House Bill 347 Aims to Reform Ohio Civil Asset Forfeiture Law

Carrying a large amount of cash is risky. The fear of theft or losing the money is palpable, but new, unlikely culprits have emerged — culprits with a badge and a gun.

In recent years, thousands of people nationwide have forfeited large amounts of cash and other property seized by the police without an arrest, a trial, or a conviction. Known as “civil asset forfeiture,” the practice allows law enforcement to seize personal property based only on the suspicion that the property is linked to criminal activity. The government then often legally sells or keeps the proceeds of its ill-gotten gains.

The concept of “innocent until proven guilty,” a hallmark of the American criminal justice system, does not apply under many current civil asset forfeiture laws.

Once money or property is seized, getting it returned is difficult and costly and sometimes takes a year or more, in part because the law shifts the burden of proof from the government to the person whose cash or property was seized, forcing him or her to prove that it was not acquired illegally. The government will sometimes even go as far as suing the cash (you read that correctly) in an effort to make the rightful owner prove that the cash was not acquired illegally.

Under existing Ohio law (Ohio Revised Code Title XXIX, Chapter 2981), the authorities can seize cash or other property, including real estate and vehicles, if they suspect it is connected with a crime — even when no charges are filed. If you want your money back after it is seized, you need to go to court and fight the government.

If you have had money or property seized by the police or another law enforcement agency, you should seek the advice of an experienced attorney who will help you fight the seizure and work to get all your cash or property returned to you.

Call the criminal defense attorneys at the Joslyn Law Firm to learn more about forfeiture law in Columbus, Ohio, in Franklin County, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

The attorneys at the Joslyn Law Firm can explain the important deadlines that apply after a notice of seizure is issued or a seizure occurs in Ohio, so don’t delay. We can represent you at an adversarial preliminary hearing and in subsequent court appearances, if necessary. Let us put our experience to work for you.

Forfeiture Reaps Billions for Law Enforcement Coffers

Law enforcement agencies often rely on forfeiture to contribute to their operating budgets, even though the law was not initially intended that way and the law specifically prohibits seized assets from funding certain police activities.

Designed to help fight large drug trafficking organizations as part of the “war on drugs,” civil asset forfeiture has mushroomed into a cash cow for law enforcement, an activity its critics say is motivated by profit rather than crime-fighting.

A 2014 report in the Washington Post found that, under the U.S. Department of Justice’s Asset Forfeiture Program (AFP), police seized $2.5 billion in money and property nationally since 2001 from nearly 62,000 people who were not charged with a crime and without issuing a warrant. In order to seize the assets, all the police had to do was suspect that the assets were crime-related.

These seizures often occur during traffic stops, giving new meaning to the phrase “highway robbery.” Airports are another popular place for civil asset seizures. Law enforcement has also seized homes, boats, and other valuable property under civil asset forfeiture laws.

About $1.7 billion of the $2.5 billion seized from 2001-2014 eventually went to state and local law enforcement agencies while the other $800 million went to federal agencies such as the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security, the Post reported; the median amount of a seizure was $8,800.

Only about one in six of the 62,000 seizures were legally challenged, the Post reported, in part because of the expense of fighting against the government. But in 41 percent of the seizures that were challenged, the government agreed to return money.

The appeals process took more than a year in 40 percent of the cases that were challenged, and often required owners of the cash to sign agreements not to sue police over the seizures, the Post said. Defendants also had to pay their own legal bills.

A report titled “Federal seizure program that benefits cops called ‘legal robbery'” in the Cincinnati Enquirer and other news outlets in September 2015 said that federal and local authorities across the country have seized more than $4.1 billion in assets since 2006.

The Institute for Justice, a non-profit legal group based in suburban Washington D.C., reported on its web site that Ohio law enforcement agencies received more than $83 million from the federal Equitable Sharing Program over nine years from 2000-2008.  The Institute for Justice sued the city of Philadelphia in 2014 over its civil asset forfeiture laws.

Challenging Forfeiture Laws

Critics of civil asset forfeiture portray it as “legal robbery” — comedian John Oliver lambasted the practice on his HBO show “Last Week Tonight” in October 2015 and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) laments “police abuse of civil asset forfeiture has shaken our nation’s conscience.” Advocates point to the benefits of using the proceeds of civil asset forfeiture to outfit law enforcement with new equipment and combat illegal drugs.

Forfeiture laws that allow police to seize cash or other property and keep it have been attacked on due process and constitutional grounds in several states in recent years. Notably, New Mexico and Montana both reformed their forfeiture laws in 2015 and bills to reform forfeiture in Michigan were sent to that state’s governor for his signature in October 2015.

In Ohio, two lawmakers introduced a bill in the state legislature in September 2015 seeking to reform the state’s existing forfeiture law.

Ohio House Bill 347, filed by Rep. Robert McColley and Rep. Thomas E. Brinkman, Jr., would repeal certain parts of the existing law while adding and revising other sections. Much of the wording of the proposed changes to Ohio law is similar to the wording of the new laws enacted in New Mexico and Montana and the one pending in Michigan.

The Ohio bill seeks to change the legal standard of proof to one where the government must show “clear and convincing evidence” of a crime that permits forfeiture instead of relying on the current, lesser standard of a “preponderance of the evidence” (§2981.09(A), proposed). (The standard for a criminal proceeding is that guilt must be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt.”)

The proposal also would prohibit local police from coordinating with federal authorities unless the amount of property seized was more than $50,000.

Overwhelming Public Support

In a September 2015 poll of Ohio residents conducted for the U.S. Justice Action Network and its non-profit advocacy group, Fix Forfeiture, 81 percent of respondents said Ohio’s civil asset forfeiture law was “in need of reform,” while only 7 percent believed the current system is “working well now.”

Fix Forfeiture’s message is that forfeiture is clearly an area ripe for reform, and fixing it will be a significant step toward making Ohio’s criminal justice system smarter, fairer, and more effective.

Keep in mind that although positive changes to Ohio forfeiture law are underway and have broad public support, law enforcement officials certainly won’t give up such a windfall of cash without a fight. Current laws impose strict deadlines how much time you have to challenge a civil asset seizure, so if your money or property have been seized, you should act quickly to protect it from forfeiture.

The Joslyn Law Firm represents clients whose cash, property, or other assets have been seized by law enforcement in Columbus, Ohio, as well as Franklin County, Delaware County, Madison County, Licking County, Fairfield County, and Pickaway County, Ohio. Call us today. Our experienced criminal defense attorneys in Columbus, Ohio, are ready to explain Ohio’s current civil asset forfeiture laws to you and fight for your rights — and your property.

 

Annual Permits for Hotels and Motels Proposed to Deter Prostitution and Solicitation Crimes in Columbus

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Columbus officials are working to implement a new plan that would create stronger regulations on hotels and motels in the city in an attempt to curb solicitation and prostitution crimes occurring at the businesses, according to a recent article in the Columbus Dispatch.

The Columbus City Council plans to hold a hearing on the proposed law on July 30, 2015, after more than one year of planning and drafting. According to the article, the law would require annual permits for hotel and motel operators. If the business has a high crime rate, the permit to operate could be denied.

Officials who drafted the law studied a similar one that was adopted in Chula Vista, California, in 2006. The city, located near San Diego, can deny annual hotel and motel permits if officials decide the businesses had too many arrests related to drugs and prostitution. This regulation would be the first of its kind in Ohio.

Several Columbus area hotel and motel businesses have been involved in controversial crime stories in recent years. Three motels near the Interstate 71 and Route 161 interchange that were widely known as a site for drug and prostitution crimes have been closed by court order.

Law enforcement officers with the Columbus Ohio Division of Police typically use these locations for undercover sting operations. An undercover office may pose as a prostitute near the motel and another officer would arrest those who solicit him or her for sexual acts.

In many of these cases, an entrapment defense comes into play because the undercover police officers posing as prostitutes tend to use aggressive techniques to pursue the unsuspecting man to engage in conduct that could be considered soliciting a prostitute.

Ohio law states soliciting a prostitute is a third-degree misdemeanor for a first offense. This could be punishable by up to 60 days in jail, a fine of up to $500 or both. In these cases, the person does not have to be an actual prostitute for it to qualify as an offense.

For instance, if a person solicits an undercover police officer to engage in sexual activity in exchange for compensation, he or she still could face solicitation charges. Additionally, the compensation does not have to be money. It could be any type of good, service or object, including narcotics.

Ohio law also outlines loitering in an attempt to solicit a prostitute a criminal offense. According to state law, a person who is attempting to solicit another to engage in sexual activity for hire while in or near a public place cannot do any of the following:

  • Beckon to, stop or attempt to stop another person;
  • Engage or attempt to engage another in conversation;
  • Stop or attempt to stop a vehicle operator; or
  • Interfere with the passage of another.

A public place, according to the law, could mean a street, road, highway, bikeway, walkway, bridge, alley, plaza, park, driveway and a parking lot. Loitering near a hotel or motel with the intent to solicit a person for sexual activity could result in an arrest.

Although being accused of a solicitation or prostitution crime could feel like the end of the world, there are options for building a strong defense. Weakening the prosecution’s case before it even goes to trial could help to ensure your life remains on track. You need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side.

Contact Columbus solicitation attorney Brian Joslyn of Joslyn Law Firm. Brian Joslyn has years of experience fighting for the rights of those accused of solicitation. He understands the sensitivity of your charges, and he will work with you discretely to solve your issues. Your future and reputation are important, and Brian can help you protect both. Call (614) 444-1900 today to schedule a free, confidential consultation with an experienced Columbus solicitation defense attorney.

Handling Arrests and Weapons Charges After Red, White & Boom! Festival

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Each summer thousands of people gather in downtown Columbus for the Red, White & Boom! festival, an annual Independence Day event that includes the largest Fourth of July firework display in Ohio.

The festival features a variety of activities each year, including the Independence Parade that kicks off on the corner of Main Street and Second Street with more than 70 participants. The event also has a plethora of food and entertainment options before the firework finale.

With so many people in a condensed area, law enforcement officers will be plentiful. According to the Columbus Dispatch, police will be monitoring the event with cameras set up throughout the downtown area. Officers also will be present on foot, horseback, motorcycles and bicycles.

Sgt. Gregory DeRosier of the Columbus Division of Police said officers will be targeting people who are in possession of alcohol outside of the permitted areas, have laser pointers pointed at aircraft or have drones flying too close to restricted airspace near the fireworks launch point, according to the article.

Additionally, law enforcement officers will target any festival attendees who are in possession of firearms and weapons. Under Ohio law, firearms and weapons could include various types of deadly weapons, handguns and dangerous ordnances.

Ohio Revised Code § 2923.11 defines a dangerous ordnance as any automatic or sawed-off firearm, zip-gun, ballistic knife, explosive device, incendiary device, explosive chemicals, high explosive compositions, blasting agents, military weapons and any other explosive substance.

If a person knowingly carries or conceals any of these weapons or firearms on their body or within their control, such as in a purse or backpack, he or she could face charges for carrying a concealed weapon. According to Ohio Rev. Code § 2923.12, this could be a minor misdemeanor, misdemeanor of the first degree and felony of the fourth or third degree.

Columbus Deputy Police Chief Ken Kuebler said the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve are popular holidays for celebratory gunfire, according to the Columbus Dispatch. However, this is considered a criminal offense, punishable by a $500 fine and 60 days in jail.

A person could be charged with improper discharge of a firearm if he or she discharges it at or into an occupied habitation of an individual, in or into a school safety zone, at a cemetery, on a lawn or ground of an inhabited building and on or over a public road or highway.

Shooting a firearm within 1,000 feet of any school building or school premises, such as Columbus Downtown High School, with the intent to cause physical harm, panic or fear of physical harm to someone also could result in the charge.

These offenses are punishable as a misdemeanor of the fourth or first degree, or a felony of the third degree, second or first degree. However, if the firearm discharge causes an injury to someone, the charges could be much more severe.

No matter the charge, firearm and weapon crimes should be taken seriously. If you are arrested this weekend at the Red, White & Boom! festival in downtown Columbus for a firearm offense, contact criminal defense attorney Brian Joslyn of Joslyn Law Firm. As a member of the American Gun Owners Alliance, Brian is educated about gun laws, and he is skilled in defending people facing firearm charges. Call (614) 444-1900 to schedule a free consultation.

Constructing Defenses Against Sexual Assault and Other Sexual Crime Charges

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When a person is accused of sexual assault or another sexual offense, he or she often is faced with the challenge of proving his or her innocence long after the charges have been dismissed. This has been true for several college students in recent years.

According to a Fox News article, an Amherst College student accused another student of rape 21 months after the alleged incident. The person accused of the offense was expelled from the campus, despite evidence showing the act was consensual, according to the article.

In this scenario, only a finding that he was “more likely than not” guilty was necessary. This seems to be common in many campus procedures as schools become more determined to crack down on sexual assault accusations.

Another student who was accused of raping a fellow classmate at Columbia University is suing the university, claiming she harassed him. According to the article, a professor at the university allowed the alleged victim to carry a mattress on campus as part of a senior art project concerning the alleged offense, even after the student was cleared of rape charges.

In some cases, criminal investigations have found the alleged attackers to be innocent, but the university had a different opinion. A student at University of North Dakota in 2010 was charged with sexually assaulting a fellow student, found guilty by a campus tribunal and later expelled. Months later, police charged the alleged victim for deliberately falsifying the charges.

Any time there is an accusation of sexual battery or another sexual crime, building a defense as soon as possible is critical to fighting the charges. The most effective way to weaken the prosecution’s case could be to do so before the case even goes to trial. This also could help in any administrative matters regarding the charges.

In many sexual assault cases, especially those involving incidences at higher education institutes, it is the word of the victim against the word of the accused. Proving a person’s innocence seems like a daunting task, but there are several strategies that could be used.

One of the most commonly used defenses to accusations of a sex crime is that the sexual activity that took place was consensual. This is common in these higher education cases. Sometimes students will partake in consensual sex and the alleged victim will claim that he or she was sexually assaulted.

Other times, the alleged accuser and his or her criminal defense attorney can challenge the word of the alleged victim. If the victim is lying about the offense, the defense could dispute his or her claim of the act. Having an alibi could be beneficial in this defense.

In some scenarios, the defense could admit the sexual act occurred, but argue it was not done illegally. Although this sounds complex, it could be done. Examples of this include:

  • The alleged offender did not use force, threats or violence
  • The alleged offender and the alleged victim were married at the time of the offense
  • The defendant is accused of statutory rape, but the alleged victim lied about his or her age

In order to determine what defense option is best for you, it is important to contact a sex crimes defense attorney immediately. Brian Joslyn can analyze your case and choose the defense option that gives you the best chance of avoiding the penalties associated with your alleged offense. Call (614) 444-1900 to schedule a free consultation immediately.

Ohio Police Using Backpage and Craigslist for Solicitation and Prostitution Arrests

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Law enforcement agencies throughout Franklin County and the surrounding areas in Ohio are cracking down on online advertising for erotic services and changing the way solicitation arrests are made.

Within recent years, websites like Backpage and Craigslist have been used to promote erotic services. Men and women are labeled “companions” in the ads, or they advertise massage services. However, these businesses typically are frauds and are used to advertise illegal prostitution.

Police departments are aware of the tactics used to promote prostitution. The departments often use sting operations to make prostitution and solicitation arrests. In some cases, undercover officers may contact the number in the ad, using that to make prostitution or trafficking arrests.

Other times, departments can run ads on the websites and arrange meetings with those seeking the services at local Columbus hotels and motels. This often is done at businesses near the Interstate 71 and Route 161 interchange, such as Days Inn Columbus North and Doubletree Hotel.

When meeting the “johns,” undercover officers pose as prostitutes and make arrests once the person solicits the officer or exchanges money with the officer for sexual services.

According to Ohio Rev. Code § 2907.241, solicitation is defined as knowingly and intentionally attempting to persuade, compel, induce or encourage  someone to participate in sexual activity in order to receive some form of compensation. A sexual act does not have to be committed for the charge to apply.

For example, if an undercover officer is posing as a prostitute, other officers can make a solicitation arrest once the john suggests he or she will pay for some sort of sexual act to be performed. The act does not have to happen to warrant the charge.

Solicitation of a prostitute is considered a third-degree misdemeanor. This is punishable by up to 60 days in jail, a fine of up to $500 or both. However, one of the biggest consequences associated with a solicitation charge is the possibility of a criminal record.

Once a person is convicted of solicitation, the information becomes public record. Future employers, family members, neighbors and spouses can see the criminal history. A conviction could have a long-lasting effect on the social and personal aspects of a person’s life.

Some offenders could be eligible for a diversion program, sometimes referred to as a “John School.” During this program, participants are educated on the dangers of soliciting a prostitute and the health risks associated with participating in sexual activity with a prostitute.

If the program is successfully completed, the offender could have the charges dropped. This could mean avoiding time behind bars and not having a criminal record. However, being accepted into the diversion program can be difficult. The programs often are full and finding space for an offender can be tricky.

If you have been accused of soliciting a prostitute, contact Joslyn Law Firm at (614) 444-1900. Our experienced attorneys can help you discretely fight the charges and work to get a favorable outcome. Your reputation is important. Call today.

Ohio House Bill to Change Police Requirements and Increase Training

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The Ohio House approved a bill this week that would change the requirements to become a law enforcement officer in the state and increase the number of training hours applicants must complete.

The bill, introduced by Republican representatives Tim Derickson of Oxford and Nathan Manning of North Ridgeville, was aimed at improving relationships between local police and their communities, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

The nation has seen increased coverage of controversial fatal police shootings, including the shooting of John Crawford, a 22-year-old black man who was shot and killed last August in a Dayton-area Walmart while holding an air rifle.

Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black child, was fatally shot in November in a Cleveland park while holding a BB gun. The deaths of these two Ohio residents sparked protests and concern regarding police actions. Some state officials have been examining law enforcement practices.

The new measures in the bill are a result of recommendations for upgrading police training and standards by committees convened by Attorney General Mike DeWine and Gov. John Kasich. The committees were established in response to the protests.

Ohio is one of only three states that does not require law enforcement officers to have a high school diploma or a certificate of high school equivalence before becoming an officer. However, House Bill 204 would make having one mandatory.

If a person has been appointed a police officer before the bill is passed, he or she would not have to meet the requirement. This means the person still could be an officer, if hired for the job before the date of the bill, without a diploma or GED.

The bill also would lift the current training cap of 650 hours, adding the attorney general will not restrict the state police training commission from establishing a higher amount if deemed necessary. This could allow increased training beyond the 650, although it would not be mandatory.

Proper police training is critical in ensuring a person’s rights are not violated during an arrest. Violations often include interrogation without Miranda warnings or in violation of an individual’s Fifth Amendment rights, conducting a search and seizure without probable cause or a warrant and unlawful execution of a search and seizure warrant.

If the person’s rights were violated, this could be a criminal defense to the charges. An experienced criminal defense attorney can challenge the admissibility of evidence or file a motion to suppress evidence. This could be the difference between a conviction and having the charges dismissed.

If you are arrested for a criminal offense in Ohio, contacting an experienced defense attorney is important. Contact Joslyn Law Firm at (614) 444-1900 to schedule a free initial consultation and learn more about how to protect yourself after criminal charges.

Proposed Bills Aim to Change Heroin Laws and Decrease Overdoses in Ohio

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Lawmakers in Ohio are proposing legislation this session aimed at curbing the use of heroin and the abuse of some medically prescribed drugs with the goal of reducing the number of drug overdoses in the state.

One bill directly related to overdoses is the Good Samaritan Bill. The bill, according to Cincinnati.com, would prevent law enforcement from incriminating a person for drug possession if he or she calls emergency services to report an overdose.

A similar bill failed to pass in the previous Ohio General Assembly session because some lawmakers feared it would enable drug use, according to the article. However, others have argued it is needed because drug users sometimes fail to call for help if a companion overdoses.

The bill, however, would have some restrictions. For example, so as to not assist those who could potentially be dealing or selling drugs, the law would not protect those who have more than one gram of heroine, according to the article.

Also, if a person who called for medical help is on probation at the time for a prior offense, he or she would not necessarily be sentenced to jail. A treatment option would be considered as an alternate to incarceration.

Another bill making its way through the legislature is looking to decrease the minimum amount of heroin involved in a trafficking in heroin or possession of heroin violation that could make the offense a felony of the first degree, which is necessary to classify an offender as a major drug offender.

According to Cincinnati.com, House Bill 171 is looking to reduce by 60 percent the amount of heroin that could lead to an 11-year incarceration period.  Under current law, a person who possesses between 50 and 2,500 doses of heroin will be charged with a first-degree felony. This could mean between three and 11 years in prison.

However, the proposed bill would decrease the upper limit to 1,000 doses or 100 grams, which would be similar to penalties for cocaine offenses. Some supporters of the law argue having fewer people incarcerated means more money could be spent on treatment services.

House Bill 4, which also has been proposed in an effort to decrease drug overdoses, would modify existing laws governing the authority to dispense or furnish naloxone, which is used for heroin or other opioid overdoses.

Under House Bill 4, prescribers do not have to be present, which would allow the drug to be more widely distributed to people and those close to drug users who are at risk of an overdose, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

A naloxone bill that the legislature passed last session increased access to the drug. Now, some programs throughout the state distribute the substance. However, this bill would make it more accessible.

Additionally, another bill could require insurance companies to pay for special formulas of pain pills that cannot be crushed, even if they are more expensive than a generic brand. This could be a way to help reduce the abuse of pain medication, some supports say.

Even though changes have been proposed in the legislature, current laws have harsh punishments for the possession and distribution of heroin. If you are charged with either offense, you could face series penalties. Contact Columbus heroin defense lawyer Brian Joslyn at (614) 444-1900 to learn more about how to fight heroin charges.

Solicitation Stings Changing in Ohio, but Alleged Offenders Still Have Options for Defenses

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Law enforcement officers and agencies throughout the country are changing the way in which they target those suspected of prostitution and solicitation. In some instances, agencies even have utilized online solicitation websites to garner arrests and more information into the local prostitution business.

In Ohio, some law enforcement agencies have used the adult entertainment classified site backpage.com to make prostitution-related arrests. According to WHIO, Dayton police officers arrested a man for solicitation after he responded to an advertisement on the website placed by the department’s Vice Crimes Unit.

Police departments long have used sting operations to make prostitution and solicitation arrests. Many times, undercover officers would pose as prostitutes and officers would arrest those who solicit the officer. Now, as technology changes, departments are utilizing the Internet for these decoy solicitation operations.

According to Ohio Rev. Code § 2907.241, solicitation is defined as knowingly and intentionally attempting to persuade, compel, induce or encourage  someone to participate in sexual activity in order to receive some form of compensation. In these instances, the act does not necessarily have to be committed for the charge to apply.

For instance, if a person is accused of soliciting an undercover officer and suggesting he or she will pay for some sort of sexual act, other officers likely would make the arrest and the act would not occur. Simply offering or attempting to persuade someone is enough for the arrest.

Additionally, the compensation offered does not have to be monetary. For example, a person could be arrested and charged with solicitation if he offers an undercover officer some other type of benefit in exchange for sex. This benefit could be goods, drugs, transportation or any other object.

Solicitation of a prostitute generally is considered a third-degree misdemeanor. This is punishable by up to 60 days in jail, a fine of up to $500 or both. However, the biggest consequence associated with a charge for solicitation is the possibility of a criminal record.

Once a person is convicted of solicitation, the information becomes public record. This means future employers, family members and even spouses can see your criminal history. Although the court-issued punishments may seem minor, a conviction could have a long lasting effect on the social and personal aspects of a person’s life.

Some offenders could be eligible for a diversion program, often called a “John School.” During this program, participants are educated on the risks and dangers of soliciting a prostitute and the health risks associated with participating in sexual activity with a prostitute.

Additionally, participants in the program also will hear from former sex workers who have since stopped working as a prostitute. They explain what their lives were like and how they were affected by their former professions. The goal of the program is to decrease the likeliness of the person to re-offend.

If the program is successfully completed, the offender could have the charges against him or her dropped. This could mean avoiding time behind bars and not having a criminal record. However, being accepted into the diversion program can be difficult. The programs often are full and finding space for an offender can be tricky.

A skilled criminal defense attorney can make the difference in your case. Whether it is getting the charges dropped or getting an offender enrolled in a John School, the attorneys at Joslyn Law Firm can help you avoid a damning criminal record. Our law firm is honest with our clients and discrete with their information. No matter your situation, we can help you quietly solve your criminal charges.

If you have been accused of soliciting a prostitute, contact Joslyn Law Firm at (614) 444-1900. Our experienced attorneys can help you move on with your life after the allegations. You future is important, and so is protecting your reputation. Call today to schedule a free consultation about your unique case.

Proposed Ohio Bill Would Allow Concealed Carry Without Permits

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Ohio legislators have proposed a bill earlier this legislative session that would allow some residents in the state to carry a concealed firearm without a permit and without the appropriate training.

According to Cleveland.com, House Bill 147 would allow anyone age 21 or older in Ohio to carry any concealed firearm not specifically banned by law. This, however, would not apply if the person has been banned from legally possessing a firearm, such as a convicted felon.

The bill, which was introduced last week, would be a significant shift from the existing law. Currently, those who wish to legally carry a concealed firearm must obtain a permit from their local sheriff’s department. Before this can be acquired, he or she must complete eight hours of safety training.

A person could be charged with carrying a concealed weapon under Ohio Rev. Code § 2923.12 if he or she does not have a permit and knowingly carries or has:

  • A deadly weapon besides a handgun
  • A handgun other than a dangerous ordnance
  • A dangerous ordnance

This gun crime currently is punishable as a minor misdemeanor, misdemeanor of the first degree, felony of the fourth degree or felony of the third degree, depending on the specific circumstances of a case. This could mean jail time, expensive fines and more restrictions.

The permit and training processes would not be required if the proposed bill actually became a law. This means a large portion of the population would be able to legally possess a concealed firearm without having to undergo a training process.

The proposed bill also would prohibit law enforcement officers from searching people or seizing the weapon simply because they are carrying a legal firearm. Landlords could not prohibit tenants from carrying or possessing a gun.

Under current law, if a person is carrying a concealed firearm and is stopped by law enforcement, the individual must immediately inform the officer that he or she has been licensed to carry a handgun and currently possesses the gun, according to Ohio Rev. Code § 2923.12(B).

If a person is carrying a concealed firearm and is stopped by law enforcement, according to current law, he or she must not knowingly disregard or fail to comply with any lawful order of the officer while the person is stopped.

Additionally, if a person is carrying a concealed firearm and is approached by law enforcement, the person must keep their hands in plain sight while interacting with the officer. He or she also cannot remove the gun from a holster nor have any sort of contact with the firearm, unless told by the officer to do so.

If a person violates any of these requirements, he or she could be charged with a minor misdemeanor, misdemeanor of the first degree or felony of the fifth degree. In addition, his or her concealed license may be suspended.

All of these requirements can become a little hazy if the bill passes. Once it is not a requirement to have a permit, the way law enforcement officers handle citizens who are carrying concealed weapons could change. Some of the laws will remain the same, including where possession is prohibited.

For instance, possession of a firearm in a school zone, no matter the lack of permit requirement, still is a violation. Carrying a concealed firearm in a courthouse or a building in which a courtroom is located also would be a violation.

If the bill is approved, Ohio would become the sixth state to change its laws allowing more residents to own and possess concealed firearms. For more information about the proposed legislation, read House Bill 147 here.

Proposed Marijuana Legalization Could Create Millions in Tax Revenue, Says Supporters

A constitutional amendment that would legalize marijuana could lead to more than $550 million in annual tax revenue, according to some of the amendment’s supporters.

ResponsibleOhio, a committee trying to legalize marijuana for personal and medicinal use in Ohio, released initial tax revenue projections for its legalization proposal, saying the plan could generate $554 million each year, according to Cleveland.com.

Under the proposal, marijuana would be taxed 15 percent at production and manufacturing facilities and 5 percent at retail locations. Tax revenues would be used toward local governments, addiction services and marijuana research.

According to Cleveland.com, county and local governments would receive $476 million of the estimated $554 million annual tax revenue. The remaining $78 million would be used in addiction prevention services, care for medical patients, marijuana law enforcement and research.

ResponsibleOhio estimates more than 269 tons of recreational and medical marijuana would be used in Ohio each year beginning in 2020, the year it is predicting the new market will stabilize. The amendment would legalize purchase, possession and use of up to 1 ounce for adults over age 21 and medical marijuana patients.

Although states throughout the country are reforming their marijuana laws, the substance still is illegal in Ohio and through federal law. This means a person currently in possession of the substance in almost any form, no matter the amount, could face marijuana charges.

If a person is charged with possession of marijuana for the first time, according to Ohio Revised Code §2925.11, the penalties would be determined by the amount of marijuana allegedly in his or her possession. If the person has a clean criminal record, there may be a chance to have his or her record sealed.

If a person is accused of possessing less than 200 grams of marijuana, he or she could face misdemeanor possession charges. Although this offense may seem minor, it can carry up to 30 days in jail and a $250 fine. This also could mean a criminal record, which could affect a person’s ability to secure a job.

Consequences for felony possession of marijuana charges in Ohio are much more severe and can have serious consequences. In Ohio, possession of more than 200 grams of marijuana is a felony. The minimum charge for felonious possession of marijuana can result in a 12-month jail sentence.

The more marijuana a person is accused of possessing, the more severe the charge. For instance, if a person is accused of having more than 20,000 grams of marijuana, he or she could face second-degree felony charges, resulting in a mandatory eight-year prison sentence and $15,000 in fines.

In most instances, the charges and corresponding penalties for marijuana crimes are determined by the amount of marijuana involved in the alleged offense. Other serious marijuana charges in Ohio could include:

  • Cultivation/manufacture
  • Possession with intent to sell
  • Trafficking in marijuana

It is important to know the current laws in your state and the states around you. Although some areas of the country, such as Colorado, have made recreational and medical marijuana legal, it still is a criminal offense in most parts of the country. Any charge of possession, trafficking or cultivating could mean severe criminal penalties.

If you have been charged with a marijuana offense in Ohio, you should consult a Columbus marijuana defense attorney. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you build a strong defense in your case and fight the accusations against you.