133rd Ohio General Assembly Lame Duck Session: Some Criminal Bills That Passed & Some That Did Not.

As is typical in any legislative session, there was a rush at the end of the session to pass a slew of bills in the lame duck session. The 133rd session of the Ohio General Assembly was no different. Many of the bills, whether they passed, failed, or did not even get a vote, were covered in the media. Several of the bills changed (or would have changed) portions of the criminal code. Here are a few of the criminal law related bills that went through the lame duck session.

BMV Amnesty (S.B. 68) – Passed

Senate Bill 68 passed and will provide relief for people struggling with BMV reinstatement fees. The bill authorizes courts to permit persons to complete community service in lieu of paying reinstatement fees. The bill also authorizes the BMV to permanently create a reinstatement fee waiver program for indigent persons (anyone who is a participant in SNAP, Medicaid, Ohio Works First, SSI, or the VA Pension Benefit Program). These two programs will help Ohioans struggling to get a valid driver’s license because of large reinstatement fees.

Permitting Concealed Carry of Knives (S.B. 140) – Passed

Senate Bill 140 removes knives from the Carrying Concealed Weapons revised code definition of “deadly weapon,” if it is not used a weapon. Said another way, a knife is not a deadly weapon unless it’s used as a deadly weapon! But be careful, the definition is only for the conceal carry prohibitions in R.C. §2923.12 and not other sections. That means you could still be charged with conveyance of a deadly weapon into a school safety zone if you have a concealed knife, even if you are legally carrying it concealed outside the school safety zone.

Aisha’s Law (H.B. 3) – No Vote Scheduled In Senate

Aisha’s Law (HB 3) would have added protections to domestic violence victims, but it failed to get a vote scheduled in the Ohio Senate. The law was named after a former teacher who was stabbed to death by her ex-husband, former state senator and judge, Lance Mason.

If passed, this law would have required a lethality assessment screening to determine the level of risk a domestic violence victim faces. Based on the lethality assessment, victims would be referred to various shelters or other assistance groups. The law also would have made prior domestic violence incidents an aggravating factor if there were a subsequent murder, thus allowing the State to seek enhanced prison terms or the death penalty.

No law can completely prevent domestic violence. But this bill would have helped the State identify the most dangerous domestic violence offenders and help place victims in contact with available resources.

Read more about Aisha’s Law at https://www.cleveland19.com/2020/12/30/aishas-law-fails-get-vote-ohio-senate-floor/

Drug Treatment Options (S.B. 3) – No Vote Scheduled in House

Senate Bill 3, passed the Senate but was not brought to the floor for a vote in the House. This bill was opposed by prosecutors and judges, including Ohio Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor. The bill would have made sweeping changes to portions of the criminal code. Drug trafficking and possession laws would have been reclassified, court jurisdictions over some reclassified offenses changed, limitations and speedy trial provisions modified, and expungement laws updated.

Prosecuting Sex Crimes (H.B. 279) – Not Passed Out of Committee

House Bill 279, removing limits on prosecuting an proving certain sex offenses, did not make it out of committee. This bill was referred to committee in June 2019 and received it’s first, and only committee hearing, on December 8, 2020. Had this bill passed, the 25 year statute of limitations for prosecuting rape would have been removed and biological evidence obtained during any rape investigation would be required to be retained for so long as the case remains unsolved (currently the evidence is retained for 30 years). Additionally, the spousal exception for sex offenses is removed – meaning a spouse could be convicted of raping their spouse and privilege so that one spouse can testify against their spouse. Additionally, the civil statue limitations would have been removed.