Attorney General Candidate Advocates Drug Sentencing Reforms
Democratic Attorney General candidate David Pepper visited Columbus in August and urged Ohio state legislators to consider overhauling sentencing rules for low-level felons. Unlike the typical sentencing reforms lawmakers tend to advocate, which often involve doing away with strict mandatory sentencing, Pepper proposed that judges have more leeway to sentence low-level felons to prison instead of probation.
The measure, included in House Bill 251, would address the issue of drug dealers who avoid serious prison sentences by carefully following possession guidelines. These dealers are aware that if they keep their possession of narcotics under the bulk amount, they will face less severe criminal charges if arrested. Many will only serve probation and continue to deal, furthering the drug problem in Ohio communities. Meanwhile, the users who they supply are the ones who are routinely arrested with larger quantities, and thus face harsher penalties.
If passed, the bill would offer judges an opportunity to impose their own punishments and target drug dealers for prison time. This would more harshly punish drug dealers, which Pepper argues would result in a reduction of the amount of drugs on the streets. It would also send a message than dealers cannot game the system through minimal possession strategies.
HB 251 has been stalled in the Ohio House of Representatives for nearly a year. However, two GOP members support the legislation, giving it some potential for passing the Republican-controlled chamber. It also comes at a time when the state is dealing with serious prison overcrowding problems, which have some wondering if it’s wise to begin incarcerating even more people at this time.
If you’re facing serious drug crime charges in Cuyahoga, Lake, Lorain, Medina or Summit counties, speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney at the Law Office of Gregory S. Robey.