Columbus - 

State Representative Bill Reineke (R-Tiffin) today announced that the Ohio House of Representatives has unanimously passed legislation that will enhance efficiency in the way Seneca County courts address low-level drug offenses.

House Bill 354, which Reineke sponsored, establishes a pilot program that consolidates certain drug court proceedings for the Tiffin-Fostoria Municipal Court and the Seneca County Court of Common Pleas, both of which are now located in the same building. Because Seneca County is predominantly rural, both courts see the same defendants and deal with the same kind of drugs and issues, regardless of jurisdiction.

The legislation applies only in situations when 1) the court finds that the offender’s addiction to a drug of abuse was the primary factor leading to the offender’s commission of the offense charged, and 2) the offender is admitted to participate in the “Participating in Victory of Transition” (PIVOT) drug recovery program.

“House Bill 354 is an extremely important, collaborative, and innovative bill for Seneca County to combat the opioid crisis,” Reineke said. “The pilot program, PIVOT, between the Tiffin-Fostoria Municipal Court and the Seneca County Court of Common Pleas is an admirable example of accountable and responsive service to the citizens of Seneca County and I applaud Judge Shuff, Judge Kelbley, and Judge Repp for their leadership.”

HB 354 only consolidates the jurisdiction of the two courts in cases of low-level drug offenses. The legislation does not provide concurrent jurisdiction in nearly any other criminal actions or proceedings.

The pilot program will operate for five years, at which time the General Assembly can choose to extend the program, make it permanent, or let it expire.

HB 354 now heads to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.

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