State Representative Nick Barborak (D-Lisbon) gave testimony for his criminal sentencing legislation, House Bill 251, in the Ohio House Judiciary Committee. HB 251 would restore discretion to judges in sentencing fourth and fifth degree felony offenders.
The bill addresses changes made by sentencing reform legislation, House Bill 86, passed during the 129th General Assembly. Among other reforms, HB 86 required judges, in most cases, to impose community control sanctions instead of prison on first-time fourth and fifth degree felony, non-violent offenders.
Under HB 86, judges are prohibited from imposing prison sentences on many fourth and fifth degree felony offenders if the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections determines that an available community control sanction exists. That means a drug dealer in Ohio can sell up to 50 unit doses or 5 grams of heroin worth nearly $1,000, but face no possibility of prison.
Barborak’s bill would restore discretion to judges in determining whether fourth and fifth degree offenders should be sentenced to serve prison time. During the 129th General Assembly, Senate Bill 160 restored judicial discretion for several types of offenses, but kept many offenses under the restrictions established in HB 86.
“We have elected the judges in this state. They preside over trials and witness the demeanor of defendants while assessing the impacts of their crimes on victims. After evaluating the evidence and the recommendations of law enforcement, judges ought to be able to determine whether a criminal should serve time in prison. Certainly, they are in a better position than appointed bureaucrats and Columbus politicians to make those determinations,” Rep. Barborak said.
A bipartisan group of four other legislators are cosponsoring HB 251. Among the co-sponsors are Representatives Connie Pillich (D-Cincinnati) and Margie Conditt (R-Liberty Twp.), both of whom serve on the House Judiciary Committee.