Senate District 16
Stephanie Kunze
Senate Passes Major Criminal Justice Reforms
Providing Pathways to Treatment for Ohioans Battling Addiction and Ensuring Strict Penalties for Drug Traffickers
June 30, 2020

COLUMBUS— State Senator Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) today announced the Ohio Senate passed Senate Bill 3, bipartisan legislation which updates Ohio’s possession, sealing, and trafficking laws and focuses on the rehabilitation of Ohioans suffering from drug addiction.

The legislation, sponsored by Senator John Eklund (R-Munson Township) and Senator Sean O’Brien (D-Bazetta), builds on other major criminal justice reforms the Senate has passed over the last several years to help Ohioans 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.

“I appreciate the hard work of my colleagues and commitment from our local leaders here in Franklin county on this important legislation to help provide a second chance for those battling addiction, while creating safer communities for Ohio families,” said Kunze who co-sponsored the bill.

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.

“For the last two years, I’ve had the honor of working with a bipartisan group of legislative and local leaders to bring drug sentencing reform to Ohio. Senate Bill 3 is critical because it addresses a key failure of the criminal justice system," said Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein. "Too often, we charge people battling addiction with felonies and incarcerate them instead of getting them treatment. SB 3 allows us to help those struggling with addiction and go after drug traffickers. I urge the House to quickly pass this much debated, important legislation.”

By reforming record sealing procedures, Senate Bill 3 seeks 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 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.

“I have been working with Chairman Eklund and President Obhof on our goal of drug sentencing reform ever since the defeat of Issue 1, and I’m pleased to see the Senate pass this legislation today,” said Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien. “Senate Bill 3 recognizes that the penalty should match the crime, and that the law should punish drug traffickers more aggressively than those struggling with addiction. This bill is a necessary step towards addressing Ohio’s addiction crisis and getting low-level drug users the help they need.”

Senate Bill 3 builds off of the work of the Ohio Criminal Justice Recodification Commission, which spent several years reviewing potential changes to Ohio’s criminal code and made substantial recommendations on sentencing reform. Many of those recommendations were included in the legislation.

The legislation now moves to the Ohio House for further consideration.
of terms
What is session? What is a caucus? Find out about these and other commonly used terms related to the Ohio Senate.