Senate Bill 288 Signed Into Law By Governor Mike DeWine

Senate Bill 288, which was introduced on February 22, 2022, has been signed into law by Governor Mike DeWine. The new law makes wide-ranging criminal justice reforms to Ohio’s existing criminal laws. Effective from early April, the new law makes some of the most impactful changes to Ohio’s criminal code in recent years. Here is a brief summary of some of the sweeping changes introduced by the new law:

  • The new law takes a tough stand on distracted driving. It makes distracted driving a primary offense and forbids drivers from using, holding, or physically supporting” a cellphone. It also allows the police to stop drivers solely for using or holding a mobile while driving. There are some exceptions to this new law such as using the mobile on speakerphone or using it while stopped at a red light.

Speaking about the new law, DeWine said, “This bill is about a lot more than pulling people over and handing out tickets,” DeWine said. “It’s about changing the culture around distracted driving, and normalizing the fact that distracted driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving.”

  • It broadens the circumstances under which Ohioans can get their criminal records sealed or expunged.
  • Strangulation, which was earlier considered a “misdemeanor” will now be considered a “felony” offense, ranging from a fifth-degree felony to a second-degree felony.
  • Criminalizing the use of own sperms by health providers without taking the patient’s consent or knowledge.
  • For those who are caught drinking beer or liquor while being under 21 years of age, the new law reduces the punishment to 60 days in jail and $500 in fine from 180 days in jail and $1,000 in fine.
  • It also broadens the “Good Samaritan Law” that exempts people from arrest or prosecution if they seek medical attention for an overdose, whether on their own behalf or for someone else. However, to avail this benefit, the person getting such legal immunity should be referred to addiction treatment within 30 days.
  • The new law decriminalizes the use of “fentanyl” test strips. Known as “drug paraphernalia,” it is used to test substances for the opioid.
  • It increases the punishment for disrupting a religious service to one year in jail and $1,000 in fine from 30 days in jail and $250 in fine.
  • In incidents where the victim of an “aggravated vehicular homicide” is an emergency medical worker or a firefighter, the new law imposes a prison sentence of minimum five-years on the convict.
  • The new law will also allow city law directors or prosecutors to expunge low-level marijuana offenses. Further, arrests or convictions from possessing marijuana paraphernalia will not show on Ohioans’ criminal records.
  • The new law also expands Ohio OVI laws and forbids driving under the influence of “harmful intoxicants.”