Issue 1 on ballot in Ohio

Involves consideration of deciding bail and public safety
If passed, judges will be able to consider public safety when setting someone's bail amount -- such as looking at a person's criminal history.
Published: Oct. 12, 2022 at 7:20 PM EDT
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OHIO (WSAZ) - State leaders say ever since Ohio became a state in the 1800s, judges have always been able to consider public safety when determining a person’s bail amount. So, for example, that includes looking at the seriousness of the crime the person is accused of committing, the person’s criminal history, and the likelihood that person will show up in court if they are able to make bail.

However, that all changed when the case “DuBose v. McGuffey” was brought to the Ohio Supreme Court earlier this year. In that case, a man charged with murder argued that his $1.5 million bail was too high. The Supreme Court ultimately agreed and ruled the bail should have been much lower, and also that judges should not consider public safety anymore when setting those bail amounts.

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Pat DeWine was one of the dissenting opinions in that ruling, meaning he voted against lowering the bail amount and dropping judges’ rights to consider public safety when deciding bail.

He says public safety should always be a priority.

“Can you imagine you have a violent murderer or rapist and you’re the judge who’s setting bail and if you set a bail for that person, you have to set a bail they can afford-- you can’t consider the threat that person harms to the public … that doesn’t make any sense,” DeWine said.

However, Patrick Higgins, who is with the state’s policy council for ACLU, says Issue 1 penalizes those who are less fortunate.

“We can see around the state that there are folks who have less cash than others and we know that things as simple as reminders to show up for a court date or check-ins with the person in pretrial services or some kind of supportive mechanism to make sure the person has the support they need to continue going to work, picking their kids up, and showing up for their trial date can be a lot more effective that just basing it off of their wallet size,” Higgins said.

Since that Supreme Court ruling, judges are only allowed to consider what someone’s likelihood of not showing up to court is and what they can afford to pay. So, if someone can only afford a low bail, the judge has to set a low bail.

Some lawmakers were not happy with the ruling and introduced a resolution to put the question to the voters.

That resolution passed, adding Issue 1 to the ballot.

So what does your vote mean?

A “yes” vote would reverse the Supreme Court ruling and allow judges to once again go back to considering public safety when setting bail.

It would also prevent the Supreme Court from creating any future rules about what judges can and cannot consider when it comes to determining someone’s bail.

A “no” vote would keep the precedent ruling set, meaning public safety would not be a factor judges can consider when determining someone’s bail amount.

We found there are strong opinions on both sides of the issue. Some say the Supreme Court ruling should stand, encouraging a “no” vote.

“We think that they got that decision right. We think that it’s a straightforward meaning of the law that the purpose of cash bail is to make sure that a person comes back for their court day. It’s not to punish them, it’s not to keep them locked up. The purpose both historically, constitutionally is to make sure that a person who’s legally innocent before their trial date shows back up for court,” Higgins said.

While others say the issue of public safety is something that cannot be compromised -- urging voters to say “yes.”

“One of the advantages Ohio has right now is that people are leaving the coast and one of the reasons they’re leaving the coast and coming back to Ohio is because some of those cities aren’t safe. But, if we’re going to continue to bring jobs here, keep people here -- you have to have safe communities,” DeWine said.

For more information about Issue 1: