Columbus, Ohio (AP) — A comprehensive criminal justice bill passed by the Ohio legislature early Thursday would allow inmates to gain more time off prison sentences and make it easier to keep some criminal records out of the public eye. Police are only allowed to stop people for carrying or using a mobile phone while driving.
The bill, which has received bipartisan support, would also decriminalize fentanyl test strips, make strangulation a separate crime, ban fertility fraud by doctors, and mandate age-appropriate education about preventing child sexual abuse in schools, among changes. other.
Drivers will be prohibited from “using, carrying, or physically supporting a mobile phone,” with some exceptions, such as if they are stopped at a red light, use the speakerphone function without holding the phone, or hold phones to their ears to make calls but not use the texting or typing functions .
It now goes to the office of GOP Gov. Mike DeWine, who has expressed support for the distracted driving measure.
“As I’ve told some lawmakers, you never have a chance to vote on anything that’s obvious that you’re going to save lives when you vote yes on that,” DeWine said Thursday during a holiday informational breakfast. “There will be many families who will survive the tragedy of losing a daughter, or a son, or a mother, or a husband, and you will never know who they are, so I am very happy to do so.” The DeWines family lost their daughter, Becky, in a car accident in 1993.
Proponents of the provision to decriminalize fentanyl strips say one particular change would help prevent fatal overdoses and save lives. These strips, which are used to detect powerful synthetic opioids often found in other drugs, will no longer be classified as illegal drug paraphernalia.
Under another provision, the amount of time prisoners will be able to make up their prison sentences if they participate in job training, drug treatment or other programs will rise from 8% to 15% of their prison term.
This measure would also make it easier to close or delete criminal records for some people. People will be able to apply for their records to be closed months or years earlier than currently allowed, depending on the severity of the charges involved.
People can apply to have their record expunged after three years of a misdemeanor conviction and after 10 years in felonies. But offenses including violent felonies, domestic violence, certain sexual offenses, and convictions with a victim under the age of 13 will not be eligible for sealing or expungement.
Lou Tobin, executive director of the Ohio State Attorneys’ Association, expressed concern about reducing barriers to sealing and deletion. That could prevent employers from learning about relevant convictions in a job candidate’s past, he said, which is particularly important in professions involving children or with law enforcement.
Lawmakers also included a provision to get rid of the statute of limitations for aggravated attempted murder. This change is in response to an Ohio Supreme Court ruling on the timetable for the defendants to be charged run out six years after the crime, said the bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Nathan Manning, of North Ridgeville.
This action would create the new offense of strangulation. Maria York of the Ohio Domestic Violence Network said in her testimony that domestic violence victims may be strangled multiple times in a relationship, and strangulation is often a precursor to murder in domestic violence cases. She said creating the offense of strangulation would recognize under the law its seriousness and help protect victims.
And “fraudulently assisted reproduction” or fertility fraud — when a doctor impregnates a patient with her own sperm without the patient’s consent — may also become a criminal offense.
Manning said he was not previously aware of the phenomenon, which has become the subject of documentaries like “Our Father” on Netflix, and was shocked that it had not yet been made illegal in the state.
Lawmakers also approved a separate bill that would create felony battery When someone knowingly reports a false emergency that warrants a law enforcement response, such as a kidnapping, school shooting, or other violent crime.
Associated Press writer Julie Carr-Smith contributed to this report.
Samantha Hendrickson is a staff member for the Associated Press/US Statehouse News Initiative Report. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that puts journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercover issues.