Ohio rule says nonmonetary bail should be judges’ 1st choice


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Non-cash bonds must be the first choice for judges when setting bail conditions for releasing defendants from jail, under a new rule adopted by the state Supreme Court.

Court justices adopted the rule last month from 2019 recommendations by a court task force examining change to the bail system.

The rule makes nonfinancial conditions of release — such as personal recognizance appearances — a priority. It directs judges to release defendants “on the least restrictive conditions” that still guarantee defendants’ appearance in court and protection of public safety.

The rule expands on requirements last year requiring judges to use the smallest amount of monetary bail when setting cash bonds.

“These latest changes expand both the fairness and the public safety in our system,” said Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, a longtime proponent of reducing reliance on cash bail. Critics of cash bail say it sets defendants back further by costing them jobs lost while behind bars and cutting them off from family support.

The court voted 5-2 in favor of the rule, with justices Patrick DeWine and Sharon Kennedy dissenting. Kennedy said she believed the move was unconstitutional.

“This action by the majority strips the General Assembly of oversight authority expressly provided to it by the Ohio Constitution,” Kennedy said.