Although the Ohio Revised Code is a comprehensive document that provides structure and guidance overall, it sometimes needs to be clarified in order to best serve our communities. This is why I recently introduced House Bill 19, which seeks to clarify language on whether or not a person manufacturing controlled substances can be charged with arson if a fire or explosion occurs.

House Bill 19 was first brought to my attention by a fire chief in my district. A fire had occurred within the district that was the direct result of illegal methamphetamine manufacturing. Because the existing language surrounding arson was not clear, the prosecutor only applied a criminal manufacturing charge to the case. Other counties in Ohio have held to differing interpretations of the code, leading to confusion and a general lack of clarity. It is high time that we clear up the ambiguity and establish precise measures regarding this issue.

First, the bill expands the offense of arson by prohibiting a person from recklessly causing damage by fire or explosion to certain types of property while manufacturing or attempting to manufacture a controlled substance. The property involved may be the offender’s or another person’s house, building, or other structure, a motor vehicle owned, leased, or used by the offender or another, or any other property of another person.

The consequences of violation are important to lay out as well. A violation of the new prohibition is generally considered a first degree misdemeanor. In cases where the value of the property or the amount of harm involved adds up to $1,000 or more, however, a fourth degree felony will be applied. Furthermore, the offender may be required to register with the county sheriff for inclusion in the arson offender registry.

Arson is a serious offense by any measure, but when a fire is caused by the manufacturing of controlled substances, it is critical that the offender be held responsible for arson in addition to drug manufacturing charges. I am proud to be the primary sponsor for House Bill 19 and work towards improving both our criminal justice system and the Revised Code one step at a time. As your state representative, I am always listening to your concerns – and this piece of legislation is one more way I am looking out for your interests.

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