State v. Ware Decision Will Impact Judicial Release in Ohio

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Today the Ohio Supreme Court released a decision that detrimentally impacts judicial release in Ohio for every offender who pleads guilty to an offense that carries mandatory time. State v. Ware (11-26-14).

The question presented to the Ohio Supreme Court was whether or not an offender could apply for judicial release after the mandatory minimum time has been served. The court concluded that Mr. Ware was not eligible for judicial release because his entire prison sentence was mandatory, although the trial court intended to impose a sentence that would have allowed the defendant to apply for early release after he served his mandatory minimum time. This type of sentence is commonly referred to as a "hybrid sentence."

This case could jeopardize sentences involving aggravated vehicular assault, aggravated vehicular homicide and certain drug possession and drug trafficking cases.

In the Ware decision, the defendant pled guilty to a 2nd degree felony drug trafficking carrying a mandatory prison term. The mandatory minimum time was two years. The judge gave the defendant 4 years. The judge intended to consider judicial release after the mandatory minimum time had been served.

The Ohio Supreme Court made it clear that a prisoner cannot apply for judicial release until after the expiration of all mandatory prison terms. The court concluded that all four years of his prison sentence was mandatory and the trial court could not change this result by later expressing its intent to impose a different hybrid sentence.

It should be noted that this case does not impact any prisoners who are serving time on non-mandatory prison sentences.

The Koffel Law firm is currently researching any distinguishing features from this case and offenders who are serving prison sentences and expecting judicial release.

This reinforces how critical it is that defense attorneys negotiate non-mandatory prison terms for their clients. If the prosecutor would not object to judicial release, then the defense must enter a guilty plea to a non-mandatory prison term offense.