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The Statehouse News Bureau provides educational, comprehensive coverage of legislation, elections, issues and other activities surrounding the Statehouse to Ohio's public radio and television stations.

Ohio Supreme Court Orders Courts To Consider Non-Cash Bail First

A gavel commissioned by the Ohio State Bar Association sits outside the Ohio Supreme Court building in downtown Columbus. [Dan Konik]
A gavel commissioned by the Ohio State Bar Association sits outside the Ohio Supreme Court building in downtown Columbus.

A big change is coming to Ohio’s court system starting July 1, as the state takes a step closer to getting rid of cash bail for people being held in jail.

New rules issued by the Ohio Supreme Court say the state’s 28 counties that have both municipal courts and county courts must use a uniform bail schedule. For instance, the 13 muni courts in Cuyahoga County and the county common pleas court would all have to agree.

And the first option must be to release people on personal recognizance bonds.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor said defendants should be released on the least restrictive conditions possible but that will ensure the person returns to face the charges against them.

“The only time that you would determine that pre-trial detention would be appropriate would be if there was a risk of flight, or there was a danger of harm to the community, the witnesses, maybe a victim, that sort of thing," O'Connor said.

And O'Connor noted this change comes after a few states have all but eliminated cash bail.

“We’re moving forward, we’re reforming. But I would not say that we’re particularly cutting edge here," O'Connor said.

Five of the justices agreed with those two new rules. Justices Sharon Kennedy and Pat DeWine dissented, writing that they didn't feel the court had the authority to order the uniform bail schedule.

O'Connor has been on board with bail reform for a while, along with conservative groups such as the Buckeye Institute and progressive groups including the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio.  They've both advocated for changes to the bail system, saying it would be fairer to low-income people and could save tens of millions of dollars.

The recommendation to create a uniform bail schedule came from a task force report in 2019.

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