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OHIO supreme court rules that consideration of “public safety” is not an allowable factor for setting the financial condition of a bond

On Behalf of | Feb 5, 2022 | Firm News |

When Judges set a Bond in criminal cases that permit an individual to be released from jail pending their case there are allowable “factors” that the judge may review and consider in determining what the amount of the bond should be. The focus of the bond is to ensure that the individual accused of a crime will come back to court for all required court hearings and trial. In the past, many judges have made a point of considering the level of danger to public safety that the court believes the individual poses to the public if released on bond and adjusts the amount of the bond to somehow “protect” the public. In some instances this can result in the amount of the bond required being so high that the individual is financially unable to post the bond and, hence, that ensures the public’s safety because the individual is forced to remain in jail. On January 4, 2022 the Ohio Supreme Court issued its decision in DuBose v. McGuffey, Slip Opinion No. 2022-Ohio-8.  In that case the Court ruled that this practice is not allowed, holding that “public safety not a factor for financial conditions of bail”. The Court recognized that Pretrial release not only makes it easier for an accused person to prepare a defense, it also upholds the presumption of innocence by ensuring that a person is not punished before being convicted, citing a much older case on bond known as Stack v. Boyle, 342 U.S. 1, 4, 72 S.Ct. 1, 96 L.Ed. 3 (1951). The Court further explained that the sole purpose of bail is to ensure a person’s attendance in court. State ex rel. Sylvester v. Neal, 140 Ohio St.3d 47, 2014-Ohio-2926, 14 N.E.3d 1024, ¶ 16. wherein the Ohio Supreme Court had previously stated that “Bail ensures appearance. Therefore, the conditions placed on it must relate to appearance and the reasons for forfeiture to nonappearance.” State ex rel. Baker v. Troutman, 50 Ohio St.3d 270, 272, 553 N.E.2d 1053 (1990). DuBose v. McGuffey, 2022-Ohio-8.

The importance of this decision is that by clarifying/revising this rule about setting the financial conditions of a Bond, the Ohio Supreme Court has made it clear that public safety is not an allowable consideration for the trial court to use in determining the financial conditions of the bond.  The Ohio Supreme Court was clear to indicate that it was not intending to minimize the importance of the safety concerns of the public (or the victim’s family in this particular case), but was merely recognizing that Ohio Criminal Rule 46(B)(2) requires that public-safety concerns be addressed by imposing nonfinancial conditions, such as restrictions on travel and association, completion of alcohol and/or drug-abuse treatment programs, and orders of no contact with witnesses, victims and others in the case.