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Voters approve amendment to change how judges determine bail in Ohio

With its passage, Issue 1 also removes the Ohio Supreme Court’s role in setting procedures for bail.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohioans have approved amending the state Constitution to require courts to consider public safety, the seriousness of the offense, a person's criminal record and a person's likelihood of returning to court when setting the amount of bail.

With its passage, Issue 1 also removes the Ohio Supreme Court’s role in setting procedures for bail.

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Issue 1 came in response to the state Supreme Court ruling earlier this year that public safety shouldn’t be a factor in setting cash bail – it should instead focus on ensuring attendance in court.

The ruling stemmed from the DuBose v. McGuffey case, where Justin DuBose was one of three men charged in the July 2020 fatal shooting of Shawn Green during an alleged robbery in Hamilton County.

The court set DuBose’s bond at $1.5 million, despite his attorney requesting an amount based on his finances and lack of criminal record.

Despite multiple requests from DuBose's attorney to reduce the bond amount to $500,000, the court held his bond at the original amount.

In January 2022, the Ohio Supreme Court voted 4-3 to uphold a lower court’s decision that reduced the bond to $500,000, ruling that the $1.5 million bail amount was unconstitutionally excessive.

Currently, the Ohio Constitution gives the state Supreme Court authority to set the rules on bail amounts and conditions for trial courts.

According to the constitution, bail is not granted to a person who commits a capital offense “where the proof is evident or the presumption great,” or to a person who is charged with a felony “where the proof is evident or the presumption great and who where the person poses a substantial risk of serious physical harm to any person or to the community.”

The constitution also states that excessive bail and excessive fines shall not be imposed.

A section in the Ohio Revised Code also states that bail should be set by considering the seriousness of the crime, previous criminal activity and the probability of a person appearing at the trial of the case and that a judge can deny bail if the defendant poses a risk to the community.

Democratic legislators and bail reform advocates voiced opposition against the proposal, with the ACLU of Ohio calling it a “misguided initiative.”

Bail reform advocates have long argued that cash bail disproportionately impacts poor defendants and keeps them in jail despite a constitutional presumption of innocence.

Meanwhile, Ohio Attorney Dave Yost and other prosecutors support the amendment. Yost said during a press briefing that “the presumption of innocence in court does not equal, it is not the same as pretending that a career criminal poses no threat on the streets.”

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