Is There Mandatory Probation in Ohio


My guess is Josh Puckett went to court for his sentencing expecting to get community control sanctions (aka non-prison term). After all, the highest level felony he pled guilty to was an F4 and the prosecutor was recommending community control. The judge in Muskingum County (Zanesville, Ohio) had another sentence in mind when he gave Mr. Puckett 24 months in an Ohio prison. Mr. Puckett appealed. Doesn't Ohio have "mandatory probation" on non-violent F4's and F5's? Not in the 5th District.

In the 5th District, if the trial judge writes the following magic words in his/her sentencing entry, all will be upheld on appeal:

["The Court has considered the record, all statements, any victim impact statement, the presentence report prepared, the plea recommendation in this matter, as well as the principles and purposes of sentencing under Ohio Revised Code §2929.11 and its balance of seriousness and recidivism factors under Ohio Revised Code §2929.12."]

I am not firmly convinced that this is what the legislature had in mind when it enacted HB 86 / SB 10 in 2011. Where is the trial court's facts to support a prison term? The record ought to be more than a recitation of statutory language. How can there be an effective appellate review? This case illustrates the way trial judges who disagree with SB 10 / HB 86 are getting around it. They are putting folks in prison without citing any factual reasons for overcoming a presumption of probation. Then, on appeal, the defendant-appellant must show an abuse of discretion. As long as the sentence is within the statutory range for each level of felony, the sentence will be sustained.

Ohio appellate courts are lost on this issue. We currently have a case from the 5th District that we are filing a Motion in Support of Jurisdiction on this exact issue in State v. Reynolds. Hopefully, the Ohio Supreme Court will take our case and force judges to follow the criminal reform of 2011.