The Reagan Tokes Act, signed into law in December 2018, went into effect on March 22, 2019. This new law allows judges to give indefinite sentences with minimum and maximum ranges for people convicted of 1st or 2nd degree felonies. The person’s ultimate sentence would be determined based on their behavior while incarcerated.
The purpose of the Reagan Tokes Act is to curtail violent offenders from leaving prison too soon and committing further criminal acts because the person was not yet rehabilitated. The new law gets its name from Ohio State University student Reagan Tokes, who was raped and murdered by a convicted sex offender. Her murderer had dozens of infractions while incarcerated.
What is Indefinite Sentencing?
Indefinite sentencing is a prison sentence that consists of a range of years (ex. a prison sentence of 4 to 8 years). This is contrasted with definite sentencing, where a person receives a specific prison sentence (ex. 5 years). The idea behind indefinite sentencing is the hope that prison will rehabilitate some offenders and, for those that show progress towards rehabilitation, their sentence will be closer to the minimum term.
How Indefinite Sentencing Works in Ohio
Under the new law in Ohio (R.C. 2929.14), the prison term for a 1st degree felony must be an indefinite term with a stated minimum sentence of 3 – 11 years and a maximum term that is determined pursuant to R.C. 2929.144. The prison term for a 2nd degree felony must be an indefinite term with a stated minimum sentence of 2 – 8 years and a maximum term that is determined pursuant to R.C. 2929.144. If the person is being sentenced on one felony and the felony is a 1st or 2nd degree felony, the maximum term will be equal to the minimum term plus 50% of that term.
What that means is that if a person is sentenced to prison on a 1st or 2nd degree felony and the sentencing court imposes a minimum term of 4 years, the maximum term will be 4 years plus 2 years (50% of the minimum term), for a maximum term of 6 years.
If the person is sentenced to that term for a 1st or 2nd degree felony, the person may have their sentence reduced if the person has an exemplary record while incarcerated, or the person may have their sentence increased from the minimum term (4 years) to as much as the maximum term (6 years), or anywhere in between.
What if a Person is Being Sentenced on Multiple Felonies?
If a person is sentenced on multiple felonies, one of the felonies is a 1st or 2nd degree felony, and the court orders that some or all of the prison terms be served consecutively, the court must add all of the minimum terms imposed on the person for the 1st or 2nd degree felonies that are to be served consecutively and all of the definite terms that are not 1st or 2nd degree felonies that are to be served consecutively, and the maximum term will be equal to the total of those terms plus 50% of the longest minimum term or definite term for the most serious felony being sentenced.
This is a rather complex sentencing statute, so an example is necessary to understand what this statute is saying. For a person convicted of Felonious Assault as a 1st degree felony, 4th degree felony Burglary, and 5th degree felony Possessing Criminal Tools, that person could be ordered to serve a minimum 4 years on the Felonious Assault, 18 months on the Burglary and 12 months for Possession of Criminal Tools, all served consecutively.
For this sentence, you would add the 4 year sentence to the 18 month and 12 month sentences to arrive at 6.5 years in prison. This would be the minimum term of incarceration. The maximum term would be calculated by using the longest minimum term or definite term (4 years) and adding 50% of that term (2 years). In this situation, the person would have a minimum term of 6.5 years and a maximum term of 8.5 years.
Concurrent Sentencing for Multiple Felonies
If a person is being sentenced on multiple felonies, one of the felonies is a 1st or 2nd degree felony, and the court orders that some or all of the prison terms be served concurrently, the maximum term would be equal to the longest minimum term for the 1st or 2nd degree felony plus 50% percent of the longest minimum term for the most serious 1st or 2nd degree felony.
Using the example above, if the person is ordered to serve the prison sentence concurrently, the minimum term would be 4 years and the maximum term would be 6 years (the minimum term plus 50% of the minimum term).
Criticisms of the Law
A common critique of the new sentencing regime is that it is unnecessarily complicated and doesn’t provide much clarity for sentencing (see the above examples). However, besides this common critique, the new indefinite sentencing law in Ohio raises a number of other concerns.
First, there is a separation of powers issue as the law allows the Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (DRC) to determine the actual sentence of an offender. A court could impose 10 years on an offender, but if the offender has any violations while incarcerated, the sentence could be increased to as much as 15 years. Essentially, sentencing has been somewhat removed from the judiciary and placed into the hands of the DRC.
A second criticism is that offenders already receive a 5-15% reduction to their prison sentence if the offender is an exemplary inmate. It is not currently known how the new law will affect that reduction. What occurs with regard to mandatory minimum sentences and sentence reductions under the new law?
Finally, the new sentencing law could drastically increase the costs associated with housing offenders for indefinite sentences. The new sentencing scheme may increase the sentences by as much as 50% for many offenders, which will significantly increase the amount of tax dollars needed to effectuate this new sentencing structure.
Columbus and Delaware, Ohio Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in Columbus or Delaware, Ohio, contact Johnson Legal, LLC and speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Attorney David Johnson of Johnson Legal, LLC will discuss your case and assist you in fighting the charges. Call (614) 987-0192 or send an email to schedule a consultation regarding your criminal offense case.
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