What started with a Hamilton County robbery in 2020 that left one man dead has now grown into a statewide ballot issue dealing with how Ohio courts can set bail.
State Issue 1 is a ballot issue to create a Constitutional Amendment that would, if passed, require Ohio courts to “consider public safety, including the seriousness of the offense, as well as a person’s criminal record, the likelihood a person will return to court, and any other factor the Ohio General Assembly may prescribe,” according to the official ballot language. The amendment would also remove the ability of the Ohio Supreme Court to determine the procedures for establishing bail amounts and conditions.
In January, the Ohio Supreme Court considered the case of Justin DuBose, one of two people charged in connection with an alleged robbery that resulted in the death of Shawn Green. According to the case, DuBose v. McGuffey, DuBose’s bail amount fluctuated between $1.5 million and $500,000 as courts considered DuBose’s financial means and the victim’s family’s expressed concerns over their safety. Finally, the Supreme Court ruled that the $1.5 million bail was excessive, saying that, according to the law, “public safety is not a consideration with respect to the financial conditions of bail,” and that bail amounts must be based on the risk of the defendant not appearing in court, as well as the seriousness of the crime and any prior criminal record.
In the certified argument for Issue 1 as posted by the Ohio Secretary of State’s office, proponents of the issue maintain that not considering public safety concerns in determining bail puts the public at risk.
“Without the consideration of public safety, dangerous and violent criminals may be released back onto Ohio’s streets with no consideration given to the threat posed to the public,” the argument reads.
This argument has been echoed by county prosecutors, with the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association saying on Twitter that public safety should be a factor in these decisions.
Speaking in September to the Associated Press, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost also expressed support for the amendment, also citing concerns over public safety and maintaining that a more comprehensive perspective is needed in determining bail.
“The presumption of innocence does not require turning a blind eye toward a criminal defendant’s violent past,” he said.
Opponents to the issue include the Ohio NAACP and Policy Matters Ohio, a policy research institute that works to create “a more vibrant, equitable, sustainable and inclusive Ohio,” according to its website. In a video posted to TikTok and Twitter, the institute expressed concerns over increased incarceration based on socioeconomic status, saying, “Today, we have a cash bail system, which means that when somebody’s charged with a crime, they can be held in jail before they even go to trial just because they cannot pay their way out.”
The certified argument against the issue posted by the Ohio Secretary of State’s office maintained that bail should not be seen as effective in keeping potentially violent accused criminals behind bars, instead calling it, “the illusion of safety.”
“It gives violent offenders who should be locked behind bars the chance to buy their way out of jail,” the argument reads.
Reach Craig Kelly at 567-242-0391 or on Twitter @cmkelly419.