Senate District 18
John Eklund
Senate Passes Drug Sentencing Reform Bill Focused on Supporting Ohioans Struggling with Addiction
June 30, 2020

COLUMBUS—State Senator John Eklund (R-Munson Township) today announced with Senator Sean O'Brien (D- Bazetta) that the Senate passed Senate Bill 3, 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.

"Low-level, non-violent drug offenders make up the fastest growing portion of the state’s prison population. The goal of Senate Bill 3 is to ‘arrest’ the problem and get Ohioans who are struggling with addiction help before their offenses could mean jail time,” Eklund said. "We want people to get better and move on to lead productive lives, and I have great appreciation for the Ohioans who shared their very personal stories and spent countless hours during this process to help us provide real hope and real progress."

This legislation builds on other major criminal justice reforms the Senate has passed over the last several years to help Ohioans to find support as they fight to beat the cycle of addiction; provide local courts with flexibility, and reform Ohio’s sentencing laws, including intervention in lieu of conviction and a presumption against prison time for many low-level, non-violent offenders.

Specifically, Senate Bill 3 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 they have been convicted of two possession offenses within three years.

By reforming case processing procedures, this bill will remove the “scarlet letter” of prior felony 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. This 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 Senate Bill 3. If the prosecution proves an individual simply possessed large drug amounts, or had any intent 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.

The legislation now moves to the Ohio House for further consideration.
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