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Ohio Supreme Court Orders Non-Cash Bail As First Option For Courts

Ohio Supreme Court Gavel statue
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A big change is coming to Ohio’s court system starting July 1, as the state takes a step closer to getting rid of cash bail for people being held in jail.

New rules issued by the Ohio Supreme Court say the 28 counties with both multiple municipal courts and county courts must use a uniform bail schedule. For instance, the 13 municipal courts in Cuyahoga County and the county court would all have to agree.

The first option also must be releasing people on personal recognizance bonds.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor said defendants should be released on the least restrictive conditions possible that will ensure the person returns to face the charges against them.

“The only time that you would determine that pre-trial detention would be appropriate would be if there was a risk of flight, or there was a danger of harm to the community, the witnesses, maybe a victim, that sort of thing," O'Connor said.

O'Connor also noted this change comes after a few states have all but eliminated cash bail.

“We’re moving forward, we’re reforming. But I would not say that we’re particularly cutting edge here," O'Connor said.

Five of the justices agreed with those two new rules. Justices Sharon Kennedy and Pat DeWine dissented, writing that they didn't feel the court had the authority to order the uniform bail schedule.

O'Connor has been on board with bail reform for a while, along with conservative groups such as the Buckeye Institute and progressive groups including the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio. They've both advocated for changes to the bail system, saying it would be fairer to low-income people and could save tens of millions of dollars.

The recommendation to create a uniform bail schedule came from a task force report in 2019.