Senate District 18
John Eklund
Eklund Outlines Drug Sentencing Reform Bill Focused on Supporting Ohioans Struggling with Addiction
March 6, 2019
COLUMBUS – Senate Judiciary Chair John Eklund (R-Munson Township) today introduced Substitute Senate Bill 3 with Senator Sean O’Brien (D-Bazetta), bipartisan legislation that would reform criminal sentencing laws to provide better paths to treatment for Ohioans suffering from drug addiction while ensuring drug traffickers face strict felony charges.

The bill, which is currently being heard in the Senate’s judiciary committee, updates Ohio’s possession, sealing, and trafficking laws while building on other major criminal justice reforms the Senate has passed over the last several years to enable individuals to find support, purpose and opportunities as they fight to beat the cycle of addiction.

“What we are trying to accomplish is to ‘arrest’ the problem and get Ohioans who are struggling with addiction help before their offenses could mean jail time,” said Eklund. “We want people to get better and move on to lead productive lives, while also ensuring that traffickers are arrested and stay behind bars.”

Specifically, the bill would make possession of small amounts of drugs an unclassified misdemeanor charge with a presumption of treatment, but subject to a maximum one-year jail sentence if the court deems the offender a threat to others. Fentanyl and sexual assault-enabling drugs would be excluded from the reclassification, and the individual may face a felony possession charge if he or she has been convicted of two possession offenses within three years.

By reforming record sealing procedures, Eklund and O’Brien seek to remove the “scarlet letter” of prior possession convictions so that a recovering offender faces fewer obstacles to finding gainful employment and housing as the individual works toward an addiction-free life. The proposed legislation would permit misdemeanor possessions, as well as F4 and F5 drug possessions, to be sealed upon the offender’s successful completion of drug court or intervention in lieu of conviction programs.

Finally, drug trafficking penalties are strengthened under Substitute Senate Bill 3. If the prosecution proves an individual had any intent to sell or distribute any amount of heroin, that person could face trafficking charges and convictions. The bill also maintains mandatory prison sentencing for high-level trafficking offenses.

This legislation builds on major reforms passed by the Senate in recent years by focusing on the rehabilitation of Ohioans suffering from drug addiction, providing flexibility to local courts, and reducing recidivism and prison time for low-level, non-violent offenders who make up the fastest growing portion of the state’s prison population due to the drug epidemic.

To view today’s press conference, click here.
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