Giant statue of pounding gavel outside Columbus, Ohio courthouse

In a year that can only be called 'unprecedented', it should come as no surprise that anti-bail zealots have taken to redefining reality instead of accepting it. You see, after suffering a clear defeat in their efforts to do away with Ohio's cash bail bonds system, the anti-bail Buckeye Institute decided that defeat and victory are the same thing.

Members of the Buckeye Institute had worked tirelessly to undermine the will of the people and convince Ohio lawmakers to toss a cash bail system that had worked just fine for more than 200 years. In its place, they hoped to install an already discredited risk assessment algorithm. That computer program would eliminate judicial discretion and set up a revolving door that would return countless dangerous individuals to the street without thought for public safety.

We Win Even When We Lose

One has to wonder what color the sky is that floats above the Buckeye Institute’s offices in Columbus. After changes to Rule 46 (which determines conditions for pretrial release) went into effect on July 1, 2020, BI minions were out in force declaring victory over the bail bondsman. But exactly what type of victory they allegedly secured remains a mystery.

According to the highly-paid lobbyists at the Buckeye Institute the revised Rule 46 mandates that their much-ballyhooed, but thoroughly discredited, ‘risk assessment algorithm’ - not cash bail - would now determine whether or not a defendant will be released while they await their court appearance. However, a quick reading of the revised Rule 46 makes it quite clear that is not the case.

What Rule 46 Actually Says

We hate to rain on the BI parade but the revised Rule 46 does not, in fact, give their corrupt little algorithm final say in whether a defendant is released. What it says is:

A defendant may be detained pretrial, pursuant to a motion by the prosecutor or the court's own motion, in accordance with the standards and procedures set forth in the Revised Code.

  1. The personal recognizance of the accused or an unsecured bail bond;
  2. A bail bond is secured by the deposit of ten percent of the amount of the bond in cash. Ninety percent of the deposit shall be returned upon compliance with all conditions of the bond;
  3. A surety bond, a bond secured by real estate or securities as allowed by law, or the deposit of cash, at the option of the defendant.

Apparently, BI lobbyists are not aware that judges have always had the ability to release the accused on their own recognizance, except in the case of some certain crimes specified by state or federal law. Those same lobbyists apparently neglected to read sections 2 and 3 which clearly state that bail may still be imposed in exactly the same manner as it has always been.

So where exactly is the Buckeye Institute seeing glorious victory? It’s hard to say. The text of their bogus victory proclamation did state that they were successful in removing ‘access to cash’ as the primary determining factor in whether a person was released. However, at no time in Ohio’s long history has ‘access to cash’ ever been on the books as a consideration of release. So it seems the Buckeye Institute created a legal injustice that never existed and then claimed they were victorious in removing that injustice. Cute.

The Buckeye Institute: Defeating Nonexistent Enemies Since 1989

The legal eagles at the Buckeye Institute also claim that they successfully beat back an Ohio law which gave judges the right to hold all accused felons without bail. If that were true we might congratulate them on righting an obvious injustice. The problem is, judges in Ohio have never had the right to hold any accused felon without bail. The only crimes where judges are allowed to hold defendants without bail were and are Aggravated Murder, Murder 1, Aggravated Vehicular Homicide (using your car to murder someone), and Felony OVI (Operating a Vehicle while Impaired). That’s it. So once again the Buckeye Institute claims victory over a non-existent enemy.

Just the Facts

The fact is, the Buckeye Institute lobbied long and hard for their beloved computer program to take the place of judges in the pretrial assessment process and were soundly defeated. All that happened was that language was added to rule 46 the suggested judges might want to consider what that computer program had to say when making their determination about whether or not to require cash bail. Importantly, they (the judges) are also free to totally disregard the electronic sputum of the BI’s algorithm. Which means the Buckeye Institutes wondrous victory amounts to little more than an additional piece of paper being added to the pile sitting on the judge’s bench. But hey, at least they defeated those awful laws regarding ‘access to cash’ and the holding of all accused felons without bail. Oh, wait...

The Bottom Line

The forces aligned against the age-old cash bail system in the US are well-heeled with countless media allies who are more than willing to spread their propaganda. As such it can be difficult for people in places like Adams County, Broomfield County, Weld County, and Denver - where the fight over bail bonding continues - to determine what is true. With everything going on in the country at the moment the last thing we need is for the Buckeye Institutes of the world to be successful in instituting their twisted, anti-victim agenda. Thankfully, most of their ‘victories’ so far have been largely in their head.