Last month, the Ohio Supreme Court overturned a state law that required a mandatory prison sentence of five years for child molesters simply because there was evidence beyond the victim’s testimony.
The law applied to sex offenses against children under 13 years of age when other evidence -- such as witness testimony, a confession or DNA -- was also used against the defendant.
The court ruled 6-1 that the law, which did not require mandatory prison time for a gross sexual imposition conviction based only on victim testimony, was unconstitutional.
The Columbus Dispatch reported that there was no “rational basis” for applying the different sentences, and ruled that the law violated the defendant’s due process right and right to a jury trial, in situations involving a guilty plea.
“(Legislators have) unconstitutionally created two different sanctions to be imposed on offenders who commit the same crime-differentiated only by the quantity of the evidence presented to prove guilt," the court’s decision stated.
Ultimately, the court’s ruling means that people who were sentenced to prison under the law could be entitled to a new sentence. Individuals in this situation would be wise to contact and experienced criminal defense lawyer for advice.
The deputy director of the Policy and Outreach Division of the Office of the Ohio Public Defender told The Marietta Times that people who were sentenced under the law that was found to be unconstitutional should be sent back to their local courts to receive a new sentence.
That doesn’t mean that these individuals will be entitled to a new trial or will have their convictions thrown out, but they may be entitled to a shorter sentence if their original sentence followed the old law’s mandatory prison term.