Our View: Residents concerned over drug sentencing

Ohio General Assembly determines guidelines

The Record-Herald has received a lot of questions and concerns from people this week who want to know how it is possible that a man who was caught trafficking heroin could receive a 30-day jail sentence when others had received prison terms for possession and trafficking charges.

The short answer is that the court looks at each case individually and by law must apply the Ohio legislature’s sentencing parameters to the defendant depending on that person’s individual circumstances.

All sorts of things are considered on a case-by-case basis. Has the defendant been in trouble before, or have they led a life as a law-abiding citizen? Was the defendant on probation or supervision with another court? How likely is the person to commit another crime? Does the person show genuine remorse for their charge? The court is required by law to consider these things during sentencing.

The sentencing parameters are handed down to the courts by the state legislature and the prosecutors and defense attorneys work within that framework, factoring in each individual’s circumstances to come to a sentencing determination that is then approved by the court order of the judge presiding over the case.

A person’s prior criminal history is always considered. The defendant with no prior criminal conviction will receive a different sentencing than a defendant who has prior convictions, even if both defendants were charged with the same crime.

The Ohio legislature’s sentencing mandates currently provide that a prison sentence is not mandatory for a person who has no prior criminal record and is convicted of a non-violent felony. The courts instead may determine local sanctions. The law for imposing local sanctions is outlined in the Ohio Revised Code.

Two cases in the Fayette County Court of Common Pleas this week illustrate the Ohio sentencing guidelines.

Earlier this week, 36-year-old Larry Young was sentenced to 30 days in the local jail after admitting to trafficking heroin, a felony of the fourth degree. Young had no prior criminal history and his action was not one of violence or assault, therefore prison was not mandatory.

In a separate case, Destiny L. Wilson plead guilty to aggravated possession of drugs, illegal possession of drug paraphernalia and drug abuse instruments. If we just look at the eligibility for serving a prison term based on prior convictions, Wilson is eligible to receive a prison sentence for these charges because she previously served time in prison in another case. Wilson has not yet been sentenced.

It should also be noted that if Young does not comply with the local sanctions of community control for two years, i.e. violates probation by not completing treatment or in some other way violates the local sanctions, the judge may then impose additional sentencing, including prison.

Some folks may be concerned that the heroin trafficker can receive 30 days in jail but the person who had possession of drugs and paraphernalia can receive a prison term. Again, the parameters of sentencing are decided by the Ohio General Assembly and codified into the Ohio Revised Code, and then the local courts work within those laws and directives.

Concerns about criminal sentencing can be directed to local state representatives. Your representatives have an obligation to listen and respond to the concerns of the people they represent in the Ohio General Assembly.

Ohio General Assembly determines guidelines