The Ohio Sentencing Commission and the Ohio Criminal Justice Recodification Committee have recently proposed changes to Ohio’s sexual offender registration laws. These changes would give judges more discretion when sentencing people convicted of certain offenses. If the new changes are implemented, the current rigid mandatory requirements would be changed to a risk based approach for most offenses.
Ohio presently classifies offenders into three tiers (Tier I, II, and III). The tier level is based off of the underlying offense of conviction-meaning some offenses are Tier I offenses, others are Tier II, and the remaining offenses are Tier III. Tier III is the most severe category for the higher level offenses. Judges do not have discretion under Ohio law to alter an offender’s classification. They are bound by the law to impose the tier that corresponds to a defendant’s offense.
The proposed changes would keep the tier system but the number of Tier III offenses would be reduced. Only the offenses of aggravated rape or rape of a child, kidnapping a minor to engage in sexual activity, aggravated murder or murder with sexual motivation, and repeat offenses if already a Tier II or Tier III offender would require the imposition of Tier III registration (which is every 90 days for life and the potential for community notification.
One of the biggest proposed changes grants power to judges regarding whether a person is required to be a registered sexual offender. Under the new proposal, judges would have the discretion to impose registration requirements with respect to Tier I and II offenses.
Further, people who are required to register as sexual offenders would have the ability to petition courts for declassification after a specified number of years. Currently, only Tier I offenders have the ability to do so after serving 10 years of their 15 year requirement. The proposal also seeks to permit individuals currently registering to petition for declassification as well-so there is hope for individuals convicted prior to any potential change in the law.
The next step for any potential changes requires Ohio’s legislature to pass a bill implementing these recommendations. We will continue to monitor any proposals and law changes.