New Laws Refine

Ohio Criminal Code

December 18, 1996

In some cases, the changes were long overdue.

Since the passage of Senate Bill 2, effective July 1, 1996, the Ohio legislature has continued its efforts to "refine" the state's criminal code. In some cases, the changes were long overdue. One such example is House Bill 154, effective October 4, 1996, which makes it a crime for a person under detention to possess a deadly weapon.

It may seem absurd to create a law that prohibits a prisoner from having a deadly weapon, but oddly enough, the criminal laws of Ohio did not previously address that issue. Although it has long been a crime to smuggle weapons into a correctional facility, the simple act of a prisoner possessing a deadly weapon was not specifically designated as a crime. This new legislation will correct that oversight.

The penalties for this new crime have been sensibly adjusted to fit the danger posed by the offender: the more serious the crime of which the prisoner was convicted, the greater the penalty will be for his or her possession of a deadly weapon. Furthermore, any sentence imposed for this crime must run consecutively to the sentence which the prisoner is already serving.

This recent legislation also changes the meaning of "detention" under Ohio law. Persons "under detention" now include anyone on parole or under supervision by the Adult Parole Authority. Not only does this new definition prevent parolees from having deadly weapons; it also means that whenever a parolee absconds from supervision, he or she can be charged with escape! The new charges can be filed in the county in which the parolee was being supervised, regardless of where the original conviction arose.

The Ohio legislature recently enacted another law which creates more consistent penalties for sex crimes. House Bill 445, effective September 3, 1996, changes the definition of "sexual conduct" to include the former offense of felonious sexual penetration under the crime of rape.

Originally, felonious sexual penetration involved the insertion of any "instrument, apparatus, or other object" into a victim's vagina or anus. Ohio courts then ruled that felonious sexual penetration did not include penetration by a finger. The legislature was disturbed by this interpretation, and they responded by changing the meaning of felonious sexual penetration so that the insertion of any part of the body was also punishable as a first-degree felony.

The newest change arose because a murder committed during a rape can be punished by death, while a murder committed during an act of felonious sexual penetration cannot. By changing the definition of sexual conduct, acts which were previously defined as felonious sexual penetration can now be charged as rape. This will allow similar sex crimes to be treated equally, and in the horrifying cases of sex-related murder, it will allow all such acts to be included in a death penalty specification.

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