Pro-Marijuana Committee Collecting Signatures to Change Expungement Law

A pro-marijuana organization in Ohio plans to begin collecting signatures for a proposed law that would allow certain cannabis crimes to be expunged once the controlled substance becomes legal in The Buckeye State.

ResponsibleOhio, a political action committee trying to legalize medical and recreational marijuana in Ohio, has drafted what is referred to as the Fresh Start Act. This would allow those convicted of certain marijuana offenses to have those records expunged or destroyed, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

The Ohio Ballot Board voted 3-2 Wednesday to give ResponsibleOhio permission to begin collecting the necessary 91,677 signatures of Ohio voters to move forward in the statute process. If approved, the expungement language would be separate from its original proposal to legalize marijuana.

The initial amendment would create the Ohio Marijuana Control Commission to regulate the acquisition, growth, cultivation, extraction, production, processing, manufacture, testing, distribution, retail sales, licensing and taxation of the substance and related products.

It also would legalize the use of medical marijuana for patients with debilitating medical conditions if a medical marijuana certification has been provided by the patient’s treating physician. Other states have included conditions such as cancer, AIDS and glaucoma.

Additionally, it would allow marijuana and marijuana-infused products for personal use in amounts of one ounce or less by people 21 years of age or older. It also would make it legal for those 21 years old or older to purchase, possess, transport, use and share one ounce or less with another person 21 years old or older.

Under the Fresh Start Act, those who have been convicted of possession of less than one ounce of marijuana could fight to have the record of the offense sealed. Currently, according to Ohio Revised Code § 2925.11, possession of less than 100 grams is a minor misdemeanor possession offense.

This minor misdemeanor currently is punishable by a fine up to $150. A first offense likely would not result in a jail sentence. Although it is a misdemeanor, a conviction could have serious consequences on a person’s future, and expunging the record could be beneficial.

Some argue the Fresh Start Act is not needed because minor possession offenses already can be sealed. In some cases, however, record sealing does not protect the person’s past enough. The information still can be found through background checks and internet searches. Expungement would be more thorough.

According to Ohio Rev. Code § 2953.32, a person currently may be eligible to seal his or her criminal record if he or she is a first time offender or a misdemeanor offender who has completed all of his or her sentencing requirements. A misdemeanor record would have to be sealed one year after completing the requirements.

Once the signatures have been verified, the Ohio General Assembly has four months to act on the law, according to the Columbus Dispatch. If the law is changed, rejected or not acted on, the committee would need to collect another 91,677 signatures to put the law before voters on the statewide ballot.

Proposed Ohio Bill Would Allow Concealed Carry Without Permits

Weapons

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 Bill Could Increase Prison Sentences for Violent Crimes and Firearm Offenses in Ohio

A bill proposed in the Ohio Legislature is seeking to implement additional prison sentences for repeat violent offenders and those convicted of firearm offenses.

Senate Bill 97, which is sponsored by state Sen. Jim Hughes and Sen. Frank LaRose, will allow the state to actively decrease the number of violent repeat offenders, Hughes said. According to The Daily Advocate, Hughes said the bill would help protect members of society from violent crime.

The Violent Career Criminal Act would classify any adult who has been convicted of at least two violent felonies as a “Violent Career Criminal.” In Ohio, violent felonies could include kidnapping, assault, aggravated assault, voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, murder, homicide and robbery.

A  Violent Career Criminal could be someone who within the preceding eight years has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to two or more violent felony offenses that are separated by intervening sentences and are not so closely related to each other and connected in time and place that they constitute a course of criminal conduct.

After being labeled a Violent Career Criminal, if a person commits an additional felony offense, under the proposed legislation he or she would be sentenced to an additional two to 11 years of mandatory prison time upon the discretion of the sentencing judge.

According to the bill, if someone is convicted of a firearm offense and he or she already has a firearm conviction, the mandatory prison term would increase by 50 percent. Some examples of common firearm offenses in Ohio include:

If someone is labeled a violent career criminal, he or she would not be able to own a firearm, according to the proposed bill. They also would not have able to have, carry or use any type of firearm or dangerous weapon. Doing so could mean additional criminal charges and penalties.

Currently, a convicted felon in Ohio is not allowed to possess a firearm. According to According to Ohio Revised Code §2923.13, no person shall knowingly acquire, have, carry or use any firearm or dangerous ordnance, if any of the following apply:

  • The person is a fugitive from justice
  • The person is drug dependent or a chronic alcoholic
  • The person is under adjudication of mental incompetence or has been found to be mentally ill
  • The person is under indictment for or has been convicted of any felony offense of violence or the illegal possession, use, sale, administration, distribution or trafficking in any drug of abuse

The charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon is classified as a felony of the third degree. This charge, if convicted, comes with a presumptive sentence of up to 5 years in prison, fines of up to $10,000 or both.

If this bill passes, offenders could face even harsher penalties and more extensive prison sentences. The best way to avoid these drastic consequences is to avoid a conviction. If you are charged with a violent offense or a firearm crime, contact an experience Columbus criminal defense attorney.

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.

Proposed Bill Seeking Cell Phone Restrictions for Drivers

Ohio drivers could have new restrictions when getting behind the wheel if a bill seeking to ban cell phone use in some areas and make texting while driving a primary traffic offense gains support in the legislature.

House Bill 637, sponsored by State Representative Rex Damschroder, would prohibit the use of any electronic wireless communication device in a school zone during hours when children are present and in a construction zone during hours of actual work.

This means drivers would not be allowed to talk on the phone or use a handheld electronic device for any reason in those areas. Texas and Arkansas already have banned cell phone use in school zones. Illinois also banned cell phone use while driving in both zones before banning it all together.

The proposed bill also would make reading or writing a text-based message a primary offense for all drivers. For example, if a person is stopped at a red light and he or she decides to send a text message, the driver could be ticketed if a law enforcement officer witnesses it.

The traffic offense would be considered a minor misdemeanor. The penalties for the offense could include a fine of $150 and a class seven driver’s license suspension. Under this suspension, an Ohio driver may lose the right to legally get behind the wheel for up to one year.

The proposed law is slightly different from what the state currently has in place. As of now, texting while driving in Ohio is a violation, but it is a secondary offense for adults. This means drivers must be stopped for another offense before they can be ticketed for illegally texting.

For instance, a driver cannot be pulled over only for texting while driving.  Because it is a secondary offense, the driver must be suspected of committing a primary offense, such as speeding or reckless operation, before he or she could be stopped. Once stopped, a ticket can be issued for texting while driving.

Currently there are several instances in which texting while driving laws do not apply. These also would be exempt under the new law. A person using a device for emergency purposes would not be ticketed. The emergency purpose could include contacting law enforcement, a hospital or a fire department.

Drivers who use handheld communication devices in the course of his or her duties in a public safety vehicle, such as a law enforcement officer, and those who use devices for their jobs while operating commercial trucks also would not be included in the texting while driving ban.

Some people have been concerned this bill will conflict with drivers who use their mobile devices for navigation. However, the new bill, just as the existing law, would exclude drivers from facing texting while driving charges if he or she is using the device as a GPS.

The accusation of texting while driving can carry a heavy social stigma as law enforcement agencies throughout the country try to decrease the use of electronic devices while driving. Proving the crime can be hard, and a criminal defense attorney can help you build a defense.

For more information about the proposed legislation, read House Bill 637 here.

Proposed Bill Could Require More People To Register As Sex Offenders

A bill proposed in the Ohio legislature last month could require people convicted of public indecency to register as sex offenders if children were their intended targets.

Sen. Tim Schaffer, R-Lancaster, introduced Senate Bill 358 in September in response to an incident earlier this year in Baltimore, Ohio, according to Cleveland.com. Police caught a 46-year-old man flashing school buses from the window of his second story apartment. The man stood naked in front of his window as students left the school, the website reported.

An act of public indecency is a crime that typically is committed “for the thrill” of the experience. However, law enforcement takes it very seriously and it can be either a misdemeanor or a felony offense. Ohio Revised Code 2907.09 classifies public indecency in three ways:

  • Exposing private parts or sexual organs
  • Participating in sexual conduct or masturbation
  • Engaging in activity that appears to be sexual in nature
  • A person could be charged with public indecency if he or she committed any of those acts. However, a conviction could be harder to achieve. The prosecution would have to prove the act was done purposefully, or even recklessly.

    A public indecency conviction under Ohio law currently does not require registration on the state’s Sex Offender Registration and Notification system. However, Senate Bill 358 would add “purposely” exposing one’s private parts and the other two offenses — if children were the targets — to the list of offenses requiring registration as a Tier I sex offender.

    There are three different types of sex offenders in Ohio, and they are classified in tiers based on the offenses that were committed. The requirements for registered sex offenders differ depending on which tier they are classified under.

    Sex offenders under Tier I are required to register for 15 years. They must report to the local sheriff’s office and re-register once a year. They will not be subjected to neighborhood and community notification, in which a form is mailed to all neighbors letting them know that person is a registered sex offender.

    When an individual registers as a sex offender, he or she is required to provide the local sheriff’s office with their full name, address, a picture, details of the offense they committed and other relevant information. That person also must report where he or she works, all vehicles he or she owns and any email address in his or her control.

    The label of a sex offender is a serious punishment and it could include a lifetime of repercussions. In Ohio, those who have been registered as sex offenders will have a series of restrictions that could affect their ability to find a job, secure safe housing and even have quality personal relationships.

    If the bill earns support before the end of the legislative session in December, there could be major changes to the way public indecency cases are handled. The state could see an increase in people being listed as sex offenders. All criminal charges should be taken seriously, especially if the result could mean a lifetime of limitations.

    For more information about the proposed legislation, view Senate Bill 358.

    Proposed Bill Could Change Sentencing for Low-Level Felonies in Ohio

    Judges in Ohio could have more leeway in sentencing low-level felons to prison time rather than probation and treatment programs if a proposed bill gains support and makes its way through the legislature this session.

    State Rep. Nick Barborak introduced House Bill 251 nearly a year ago, according to cleveland.com, but the measure still has not made its way to the House floor for a full vote. The bill has been controversial and some people have opposed it, including Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Director Gary Mohr.

    The proposed bill would give judges throughout the state more leeway in sentencing people who are charged with low-level felonies. Currently, judges are required to offer probation to non-violent, first-time offenders charged with fourth- and fifth-degree felonies instead of a prison term. The bill would end the requirement.

    Under the proposed bill, if a person is charged with a fifth-degree felony and he or she is a non-violent first-time offender, there could be a threat of prison time as a penalty, rather than probation and alternative programs.

    Although the sentencing in each case is unique to that situation, this change could have a major impact for those facing charges. People convicted of low-level drug crimes may no longer receive treatment and probation. Instead, they could be forced into the prison system.

    However, there are some specifics outlined in the bill. For example, when sentencing for possession of a controlled substance, if the amount of the drug involved equals or exceeds 10 grams but is less than 20 grams, the court must comply.

    The requirement was part of the state’s overall sentencing reform which was instated in 2011 with the goal of reducing prison populations. Mohr said part of the reason he cannot agree with the proposed bill is because the incarceration rate was at an all time high in July 2014.

    Mohr testified before the House Judiciary Committee saying the costs to incarcerate a prisoner are continuing to increase. He said he cannot support a bill that potentially could send more people into the prison system when funds are being depleted.

    Incarceration is a hot topic issue throughout the country. Some people argue too much money is being spent on housing prisoners when there could be treatments available. Authors of the bill, according to its analysis, think the change would protect the public from future crime by punishing the felon appropriately.

    If this bill earns enough support before the end of the legislative session in December, there could be big changes in the way criminal cases are handled in Ohio. Criminal charges always should be taken seriously, especially if the charges could result in a felony conviction. It is important to seek legal counsel immediately and contact an Ohio defense attorney who can help.

    For more information about the proposed changes, view House Bill 251.

    White Collar Crime and Fraud in Ohio

    This week a former resident of Dublin, Ohio plead guilty to multiple charges involved in a massive fraud scheme, including money laundering, wire fraud, filing false tax returns and other white collar offenses. His scheme, involving false investments in real estate, totaled over $10 million. This situation is obviously an extreme case, but white collar crime is not uncommon, and there are many different types of fraud charges that individuals can face.

    Many of the potential fraud offenses that could be brought against a person are considered federal offenses. These often carry steeper penalties and higher fines.

    One of the more common federal crimes is known as wire fraud. This charge includes any instance of a person fraudulently using wired serviced, including telephones or internet that crosses state lines. Situation involving this offense can vary greatly, but they can include making fraudulent purchases on the internet or using either the internet or phone communications to falsely gain a profit.

    Money laundering is a charge which is often paired with other offenses. When an offender gains large amount of cash through illegal means, they sometimes turn to money laundering to funnel the money into their accounts for use. Money laundering is the transformation of criminal proceeds into ostensibly legal profits. This is sometimes achieved through false business practices or other fraudulent manipulation of records.

    Another of the most common white collar offenses is identity theft. This crime involves using another person’s personal identification for profit or to defraud a victim. In today’s world of technology, this is becoming increasingly common through website hacks, theft of a person’s credit card, call phone, or other means of taking advantage of electronic purchases. This offense could be pursued on a state or federal level, depending on the severity of the incident and amount of loss in question.

    Other types of white collar crime that carry serious penalties include:

    • -Embezzlement
    • -Tax evasion
    • -Extortion
    • -Forgery
    • -Insurance fraud
    • -Racketeering
    • -Engaging in Corrupt Activity
    • -Mail fraud

    The potential penalties of these offenses vary greatly depending on the amount of money in question, the offender’s prior history, and other factors. A conviction could mean decades in prison or hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.

    Because the federal government is likely to step in on many situations, and situations can quickly involve multiple charges, it can be very difficult to fight a white collar crime accusation. An attorney who is experienced in both state and federal courtrooms can be imperative in facing these types of fraud offenses.

    The Basics of Extradition Procedures in Ohio

    Although extradition is not an issue faced by the majority of those arrested, the process is unfamiliar to most people. With a daunting scenario hanging over the heads of those threatened by this process, it can be confusing to understand what extradition involves.

    Extradition is a process that occurs when an individual is transferred to another state where that person has a warranted issued against them. This procedure can be lengthy and require a large amount of time and resources for the government. That is why, although extradition can be employed against any individual wanted by another state, it is usually only fully realized against those wanted for felonies or other serious offenses.

    The state procedures for extradition are outlined in Ohio Revised Code §§ 2963.01 – 2963.35, and these rules generally follow those set forth in the United States Uniform Extradition Act(UCEA). The UCEA is a measure taken to standardize the extradition processes of each state in an effort to minimize confusion and clerical errors. The steps followed by each state may vary slightly, but most of them follow the ones listed in the UCEA, which generally include these stages:

    -State requesting fugitive issues valid arrest warrant
    -Requesting state’s governor or entity of equivalent authority issues valid formal written request
    -Accused is arrested and provided due process rights such as an attorney
    -Accused is given option to waive right to due process through extradition waiver
    -If accused refuses waiver of extradition, court examines case for sufficient supporting facts and legal compliance
    -Requesting state must take custody and transport the accused within 30 days of the extradition waiver or supporting fact hearing

    Due to the expensive and lengthy process of extraditing an individual, courts are often eager to consider alternative to this scenario. A criminal defense attorney can seek out this other options on your behalf, such as pretrial intervention, seeking to dismiss the charges against you, or negotiating your voluntary appearance in exchange for withdrawal of the extradition request. Having an experienced defense lawyer on your side can be imperative when facing the possibility of extradition.

    New Database Offers Insight Into the Civil Impact of Criminal Convictions in Ohio

    One of the many unfortunate consequences of being a convicted felon is the hardship it places on finding suitable employment. Ohio has recently reformed state sentencing statutes and many advocates for ex-offenders are concerned about the collateral sanctions that create barriers for ex-offenders who are seeking employment to support themselves and their families.  Collateral sanctions range from losing a driver’s license to not being eligible for a job to not being able to serve jury duty. The main argument is that it is unfair to ban convicted felons from the workforce because of the negative effects it can ultimately have on neighborhoods and communities in the form of Increase in crime, social services, welfare, food stamps.

    Many jobs in Ohio are legally off limits to many ex-offenders, mainly convicted felons, such as certain state agency positions, construction positions, and even positions that they are trained in while they are incarcerated  such as heating, ventilation, and air conditioning work because they can’t get licensed  to work in those industries.

    The Ohio Justice and Policy Center in Cincinnati has recently launched a new database called the Civil Impacts of Criminal Convictions under Ohio Law or CIVICC, that allows the general public, offenders, defense attorneys, prosecutors and judges to see how felony and misdemeanor records affect the employment possibilities and other opportunities for those who are convicted. One of the goals of the database is to educate lawmakers on the impact of collateral sanctions and to ignite reform.

    The database will allow people to search for a crime or job titles to see the impact. The database is currently in beta form and available on line at http://civiccohio.org. The Toledo Bar Association, Ohio State Bar Association and the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction are sponsoring the database and lending their support.

    There are approximately 1.9 million people living in Ohio with a felony or misdemeanor record and a reported 24,000 state prison inmates that are released back into their communities. A major issue supporters of the database are hoping to address is that many offenders are unaware of how their criminal records will prevent them from getting certain jobs. Another focus is to educate offenders even before they plead guilty to offenses where they have no clue of the lifelong employment consequences of that plea.

    With this new database your Columbus criminal defense attorney can effectively advise you on the best avenue to take regarding the plea would best benefit you in the short and long term. The difference between pleading guilty to a felony and pleading guilty to a misdemeanor can greatly affect your job opportunity outlook in the future. A knowledgeable defense attorney could potentially argue for lesser charges or dismissal, which could in turn eliminate the threat of the many collateral sanctions that are mentioned.