By Brad Koffel
In Ohio, a sentencing judge has the unique power to grant early release from prison under certain circumstances and conditions. The governing statute is Ohio Revised Code section 2929.20. In Ohio, it is called "Judicial Release" ("Judicial" or "J.R.") and has been in existence since July 1, 1996. Prior to 1996, it was called Shock or Super Shock Probation.
The general rule is that a 5th degree and 4th degree felony offender can petition for judicial release between the 30th day and the 90th day from the time the offender reaches prison, not from the date of sentencing. For 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree felony offenders, the motion can be filed 180 days after the offender has entered prison, not from the date of sentencing.
The Nuances of the Judicial Release Statute are as follows:
If the stated prison term is exactly 5 years, the motion can be filed 4 years or more after the offender starting serving the prison term.
If the stated prison term is more than 5 years but not more than 10 years, the motion can be filed once five years of the stated prison term have been served.
If consecutive sentences are ordered for multiple counts, the time for filing the motion for Judicial Release is calculated from the time the offender reaches the state prison to serve the entire sentence. The consecutive sentences do not effect calculation of time for Judicial Release.
Now, if the offender is sentenced on a mandatory prison term crime, the time to calculated the filing of the motion for Judicial Release does not start until the offender has served all of the mandatory prison time. If an offender receives a sentence beyond the mandatory minimum time, it is our professional opinion that the time to file starts after the mandatory minimum time expires.
For 1st and 2nd degree felony offenders, the original sentencing standards set forth in R.C. 2929.13(D) apply in determining whether or not Judicial Release is appropriate. The sentencing judge must weigh the likelihood of recidivism, the impact on the offender of the time spent in prison, and whether or not community control (formerly known as probation) would demean the seriousness of the offense(s).
Who is not eligible for Judicial Release?
An offender who receives a prison term greater than 10 years is not eligible to petition for Judicial Release.
Public officials who commit certain felonies are not eligible for Judicial Release.
How to Petition for Judicial Release / Timing of Holding a Hearing:
Once the statutory time period has elapsed, a felony offender may petition for Judicial Release by filing a written motion. The judge may deny the motion without a hearing within 60 days of the filing of the motion which preserves the offender's eligibility to petition. However, if the judge marks the Entry "With Prejudice", then the offender can no longer petition for Judicial Release. A judge cannot grant Judicial Release without conducting a hearing and notifying all the parties. A court will only hold one hearing for an offender. We refer to this as a "One and Done" hearing.
If the judge is going to grant a hearing, the hearing must be held within 60 days from the filing of the motion. However, the judge can delay the hearing up to an additional 180 days. If the judge holds a hearing, the decision must be made within 10 days of the hearing. It is required that the judge receive and review an "Institutional Summary" of the offender prior to granting a motion for Judicial Release. This report will contain the efforts the offender has taken while institutionalized to improve himself or herself. Victims of the crime have a right to be heard at the Judicial Release hearing.