R.C. 2929.20: Judicial Release in Ohio

Ohio opened up the flood gates last year for early release options to current Ohio inmates. HB 86 (2011) expanded judicial release (among other avenues) to have an inmate's prison term re-considered in open court. A hearing must be held before a judge can grant judicial release ("JR"). Getting a hearing is not the easiest task for a lawyer. Determining if an inmate is eligible for JR requires some legwork and research as well.

For starters, the new law applies to any Motions for Judicial Release filed after September 30, 2011. When is an inmate eligible to file for JR?

Non-mandatory sentences less than 2 years: the inmate must serve at least 30 days in prison. All mandatory time must be served then the inmate must serve an additional 30 days before he/she can file.

Non-mandatory sentences 2 years or but less than 5 years: the inmate must serve at least 180 days in prison. Any mandatory time inside this sentence, the inmate must wait an additional 180 days after the expiration of the mandatory time.

Non-mandatory time is exactly 5 years: inmate must serve 4 years in prison. Any mandatory time, the motion cannot be filed until 4 years after the mandatory time has been served.

Non-mandatory sentence is more than 5 years but less than 10 years: an inmate may file after serving 5 years. If there is mandatory time, the inmate must wait 5 years after serving the mandatory time.

Non-mandatory sentence is greater than 10 years, the inmate may file the motion not earlier than the later of (1) the date on which he/she served one half of the "stated prison term" or (2) five years after serving any mandatory portion of the sentence.

A "Stated Prison Term" means the combination of all mandatory and non-mandatory prison terms imposed by the sentencing court.

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One big change is for the long prison terms. Inmates serving prison terms over 10 years are now eligible for JR. The eligibility date is partially determined by total non-mandatory time. In other words, JR does not shorten mandatory prison terms.

Once JR is granted, the inmate will be released and placed on local supervision (called community control) for a period of 1-5 years. The prison term is suspended pending successful completion of the community control terms and conditions. The offender will not have any post-release control (PRC) either. PRC is state supervision.

However, violating terms of community control opens the offender up to serving the remainder of the sentence. Then, upon release, PRC will be imposed for the specified period of time.

Judicial release eligibility determinations are complex. Also, these rules do not apply to all sentences. Finally, many offenses are excluded from consideration.

If the inmate is otherwise eligible, the court may decide this motion as follows:

a. Denied: if the court denies the Motion without a hearing and does not state "with prejudice", then we can file a subsequent motion. There are currently no time limits in the Ohio Revised Code.

b. Denied with Prejudice: then the court may not reconsider any further requests for JR. However, the court may still consider it on its own motion.

c. The court may decide to hold a hearing. The hearing must be held within 60 days of the filing or the court may extend this up to an additional 180 days.

d. A hearing can be held without the inmate being transported to court. An inmate will attend only if the court orders it.

e. If the motion is denied following a hearing, the court cannot consider any subsequent requests for JR.

f. The court can only hold 1 hearing.

g. If the Court holds a hearing and grants the request, then the offender will be placed on probation (community control) for 1-5 years.

The Koffel Law Firm accepts Judicial Release cases for non-clients. We do charge a fee to research the current law and the inmate's case file to determine eligibility. If you would like an opinion letter, please email Mr. Koffel personally: brad@koffellaw.com and put in the subject line "Judicial Release request for representation".