Judicial Release Lawyer in Ohio

Judicial Release

Judicial Release is a way for an Ohio inmate to obtain early release from prison.

If you are seeking early release from prison through Judicial Release, we can help.

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This Judicial Release Guide will help you learn the basics of Ohio’s Judicial Release law. It sets out whether you are eligible, when you can file, how the filing process works, common mistakes, and what courts consider before ruling. Use this Guide to learn what we can do to help.

The path to judicial release is begun with the inmate or his attorney filing a motion for judicial release with an attached memorandum and supporting exhibits with the clerk of the common pleas court in the county in which he was convicted.

It is critical for the inmate put his absolute best efforts forward in those initial filings because if a judge denies the inmate’s judicial release motion with a notation that the denial is made “with prejudice,” then the inmate is forever prevented from filing for judicial release again. Because of that risk it is always better to go through an experienced criminal defense lawyer to seek judicial release.

An inmate is not eligible for judicial release if he or she is serving only a mandatory sentence. Rather, judicial release is only available to those inmates serving some non-mandatory time.

If judicial release is granted, then the remaining prison sentence is suspended, and the inmate is released on community control (local supervision) for a period of between 1 and 5 years. The person will then meet with the County’s probation department and determine the details of the supervision. If the person completes the community control, then the suspended time disappears completely. If he or she violates conditions of the community control, then sanctions can be imposed, and the Court can even re-impose some or all the suspended prison sentence.

Judicial Release gives judges a way to offer an inmate the opportunity to show he or she is ready to re-enter society through early release. Recently the path to early release has widened. Effective April 4, 2023, Section 2929.20 of the Ohio Revised Code, labeled “Sentence Reduction Through Judicial Release,” was amended to shorten the time before an inmate is eligible for early release. In some cases (for example when a non-mandatory prison sentence of less than 2 years is imposed), an inmate is eligible to apply for judicial release immediately after being transported to a state correctional institution. See Section 2929.20 (C)(1)(a) of the Ohio Revised Code.

Despite the new hope for sentence reduction through Ohio’s Judicial Release statute, its provisions are complicated. This is because the statute contains multiple exceptions and has eligibility requirements that are difficult to understand. Because of this, hiring an experienced judicial release attorney is the best option when seeking early release from prison. Consulting with the Law Office of James D. Owen, LLC can help avoid mistakes. To schedule a free consultation for a case review, call us today at (614) 547-5757, or contact us online here.

Table of Contents

When You Can File for Judicial Release in Ohio

If you were convicted of an offense eligible for judicial release, here are some guidelines to help determine when you may file.

  • If your total non-mandatory sentence is less than two years, your motion may be filed at any time after you have been in a state correctional institution – even the same day you got to prison. If your sentence includes mandatory time, your motion may be filed at any time after you have served the mandatory portion of your sentence. See Section 2929.20 (C)(1)(a) of the Ohio Revised Code.
  • If your total non-mandatory sentence is two years or more, but less than five years, your motion may be filed after you have served 180 days in prison. If your sentence includes mandatory time, your motion may be filed not earlier than 180 days after you have served the mandatory portion of your sentence. See Section 2929.20 (C)(1)(b) of the Ohio Revised Code.
  • If your total non-mandatory sentence is exactly five years, your motion may be filed after you have served four years in prison. If your sentence includes mandatory time, your motion may be filed four years after you have served the mandatory portion of your sentence. See Section 2929.20 (C)(1)(c) of the Ohio Revised Code.
  • If your total non-mandatory sentence is more than five years, but ten years or less, your motion may be filed after you have served five years in prison. If your sentence includes mandatory time, your motion may be filed five years after you have served the mandatory portion of your sentence. See Section 2929.20 (C)(1)(d) of the Ohio Revised Code.
  • If your total non-mandatory sentence is greater than ten years, you may file the motion not earlier than the later of (1) the date on which you have served one-half of your “stated prison term” or (2) five years after you have served any mandatory portion of your sentence. A “stated prison term” means the combination of all mandatory and non-mandatory prison terms imposed by the sentencing court. See Section 2929.20 (C)(1)(e) of the Ohio Revised Code.

Determining Eligibility for Judicial Release in Ohio

Section 2929.20 of the Ohio Revised Code governs your eligibility for judicial release. Determining your eligibility for judicial release can be complicated. You are not eligible, for example, if you are only serving a mandatory prison sentence. Rather, you must be serving some non-mandatory prison time. In addition, convictions for some Ohio offenses are not eligible at all for judicial release.

For that reason, you should hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to prepare and file a motion for judicial release for you.

Offenses Not Eligible for Judicial Release

Offenses Committed by Public Officials

An inmate is not eligible for judicial release in Ohio, if the person was convicted of certain felonies while the person held public office. Those ineligible offenses include Bribery, Intimidation, Retaliation, Obstructing Official Business, Obstructing Justice, Theft in Office, Having an Unlawful Interest in a Public Contract, and Engaging in a Pattern of Corrupt Activity. See Section 2929.20 (C)(1)(b)(i) of the Ohio Revised Code.

Also, an inmate is not eligible for judicial release in Ohio, if the person was convicted of certain felonies while the person held public office and the violation was related to the duties or actions of the person as a public official. Those ineligible offenses include Tampering with Records, Intimidation of an Attorney, Victim, or Witness in a Criminal Case, Perjury, and Tampering with Evidence.

Convictions Carrying Only Mandatory Sentences

An inmate is not eligible for judicial release in Ohio, if he or she is serving only mandatory prison time. Examples of offenses for which the sentence must contain mandatory prison time are listed below:

  • Murder and Aggravated Murder.
  • Certain Sex Offenses, including any rape conviction, and some sex offenses where the victim was less than 13 years old.
  • Assaults on Police Officers.
  • Assaults on Pregnant Women.
  • Violent felonies containing a repeat violent offender (RVO) specification in the indictment.
  • Engaging in a Pattern of Corrupt Activity when the most serious predicate is a first-degree felony offense.
  • Certain Drug offenses when required by statute or when containing a major drug offender (MDO) specification.
  • First and Second Degree Felony offenses when the prisoner has a prior conviction for murder, aggravated murder or any prior first or second degree felony.

As a side note, certain specifications to an offense carry a mandatory prison sentence. For example, a specification to an offense for possessing or using an automatic or silenced firearms carries a mandatory 6 year prison term; a specification for using, displaying, or brandishing a firearm in connection with an offense carries a mandatory 3 year prison term; a specification for possessing a firearm in connection with an offense carries a mandatory 1 year prison term; and a specification for wearing or carrying body armor carries a mandatory 2 year prison term. All of these mandatory sentences must be served consecutively to the prison term for the underlying offense.

Notwithstanding these eligibility requirements, judicial release may be granted at any time if an inmate (1) is not serving a life sentence, (2) does not pose a risk to the public, and (3) is officially certified by the Director of Rehabilitation and Correction as someone who is in “imminent danger of death, is medically incapacitated, or is suffering from a terminal illness.”

What Courts Consider Before Granting Judicial Release

Once a motion for judicial release for an eligible offense is timely filed, then the sentencing judge will consider a variety of factors when deciding whether to grant judicial release. For prisoners sentenced for first-degree or second-degree felonies, or for any drug offense, then Section 2929.20 (J) of the Ohio Revised Code requires the Court to reconsider the Seriousness of Crime and Recidivism Factors required to be initially considered during the original sentencing hearing. (See Section 2929.12 of the Ohio Revised Code). Those factors include:

  • The age and condition of the victim, and any physical, economic, and mental injuries
  • Whether the crime involved a breach of public trust
  • The likelihood that the offender’s conduct and public position would influence others
  • The relationship between the offender and the victim and whether this facilitated the offense
  • Whether the crime was committed “for hire”
  • Whether the offender was a member of an organized criminal group
  • Whether the crime was motivated by prejudice or hate based on the victim’s race, background, gender, sexual orientation, or religion
  • Whether the offense was committed by or against the parents of children, and the children witnessed the crime
  • Whether the victim incited or facilitated the offense
  • Whether the offender was provoked
  • Whether there was a specific intent to harm.
  • Any mitigating factors surrounding the offense that did not amount to a valid defense during sentencing.
  • Whether the inmate was on community control/probation when the current offense was committed.
  • The offender’s previous adult and juvenile criminal record or lack thereof.
  • Whether the inmate previously served in the military or suffered from PTSD after military service.
  • Whether the inmate has shown genuine remorse.

The reviewing judge must also permit the prosecuting attorney, victims, and anyone with relevant information an opportunity to be heard if a hearing is granted. The reviewing judge must consider (1) the independent victim impact statement, (2) the offender’s institutional summary report, which may include information about the offender’s behavioral violations, rehabilitative activities, education, and vocational training while incarcerated, and (3) any written statement submitted by a party concerning “the effects of the offender’s crime or crimes, the circumstances surrounding the crime or crimes, the manner in which the crime or crimes were perpetrated, and the person’s opinion as to whether the offender should be released.” Such statements may include those submitted by the offender’s and the victim’s family, friends, and co-workers.

The Filing Process to Obtain Judicial Release in Ohio

The way to apply for judicial release in Ohio is by filing a written pleading entitled “Motion for Judicial Release” with an accompanying “Memorandum in Support” and any supporting exhibits with the clerk of the court that sentenced the prisoner. The prisoner can file the motion for judicial release on his or her own, but it is always better to have a lawyer prepare and file it. The sentencing Court is not required to appoint a lawyer to draft or file a prisoner’s motion for judicial release.

The key to a successful motion for judicial release is the written memorandum and supporting evidence attached to the motion. These should help explain to the Court why early release is appropriate in the prisoner’s particular case. It should not only address the applicable sentencing factors summarized above, but also explain to the judge what the prisoner has learned from the time already served in prison, or even the shock of having been sentenced to prison, that makes the inmate less likely to commit any future crimes. The judge considering the motion for judicial release will carefully review the inmate’s prison record. For that reason, the inmate should be prepared to explain any prison infractions in the written memorandum in support of the motion. This is because most judges believe a positive prison record indicates a likelihood of success on early release from prison.

Also, if the inmate has completed any prison programming, then that programming should be highlighted with an explanation about what the prisoner has learned from it. Any certificates that the prisoner has earned from the institution should also be attached.

The memorandum should also explain what the prisoner intends to do upon early release, including where and with whom the prisoner plans to reside, what family support the prisoner may have, and how the prisoner intends to find employment. Support letters from friends, family, and others should also be considered. Experienced lawyers can provide instructions for people willing to help by providing letters in support of early release so that each letter is as effective as possible.

In essence, the contents of the memorandum and attached exhibits should focus on why the inmate is likely to lead a law-abiding life and not reoffend if granted early release.

After the timely filing of a motion for judicial release with supporting memorandum and exhibits by an eligible offender, the court has several options. See Section 2929.20 (D) of the Ohio Revised Code.

First, the court may deny an inmate’s motion without a hearing. If so, the court may deny the motion “without prejudice,” meaning the inmate may file another motion for early release at a later time; or the court may deny the motion “with prejudice,” meaning the court will not consider another motion for early release. Because of the risk that the court may deny a motion for judicial release “with prejudice,” an inmate should make sure he does everything he and his lawyer can to properly support the motion with compelling reasons why early release is appropriate.

Second, the court can grant a motion for judicial release but cannot grant it without first scheduling and holding a hearing.

If a hearing is held on a motion for judicial release, it is required to be heard within 60 days after the motion is filed, but the court may delay the hearing for up to an additional 180 days. If a hearing is held then the inmate and his or her lawyer will be notified, but the inmate will attend only if the court orders it.

If the court grants the motion for judicial release, then the inmate is released from prison subject only to conditions of community control imposed by the court.

Third, the court may deny an inmate’s motion for judicial release following a hearing. If the motion for judicial release is denied after a hearing, then the court cannot consider a later judicial release motion. Again, for that reason, it is critical for the inmate and his lawyer to do the best job he or she can in explaining to the court why early release is appropriate in his or her case.

Common Mistakes Made in Filing for Judicial Release

Judges have substantial discretion in deciding whether to grant an inmate early release from prison. However, they have no discretion to grant judicial release if the inmate does not meet the requirements for early release set forth in Ohio’s Judicial Release Statute. Inmates and their families are often understandably eager to apply for early release from prison as soon as they are allowed. This frequently results in applications for judicial release that are either premature or legally ineligible. Filing too early or while an inmate is otherwise ineligible can be a fatal mistake because, as noted above, if a motion for judicial release is denied “with prejudice,” then the inmate is forever prohibited from filing a second motion. So, one mistake inmates occasionally make is filing a judicial release motion before he or she becomes eligible under the judicial release statute. Other common errors include:
  • Failing to address the inmate’s post-release plans, including where and with whom the inmate plans to live; how and in what field the inmate intends to seek employment (including any help the inmate may receive from others in the community where the inmate plans to reside); and what support the inmate may have from those outside of prison.
  • Failing to address any work history or programming the inmate received while in prison and what he or she learned from it.
  • Failing to address infractions contained in the Institutional Summary report submitted to the judge after the inmate files his motion for judicial release.
  • Failing to explain why the inmate is unlikely to commit another offense after being released from prison. The legal terminology for this contained in Section 2929.12 of the Ohio Revised Code, a statute that generally requires judges to balance applicable factors indicating an inmate is “not likely to commit future crimes” against applicable factors showing an inmate is more “likely to commit future crimes.” This may include an explanation about the circumstances that surrounded the offense, and an explanation about why those circumstances are unlikely to occur again.
  • Failing to discuss the issue of whether the inmate has shown genuine remorse for the offense.
It is important for the inmate to carefully review each of the 24 factors set forth in in Section 2929.12 of the Ohio Revised Code and address those favorable to him and to consider addressing those that do not support him in order to explain why they are outweighed by those favorable to him.

Denials and Re-Applications for Judicial Release in Ohio

Motions for Judicial Release denied without a hearing may also be denied “without prejudice.” Unless a petition states it is denied “with prejudice,” then it is denied “without prejudice.” This means an inmate may file a second judicial release motion. Judges will often deny motions for judicial release without a hearing but “without prejudice” when the motion is untimely, incomplete, or technically deficient. This allows the inmate to consult with an experienced Ohio judicial release lawyer to perfect and re-file a second motion for judicial release. However, motions denied after a hearing are always denied “with prejudice.” This means you may not file another judicial release motion. Also, you may not appeal a denial of a judicial release motion in Ohio because it is not considered an appealable order. There is seldom a more important hearing for which inmates need to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced judicial release defense lawyer such as Columbus, Ohio attorney James D. Owen.

The Benefits of Hiring Attorney James D. Owen to File for Judicial Release in Ohio

An inmate can increase his or her odds of obtaining early release from prison by hiring Columbus attorney James D. Owen to prevent mistakes and make a better case for sentence reduction. This is done through careful work in the preparation, drafting, filing, and litigation of the inmate’s motion for judicial release. Don’t waste a chance for judicial release by not taking advantage of a free case review and analysis. Hiring an experienced Ohio judicial release attorney can mean the difference between prison and early release on community control.</div

Incarceration is not the end for many inmates. Call attorney James D. Owen to review your case for the potential of early release from prison. To schedule a free consultation for a case review, call us today at (614) 547-5757, or contact our office online.