COLUMBUS -- Courts could release alleged felons without dismissing the charges against them in certain circumstances, under changes to the state's speedy trial rules OK'd by the Ohio Senate May 3.
SB 32 passed on a vote of 32-0 and heads to the Ohio House for further consideration.
Sponsoring Sen. John Eklund (R-Chardon) called it "a common sense solution to a difficult problem."
Under current law, those charged with felony crimes must be brought to trial within 270 days of their arrest, Eklund said. If not, affected individuals are released from custody, and charges against them are dismissed.
"No further prosecution can be brought against that individual based upon the conduct for which they were allegedly arrested," Eklund said, adding, "The calculation of this 270 days becomes something of a burden. And when it happens that the 270 days are missed because of a miscounting, it is not out of malice, it's not our of a desire to deny anybody due process. It's not out of anything other than confusion that arises in the very crowded court dockets that our criminal courts are handling."
Under the provisions of SB 32, defendants could file motions for trials 254 days after their arrest, and courts would then be required to commence those trials within 14 days.
In cases where it's determined that the 270-day period has passed and defendants have not filed the requisite motions, those trials also would have to begin within 14 days. And in such cases, defendants could be released from jail, under conditions determined by the court, without related charges being dismissed.
Eklund, citing statistics compiled by the Ohio Supreme Court, said there have been years with more than 200 instances of charges being dropped because speedy trial rules were not met.
"That's not fair to our communities," he said. "Frankly, it's not fair to the defendant, to the prosecutor or to the court Everyone who is before the court owes an obligation of candor and the pursuit of justice."
Marc Kovac covers the Ohio Statehouse for Gatehouse Media. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.