Ohio Legislation Updates
Responding to Sexual Assaults in Ohio
Ohio Sexual Assault Task Force Testimony, April 15, 2002, Lima, OH
By David Voth, Executive Director of Crime Victim Services, 419-222-8666, www.CrimeVictimServices.org
Our goal is to eliminate the evil of sexual assault crimes, and there is much more we can and must do in this battle. To reach this goal, I believe that funding adequate victim response efforts should be Ohio's highest priority, while also making needed legislative and prosecution enhancements, making offender treatment and sanction changes, and improving prevention efforts.
Legislative and Prosecution Enhancements
1) The legal definition of rape in Ohio should be expanded to include male victims. Currently, the rape law refers to "penetration," which often excludes male sexual assault.
2) The intentional display of parental nudity or masturbation, and the showing of X-rated sexually explicit film or print to their children should be a violation of Ohio sexual offense laws. This loophole can be fixed, while not criminalizing inadvertent and rare accidents in the home.
3) Sexual Imposition should be increased from a 3rd Degree to a 1st Degree Misdemeanor. The elements of the crime deserve additional punishment, and it is often a common "lesser included offense" during plea negotiations when felony charges are being dropped.
4) Ohio should create a "prosecution tracking" law, similar to the "preferred arrest" statute, which was written for law enforcement officers responding to domestic violence crimes. In felony sexual assault complaints, vertical prosecution should be practiced so that each case is assigned to a single prosecutor. The prosecutor must document what actions were taken to determine the charges, prepare the case for hearings, Grand Jury, and trial, and report the reasons for the manner of disposition of the case. The prosecutor's file must include any comments submitted by the victim, the assigned investigator, and Rape Crisis Victim Advocate regarding the case handling and disposition. Future sexual offenses of a defendant should accumulate in the prior prosecutors file.
5) Ohio should immediately pass pending legislation to comply with the federal Jacob Wetterling Act. The Act requires expanded sex offender registration and monitoring, and its passage would allow Ohio to receive millions of dollars withheld by the federal government for victim and justice programs due to federal penalties for non-compliance.
6) Similar to other medical procedures, regulations for Emergency Rooms should standardize requirements for training and availability of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners and related forensic equipment. Hospitals not in compliance should be barred from treating sexual assault victims.
Offender Treatment and Sanction Changes
I am not an expert on sex offender treatment programs. I have seen offenders' lives changed by family and victim interactions, and I believe rehabilitation programs underestimate those influences to change hearts and minds. Of course, outside controls on offender behaviors, such as improved assessment, sanctions, and monitoring, are part of the rehabilitation effort. Some sexual offender treatment programs appear successful, but serve few offenders and rarely promptly. The causes of sexual offense crimes vary in seriousness and diagnosis, but offender restoration efforts should include meaningful family and community support persons of the offender, sanctions of the justice process, moral and spiritual values, as well as appropriate "Victim Impact Panels" and other victim interactions. Treatment programs should be measured by the change in offenders conduct, and whether or not they live a life free from power and control behaviors exhibited violently, sexually, and illegally.
Improving Prevention Efforts
I do not operate prevention programs, but I believe that every school in Ohio should have an elementary age Child Assault Prevention Program and a teen program addressing dating violence and interpersonal respect. Prevention programming should also include effective public education on offender punishments, the trauma to victims, and the harm to all the families involved.
Funding Victim Responders is the Highest Priority
Money is the key to helping victims. We don't close emergency rooms to operate disease prevention programs, and likewise the highest priority should be for direct victim response. In addition, intervening and assisting victims early will reduce the high rate of repeat victimizations.
Money can pay for the best Ohio victim response personnel to become expert, professional, and long-term advocates for the needs of sexual assault victims. We know the epidemic level of sexual assaults are primarily to females under the age of 18, with large percentages of males and adults also victimized, yet Ohio has a disjointed and inadequate response for all these victims and the secondary victims. This is primarily a funding issue, not just a legislative, offender treatment, prevention, or local coordination issue. Funding is far from adequate for sexual assault victim assistance.
Money is needed in every county to pay for specialized:
- Rape crisis counselors to respond to 24 hour crisis lines and 911 calls;
- Staff to coordinate evidence protocols and Task Forces;
- Training for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, physicians, and EMTs to assist victims and protect forensic evidence;
- Experts to train criminal investigators, prosecutors, and judges;
- Crisis counselors, therapists, and support groups to provide hope and healing (including victims who do not report to law enforcement and do not have cases prosecuted);
- Victim Advocates to assist juvenile victims and their families after children services closes the case when the child is determined not to be in jeopardy;
- Rape Crisis Center outreach efforts at colleges and with under served populations (males, sexual orientation, language barriers, Amish, rural, etc.);
- Victim Advocates to assist with victim rights through a flawed response and justice system;
- Victim Advocates to assist with rape exam, family, health, and compensation concerns; and
- A state office to do research and "best practice" studies to improve all areas of response to victims, and for this office to monitor compliance of state and local protocols and the implementation of victim rights and services.
As Director of a victim assistance program, which serves all types of crime victims, I testify again that sexual assault survivors in Ohio are most in need of funding for victim assistance and advocacy. The crime of sexual assault is also in critical need of evidence collection and prosecution improvements, legislation to close loopholes, better offender rehabilitation, and increased prevention efforts. Ohio should be a state where everyone knows that sexual assault is an intolerable wrong, is extremely harmful, is credibly investigated and severely punished, and where we prioritize healing for victims while not neglecting to provide opportunities for restoration and monitored reintegration for offenders.
Thank you for allowing me to present some of my recommendations to help create the Ohio in which I want to live. I am happy to answer questions and to discuss these issues further.
Priority National Victim Issues in Ohio
- All state-wide victim organizations, including domestic violence, sexual assault, victim advocacy, MADD, POMC, Prosecutors Association, and Sheriffs Association are on record supporting the proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution for victim rights.
- Most federal advocacy efforts have been related to the re-enactment of VAWA, advocating for increased VAWA funding after the "surprise" reduction of VAWA funds from the publicized authorization levels, and discussion about whether VOCA funding is "safe" with the Congressionally imposed cap in place.
- Some discussions have taken place regarding the need for Ohio to pass the Interstate Compact Act for Adult Offender Supervision.
- Restoring funding for the Family Violence Prevention Services Act (FVPSA), which is part of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), from 117 million to 175 million.
Priority Ohio Legislative Issues
- ACTION Ohio and Ohio Domestic Violence Network (ODVN) - Ohio's two domestic violence coalitions have coordinated the fight against budget cuts in "Ohio Domestic Violence Baseline Funding" which has been reduced to about $750,000. (The governor's budget was originally at a reduced amount of about $820,000 and for a while the amount was eliminated).
ACTION Ohio is considering prioritizing the creation of state legislation which would parallel the federal language banning the ownership / possession of guns by convicted batterers in order to facilitate local prosecutions.
ODVN supports Sen. Austria's legislation to provide Domestic Violence Shelter immunity to shelter staff and volunteers from death of injury to a victim while the staff is doing their normal duties and reasonable protection procedures were followed. ODVN also supports Sen. Furney's legislation to include a domestic violence exception for TANF (welfare) funds. Another issue is working with the Family Violence Prevention Center at the Office of Criminal Justice Services to create a process to protect the confidentiality of addresses and create an exemption (a privilege) for confidentiality of Victim Advocate / client conversations. ODVN also is working on improving the stalking law and civil and criminal protection orders. Recently, a Pike County Victim Advocate was charged with "Obstruction of Official Business" for following normal procedures to protect a domestic violence victim and her children. This is an important issue.
- Ohio Victim Witness Association (OVWA) is prioritizing the creation of legislation which would close a loop hole in the public indecency law to include family members who intentionally expose themselves to a minor child when in a state of sexual excitement. Other legislation of special interest to OVWA members is SB 91 which will require prosecutors to consult with victims prior to plea negotiations (currently it is consult when "practical"), provide automatic referrals of prosecutors to attorney disciplinary boards when victims rights are violated, and require consultation and notification of victims for judicial hearings to reduce sentences. Another issue of interest is Am. Sub. S.B. 3 to require Sex Offender Registration and Notification of juvenile delinquents while 14 years of age or older and clarify that county Sheriffs sex offender registration information is a public record.
Some ongoing issues discussed at OVWA include advocating certain policies in prosecutors offices: a) There be no pleas or dispositions without a victims agreement - unless the elected Prosecuting Attorney determines it is in the interest of justice; b) "Vertical prosecution" be prioritized to reduce errors, miscommunication, & victim trauma; c) That victims losses from all charges be included in pleas involving restitution.
- Mothers Against Drunk Driving has prioritized the passage of .08 Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) in Ohio as the threshold for "drunk driving."
Victim Assistance and Legislation needed in Ohio & U.S.
- Mandatory restitution
- Sexual assault victims are particularly lacking in specialized services and 24-hour victim assistance, "customer friendly" (SANE) medical response, and recognition of sexual assault as a serious crime deserving investigation & prosecution
- Identity theft victims are growing in number and complexity
- Cyber stalking & sexual videos / photos on the Internet (mini-cams are a problem)
- Specialized counseling for domestic violence, sexual assault, & homicide survivors
- Elder abuse & fraud due to the aging U.S. population
- 24 hour crime scene response / death notification / early trauma counseling
- Re-victimization prevention (not crime prevention). The greatest predictor of future victimization is a past victimization.
2010 -- HB 10 Protection Orders for Violent Juvenile Relationships
HB 19 Dating Violence Education/School District Responsibilities
SB 77 Extended DNA testing of Criminals
2009 -- HB 392 Develops a Next of Kin database for notification of death/injury
2008 -- SB 17 Enhancement of Operating Motor Vehicle Impaired LAws- Increase penalties for repeat offenders, vehicular immbolization. Develop a State registry of habitual OVI/OMVI offenders
HB 562 Prohibits public officlas from asking or requiring polygraph of victims of alleged sex offenses
2007 -- SB 10 Revision of SORN Laws to include mandates of Federal Adam Walsh Act
SB 97 Development of statewide database for sexual offenders
State of Ohio vs. Carswell - Supreme Court of Ohio rules that domestic violence laws for unmarried person do not violate the Constitution's Ohio Defense of Marriage Act
2006 – SB 17 (ORC 2151.421) requires members of the clergy to report suspected sexual abuse, and church officials and staff members who fail to report known abusers are guilty of a first-degree Misdemeanor. The law extends the civil statute of limitations for such victims to file suit up to 12 years after reaching age 18.
2006 – HB 108 (eff. May 17, 2006) Extends Victim's Rights Law to include misdemeanor victims injured by driving under the influence. It allows rights for victims whose injuries are not apparent at the scene or who later receive treatment relating to the crash once they discover their injuries and notify the prosecutor or court.
2004 - SB 50 (eff. January 8, 2004) Revises Ohio's domestic violence law, including:
a) Adds to the list of offenses involving family or household members which enhances a second domestic violence charge to include: negligent assault; criminal damaging and endangering; criminal mischief; burglary; aggravated trespass; endangering children; and any offense of violence, and similar municipal ordinances and laws from other states;
b) Increases the second offense penalty to a 4th degree Felony if the offender has one prior conviction / plea of the above listed offenses, and increases the penalty to a 3rd degree Felony for two or more of the above listed prior offenses;
c) Enhances the repeat domestic violence threat offense (Misdemeanor 3rd degree) to a Misdemeanor 2nd degree for a prior conviction of an offense listed above, and to a 1st degree for a third offense if convicted of two or more offenses listed above;
d) Modifies the penalty for violation of a protection order to a Felony 5th degree if convicted of a prior violation or two or more offenses of aggravated menacing or menacing, and enhances the penalty to a 3rd degree felony if the offender violates a protection order or consent agreement while committing a Felony crime;
e) Expands the list of offenses for which a court may issue a Temporary Protection Order (TPO) to include any act of violence involving family or household member, and for which the court must consider certain factors in setting bail when a person is charged with any offense of violence.
2004 - HB 490 ( eff. April 3, 2003 and Sections 1 and 2 effective January 1, 2004) Revises
2003 – Ohio Rules of Evidence, Rule 615, was amended to allow victims, as defined in the Ohio Constitution, to be present in criminal proceedings, even when a witness in the case (as provided in the Victim Rights Law, ORC 2930, in which the judge must make a finding that a victim's presence would (not could) cause an unfair trial).
2003 - SB 8 ( eff. August 29, 2003) The Acyber-stalking@ law. Expands the current stalking law to computer postings and electronic communications and inciting third parties to commit stalking. It clarifies that a victim does not have to actually receive psychiatric or mental health treatment, and it adds a number of triggers in which the first offense is a Felony 4th Degree - such as use of a weapon and threats (and adds that in these cases the second offense is a Felony 3).
2003 - SB 5 (& part of H.B. 433), effective July 31, 2003, "Megan's Law" strengthened the state=s Sexual Offender Registration and Notification (SORN) requirements, created a statewide Internet database of sex offenders (including photos), provides victim notifications, and makes registration lists an Aopen record. Some of the provisions include:
a) Renames Achild-victim oriented offenses@ certain crimes against children not committed with a sexual motivation that currently subject offenders and delinquent children to the SORN law
b) Provides a penalty for offenders failing to send a notice of intent to reside
c) Clarifies that habitual sex offenders or habitual child-victim offenders in other states are habitual sex offenders or habitual child-victim offenders under
d) Clarifies that SORN community notification in multi-unit buildings can be with postings at entryways or directly to each resident
e) Prohibits an offender who is subject to the SORN law from establishing a residence within 1,000 feet of any school premises and permits landlords to evict offenders in that zone
f) Eliminates from Aimportuning@ a prohibition that the Supreme Court found unconstitutional.
g) Habitual Sex Offenders must register for life (currently it is 20 years) and child rapists must also register for life.
h) Removes the ability of courts to reduce lifelong registration of offenders, and requires out of state sex offenders to register in
i) Requires all released ASexually Oriented Offenders@ from the Dept. of Correction to have a court screening for SORN status.
j) Expands the definition of Asexually oriented offenders@ to include sexual imposition, importuning, and voyeurism.
k) Adds the offender=s school and some employment places to the registration information.
2003 - HB 548 ( eff. March 31, 2003) (ORC 2903.213... & 2919.27...) Revises the existing "no filing fee may be charged the petitioner" for protection orders (civil and criminal for domestic violence and stalking) to include any "connection with the filing, issuance, registration, or service of a protection order or consent agreement, or for obtaining any certified copy of a protection order or consent agreement," including any orders from other states, and the filing of domestic violence charges.
2003 - HB 95 (& Senate Bill 89), effective for crimes on or after July 1, 2003, revises
a) Increases funeral expenses to $7,500;
b) Allows lost wages up to $500 per victim ($2,000 maximum) to attend hearings;
c) Provides crime scene clean up and repairs up to $750;
d) Expands family member definition to include household members who are also related;
e) Caps attorney fees up to $2,500, (max. of $150.00 per hour) for protection & custody orders;
f) Provides benefits in death cases to the estate of the victim as well as for minor dependents of a deceased victim for economic loss or counseling even if the adult had a criminal history.
g) Limits counseling awards to $7,500 per claim and $2,500 per family member;
h) Establishes a minimum award of $50;
i) Clarifies that contributory misconduct reductions apply to the $50,000 maximum award;
j) Requires medical providers to provide records to the compensation program at no charge.
2003 - Drunk Driving Bill (eff. July 1, 2003) (ORC 4511.19... & 1547.11...)
2003 - SB 123 (eff. Jan., 1, 2004) Revises
2003 - SB 208 (eff. April 9, 2003) Reversed the Ohio Supreme Court (AHoman Decision@) ruling which required law enforcement to use Astrict@ compliance in field sobriety tests, and now the law reverts back to the prior term of Asubstantial@ compliance.
2003 - HB 510 ( eff. March 31, 2003) Requires confidentiality of victim information in Pre / Post Sentence Investigation (PSI) and Offender Background Information (OBI) collected after incarceration, but allows their use for penological and rehabilitative purposes, and provides that disclosure of this information to treatment programs, halfway houses, etc. must remain confidential. The bill amends many O.R.C. sections, including 2951.421, 1901.33, 2301, and Criminal Rule 32.2.
2003 - Ohio Supreme Court Aprotection order@ case (September 24, 2003, decision) State vs. Lucas, # 01CA00100 from Licking Co. [100
2003 - The Justice League of
2002 - The Ohio Supreme Court ruled in January, 2002, that specific instances of a victim=s prior violent conduct are not admissible to prove that the victim was the initial aggressor in an altercation in which the victim was killed, although general reputation or opinion testimony about the victims violent character could be introduced (State v. Barnes, 94 Ohio St. 3d 21 (2002).
2002 - Domestic Violence Shelter Immunity Bill (S.B. 131) effective August 15th, 2002 (O.R.C. 2305.236). The new law provides shelters with some liability protection if a victim, staff, volunteer, or others present are injured or killed by an offender when the shelter took reasonable precautions to avoid the likelihood of harm. A definition of Victim Advocate and crime victim service organization are included. AVictim Advocate@ means a person from a crime victim service organization who provides support and assistance for a victim of a crime during court proceedings and recovery efforts related to the crime. ACrime victim service organization@ means any organization that is not organized for profit and that is organized and operated to provide, or to contribute to the support of organizations or institutions organized and operated to provide, services and assistance for victims of crime.
2002 – H.B. 8 (eff. Aug. 5th, 2002) Internet Child-Porn Bill (O.R.C. 2305.236 & 2305.239). This new law ensures that the definition of Amaterial@ in the Sex Offense Laws includes any computer images or communications.
2000 – S.B. 9 (eff. March 8, 2000) The Court must consider as an aggravating factor in domestic violence, aggravated assault, felonious assault, or assault when the offense was committed in the sight or hearing of the offender’s or victim’s child. The bill may also have the affect of making child custody or unrestricted visitation more difficult for domestic violence abusers.
2000 – HB 80 (eff. June 6, 2000) Drunk driving offenders with three DUI convictions in the last six years will forfeit their car, rather than have it impounded.
2000 – HB 153 (eff. July 1, 2000). Ohio Attorney General’s office will operate the Victim Compensation program, including both investigations and determinations of award amounts. The Court of Claims only deals with final appeals. Other changes include:
a) Eliminate $7.50 filing fee.
b) Provide direct payment to service provider or victim
c) Allow payments for survivors and family of homicide, sexual assault, domestic violence or life-altering injuries.
d) Allow prompt payment to victims in emergencies.
e) Expand eligibility to non-violent felonious conduct, except drug traffickers.
f) Disqualifies misdemeanor domestic violence and child endangering offenders convicted in the last ten years.
g) Allows payment of property taken as evidence & crime scene clean up costs.
Amendments include using the Victims Compensation Fund to:
a) Pay for rape kits used by hospitals for evidence collection, instead of billing law enforcement or municipalities;
b) Provide a one-time transfer of $2.5 million to Ohio Dept. of Health Rape Prevention and Intervention grants for 24 hour sexual assault crisis lines and hospital, response, for local sexual assault protocols to reduce the epidemic rate of evidence loss, and for training Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners across
c) Allow victims of Felony 1st degree crimes prior to 1976 to apply for a one year window (Anne Rosemond Law)
1999 - Criminal prosecution of certain felonies is extended from six to 20 years. The law was expanded to include: kidnaping, rape, sexual battery, voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, corruption of a minor, gross sexual imposition, compelling prostitution, aggravated arson, aggravated robbery, robbery, aggravated burglary, burglary, aggravated riot, felonious or aggravated assault if the victim is a peace officer, or conspiracy or attempt to commit, or complicity in committing one of these offenses. The 20 year statute of limitations applies to offenses committed on or after March 3, 1999, as well as to offenses committed prior to the effective date if the statute of limitations of the old date has not expired. (O.R.C. 2901.13 - Eff. 3-9-99)
1999 Stalking Law changes.
1) Menacing by Stalking, a misdemeanor 1st degree, is enhanced on a second offense to a felony 5th degree regardless of whether the offenses involved the same victim. Multiple convictions of telephone harassment, regardless if the same victim is involved, is also a felony (except when there are only threats to property). (Eff. 3-30-99)
2) Stalking is enhanced to a Felony 4th degree for any of the nine factors listed in Section (B)(2), including priors, use of threats, trespassing, victim is a minor, history of violence, had a weapon, under protection order, serious damage to property, or prior mental illness. Bail may be denied (ORC 2937.222(A)) when stalking is a felony. The Criminal Stalking Protection Order has been expanded to include “the alleged victim or a family or household member of an alleged victim,” who may request the order, must then be protected, and must be provided a copy of the protection order (2903.213(A) to (D) & (G) and 2919.26(A) to (D), (G), &(I). (eff.10-27-99)
1999 - Penalty for hit and skip drivers is increased to a felony. Drunk drivers were leaving the accident scene for two hours and then turning themselves in, since leaving the scene was a lesser crime than being tested and convicted for a DUI. (O.R.C 4511.75, 4549.99 - Eff. 3-22-99)
1998 - A new Civil Stalking Protection Order allows a
1998 - Due to problems with judges dismissing domestic violence cases against the prosecutors wishes, the law was amended so that a judge does not have the authority to dismiss criminal charges solely at the request of the complaining witness. (O.R.C. 2931.03- Eff. 3-17-98)
1998 - More than just felony crime victims are protected from being sued by their perpetrator in cases where the criminal gets injured. The new offenses include victims of: Assault, Aggravated Menacing, Menacing by Stalking, Menacing, Inciting to Violence, Riot, Inducing Panic, Domestic Violence, and Intimidation of a victim, a witness, or an attorney in a criminal case. (O.R.C. 2307.60, - Eff 8-5-98)
1998 - Victim Compensation claims are confidential when such records were exempt from public disclosure while in possession of the creator of the record. For example, counseling records are confidential with the therapist, so now they also remain confidential when provided as part of a Victims Compensation Claim. (O.R.C. 2743.51, 2743.56, 2743.62)