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The Commission on the Rules of Practice and Procedure in Ohio Courts received more than 50 comments on proposed changes to Criminal Rule 46, which covers bail, bond and pre-trial release in criminal cases.
The Supreme Court is considering changing the rule so that judges must release defendants on the least restrictive conditions, money bail is only applied for those at risk of being no-shows for court appearances, and financial conditions should be the least costly to the defendant.
The rules have the power of law, unless a new law is passed that conflicts with and supercedes them.
Criminal justice reform advocates for several years have been pushing state lawmakers to change how Ohio judges set bail. Bondsmen, meanwhile, have pushed against the proposed changes.
Jon Handler of the Ohio Professional Bail Association opposes the changes, calling them “wholly unnecessary at this time, overly complicated and will harm more than help.”
Montgomery County Prosecutor Mat Heck’s office opposes changing Rule 46 so that money bail is based solely on the risk that a defendant won’t show up for court.
Support for reform is coming from the Buckeye Institute, a free-market think tank, the Ohio State Bar Association and the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, a civil liberties advocacy group.
ACLU of Ohio Advocacy Counsel Clair Chevrier said the organization applauds the goals but wants judges to be required to document how they apply the new rule.
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The process for changing Rule 46 is laid out in the Ohio Constitution.
The court is expected to wade through the public comments and decide what changes to file with the Ohio General Assembly by Jan. 15. Then the Legislature may open it for public comment and send that feedback to the court for a second review. The court then sends it back to the General Assembly, which can reject the changes or let them take effect July 1.
“It’s a weird process by which it gets bounced back and forth,” said Chevrier.