State Representatives Jonathan Dever (R-Madeira) and Tim Ginter (R-Salem) have introduced legislation that would bring greater fairness and equity to Ohio’s bail system.

Under the state’s current system, bail schedules are exclusively based on the nature of the offense charged and there is a lack of uniformity across the state. This leads to absurd and unfair results where a person’s access to money is the key factor in determining whether the person is released on bond. House Bill 439 would establish a bail system based in part on validated risk assessment tools, which take into account a person’s threat to society and the risk that a person will fail to appear in court. It would also allow courts to set nonmonetary bail and would require courts to collect certain data on bail, pretrial release and sentencing.

“Bail reform is about putting the focus back on releasing individuals who do not pose an immediate danger to society, not just those with financial means,” Dever said. “These are decisions that should be based on evidence and not the size of one’s pocketbook.”

“This legislation will help ensure that all Ohioans, regardless of their financial means, are treated equally under the law,” Ginter said. “Although this represents just one component of our criminal justice system, I firmly believe that the changes brought forward in House Bill 439 can make a lasting, positive difference to individuals and families all across our state.”

Under House Bill 439, the Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission would be charged with compiling a list of risk assessment tools that would be used to determine proper bail procedures. Such risk assessment tools have had a track record of success at reducing the percentages of pretrial defendants who skipped trial and defendants who were arrested while on release.

House Bill 439 will be referred to a committee soon for further consideration.

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