Sentencing Commission Recommends New Law For Juvenile Crimes

June 24, 1999

Nearly three years have passed since the effective date of Senate Bill 2 (SB2), the law that revolutionized Ohio's felony sentencing structure. Since then, our criminal justice system has met some of the goals set for SB2. The number of violent offenders in state correctional institutions has risen by 12%, while the number of non-violent offenders in those institutions has dropped significantly. Under SB2, Ohio law prefers that non-violent offenders be sentenced to community supervision and community correctional institutions, and the number of offenders subject to those penalties has more than doubled.

The Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission has now turned its attention to the juvenile justice system. The need for tougher juvenile penalties is obvious. School violence has reached epidemic proportions, and it has become commonplace for children in their early teens to sell crack cocaine, carry guns, and commit armed robberies. Traditional views of juvenile rehabilitation are no longer valid in today's society.

The first step will be to separate juvenile delinquency cases from other juvenile cases, such as abuse, neglect, and unruliness. The Commission proposes a new chapter in the Ohio Revised Code, Chapter 2152, which will be devoted solely to criminal acts committed by juveniles. Under this new chapter, the "best interest of the child" will no longer be the guiding principle. The new purposes will be:

The Commission's new proposal provides several penalty options for serious juvenile offenders. One option is "blended sentences," where a juvenile will be sentenced to an adult penalty of imprisonment but will also be given a sentence in the juvenile system. The adult sentence will be suspended to encourage the juvenile's rehabilitation, but if the juvenile fails to comply with the terms of the juvenile sentence or commits another crime, the adult sentence of imprisonment will be imposed. Because the juvenile may be imprisoned in an adult correctional facility, a grand jury indictment and a jury trial will probably be required.

The second option for serious juvenile offenders will be "extended jurisdiction." Under this option, the juvenile's case will be handled completely within the juvenile justice system, but the juvenile may be committed to a juvenile facility until age 25, instead of the present maximum age of 21 years. Furthermore, in recognition of the fact that very young offenders can commit serious crimes, the minimum age for a Department of Youth Services commitment will be reduced from 12 years of age to 10 years of age. No indictment or jury trial will be required for juveniles subject to extended jurisdiction.

Finally, a juvenile could still be bound over to the grand jury for trial as an adult. In some cases, there will be a presumption in favor of such a bindover, but the juvenile will have an opportunity to show that a blended sentence, extended jurisdiction, or traditional juvenile penalties would be more appropriate.

A chart of these penalties and the types of cases where they would be imposed is shown at the bottom of the page.

The Commission has also proposed more punitive dispositions for less serious cases. Presently, a juvenile may be held in a local detention facility for up to 90 days, but the purpose of that detention has always been to "rehabilitate" or to hold the juvenile for "treatment and examination." The new proposal would do away with this legal fiction and would specifically provide for punitive detention in a local facility for up to 60 days.

These proposals have not yet been considered by the Ohio legislature and are not likely to be passed into law in the near future. However, we hope that Ohio's lawmakers will give these proposals serious consideration and will recognize that even the youngest offenders can pose a serious danger to society.

OffensesAge 17Age 16Age 15Age 14Age 13Age 12Age 11Age 10

MBO: Mandatory BindoverPBO: Presumed Bindover
MSYO: Mandatory Serious Youthful Offender (Blended Sentence / Extended Jurisdiction)
DSYO: Discretionary Serious Youthful Offender (Blended Sentence / Extended Jurisdiction)
DEJJ: Discretionary Extended Juvenile JurisdictionTJ: Traditional Juvenile Jurisdiction
Discretionary Bindover: Available for all offenses/offenders in blue-shaded area
Aggravated murder, murder, attempted aggravated murder,
attempted murder, or violent felony 1 "enhanced" if:
[1] Committed while using, brandishing or displaying a firearm, or
[2] Committed after previous admission to DYS facility for prior
felony 1, felony 2, or violent felony 3.

All other felony offenses "enhanced" if:
[1] Defined as "offense of violence" under R.C.2901.01(A)(9), or
[2] Committed under circumstances set forth in [1] or [2], above.

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