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Judicial Release and Your Rights

Prison inmates in Ohio might have an opportunity for early release provided they are eligible for it, and if they can navigate their way through section 2929.20 of the Ohio Revised Code. A criminal defense attorney in Medina, Wooster or North Canton who is familiar with the process of sentence reduction through judicial release can help an inmate determine eligibility, prepare the application to the original sentencing court and explain the conditions imposed by the program if the applicant is granted early release.

Judicial Release

Judges in in Medina, Wooster or North Canton retain the authority to grant early release to individuals they who were sentenced to serve time in prison. Besides the extensive eligibility requirements that prisoners must meet in order to be able to make an application for judicial release, the program should not be looked upon as a form of “get out of jail free card."

The granting of judicial release comes with conditions that, if not met, can send a person back to prison to serve out the remainder of the original sentence. The time a person spends outside of prison under a judicial release does not count against the sentence, so a violation of the conditions of release puts the person back in prison with no reduction in the remaining time they must serve. Judicial release suspends the time a person serves, but it does not reduce it.

Two Recent Changes to Judicial Release

The legislature made two key changes to judicial release in 2011 that made more inmates eligible to take advantage of it. First, changes to 2929.20 of the Revised Code removed the eligibility restrictions on inmates with sentences that exceeded 10 years. The second change set an inmate’s eligibility date to the non-mandatory portion of a sentence.

The changes to the law apply to any application for judicial release filed after September 30, 2011. The date of the crime or the original date of sentencing are no longer factors in determining eligibility for judicial release.

Eligibility

A person from Medina, Wooster or North Canton serving a mandatory term of imprisonment is not eligible for judicial release. Only inmates who have completed the mandatory portion of their sentence are eligible to file for judicial release.

An inmate whose criminal activities took place while holding public office or were directed against witnesses might not be eligible if the crime is one of those specified in Revised Code section 2929.20. Some of those crimes include:

  • Bribery
  • Intimidation
  • Retaliation against a witness
  • Corruption
  • Record tampering

When to File for Judicial Release

An eligible inmate may file a motion with the court asking for judicial release only within certain periods of time based upon the non-mandatory time they are serving. Once the mandatory portion of a sentence is completed, an inmate may file for judicial release at the following times:

  • If the non-mandatory sentence is less than two years, an inmate can file after serving 30 days of it.
  • If the non-mandatory sentence is at least two years, but less than five, the inmate must serve at least 180 days of it before filing.
  • If the non-mandatory sentence is five years, an inmate must serve at least four years of it before filing.
  • If the non-mandatory sentence is more than five years, but is not more than 10 years, the inmate must serve five years of it before filing.
  • If the non-mandatory sentence is more than ten years, an inmate must wait until he has served the greater of one-half of the stated prison term or five years after completion of mandatory prison time before filing.

These times do not start running until the prisoner is delivered to the state correctional institution.

Decision by the Court

The motion for judicial release goes to the judge who originally imposed the prison sentence. After reviewing the motion, the judge can either deny the motion, in which case the inmate might be given the opportunity to refile the application at a later date, or the judge can order a hearing on the request for judicial release.

If the judge orders a hearing, the decision after the hearing can grant judicial release or deny it. If judicial release is denied after a hearing, the inmate does not have a right to refile at a later date or appeal the judge’s order.

If judicial release is granted in Medina, Wooster or North Canton, the inmate is released from custody and placed on probation for anywhere from one to five years. The time spent on probation does not count toward the individual’s sentence, so a violation of probation that leads to the person being returned to prison means that the remaining balance of the original sentence must be served.

Consulting with an Attorney

An inmate’s freedom is at stake when a motion is made for judicial release. If the judge in Medina, Wooster or North Canton orders a hearing on the motion, there is no certainty that the judge will allow the inmate to appear at it. The motion and the supporting documents might be the only opportunity an inmate has to convince a judge to grant judicial release, so getting it right the first time is essential. This is where an attorney who is familiar with judicial release can be of value.

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