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Ohio AG: Judges should consider public safety when setting bail

gavel on a book with money laying underneath
Sasun Bughdaryan

Ohio voters could make a change to the state's rules on bail. Some lawmakers are proposing a constitutional amendment that would require judges to take public safety into consideration when setting bail.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters supports the effort. He says it's critical for the safety of citizens.

"If you want to know the predictor… of future behavior, it's past behavior. These guys keep doing the same thing over and over again. This isn't a secret, and the judges need to have the ability to stop it," Deters says.

Ohio's Supreme Court ruled in January the sole purpose of bail is to ensure someone's appearance in court, and public safety should not be a factor. The case originated in Hamilton County after an appeals court lowered bail for one of two suspects in a murder case, saying it was so high as to be unconstitutional. Four of the seven justices upheld the decision.

State Attorney General Dave Yost says since that decision, judges are favoring a defendant's presumption of innocence over public safety. "We do not serve one at the expense of the other. We need to do both."

Yost held a news conference Tuesday morning to announce the effort to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot.

"I think that it's absolutely appropriate for the judge to be weighing that set of circumstances against the safety of the community," Yost says. "The presumption of innocence doesn't mean the pretense that the person is harmless."

The proposed amendment needs support from 60 representatives and 20 senators to make it on the November ballot.

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio ever since.