Enacted in March of 2019, the Reagan Tokes Law allows for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) to object to the release of inmates convicted of certain violent crimes upon completion of their minimum sentences, sometimes triggering part or all of longer, maximum sentences.
This week, on March 16th, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled 4-3 to overturn the decision of the Toledo-based Sixth District Court of Appeals which required a burglary convicted felon, Edward Maddox, to wait and complete his minimum sentence before challenging the constitutionality of the aforementioned law. This ruling granted him the ability to immediately challenge the constitutionality of the Tokes law; the law that could prolong his current incarceration.
The majority for this decision consisted of Chief Justice O’Connor, and Justices Melody Stewart, Jennifer Brunner, and Michael Donnelly. They maintained that no further information would be developed if such an appeal were delayed until the ODRC decided whether to try to apply a longer sentence. Duplicative litigation could occur from such a delay, potentially violating the constitutional rights of inmates like Maddox.
In his dissent, Justice DeWine noted that the Court can only decide cases in which someone has suffered an “injury in fact.” DeWine’s contention is that Maddox’s case is based on events that may never even take place. Under settled precedent, courts are not permitted to decide speculative claims (like Maddox’s); the injury must be “imminent or certainly impending,” according to the Justice.
The Maddox case is not alone in challenging the legality of Tokes Law. Andrew Mayle, Maddox’s representation, said he will likely ask the Sixth District to put the revised sentencing appeal on hold while the Supreme Court hears the other cases in the hopper challenging the law’s constitutionality.
This highly anticipated decision of Ohio Supreme Court on the constitutionality of Tokes law could result in a substantial impact on how criminal cases are handled and defended moving forward.
For more information, visit the Supreme Court of Ohio.
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