If the courts in a county can’t agree on a uniform bail schedule, they must use a model bail schedule developed by the Supreme Court.
The task force, chaired by Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Mary Katherine Huffman, was comprised of 30 members, including judges; prosecutors; criminal defense lawyers; representatives from law enforcement, the bail industry, and non-governmental organizations; and three state legislators.