The penalties and punishments that follow convictions under Ohio law are complicated and frequently changing. The Ohio Senate is focusing its current efforts on changing the sentencing that corresponds to a serious crime, like a felony offense, when a gun is involved. After conducting a study about those individuals who allegedly commit violent crimes, the Senate believes it can significantly reduce violence on the streets by imposing new sentencing guidelines.
Under Ohio's current law, those accused of felony possession of a weapon or other gun-related allegations face anywhere between one to seven years in prison. The proposed law would double this sentence for a first-time offender to a sentence of two to fourteen years. The law would establish mandatory sentencing for repeat offenders. Those individuals with two previous violent felony convictions would face a minimum of 11 years in prison.
The new legislation clearly has significant impacts on the penalties that an alleged repeat violent offender faces. This change is consistent with other areas of the law, which carves out other rules and penalties for those who have prior convictions.
During criminal proceedings, prior convictions can be introduced to undermine the credibility of both witnesses and defendants. A fact-finder may infer that a witness or defendant is not being truthful in light of the prior conviction. Allowing the consideration of such information can clearly affect a case's outcome. Many times, this results in yet another conviction for a defendant who already has prior convictions.
Prior convictions are also relevant at the sentencing stage. Depending on the guiding law, a prior conviction may trigger certain mandatory penalties or it may be an aggravating factor that supports additional consequences.
The Senate's recent actions as well as existing law reveal that prior convictions can have a substantial impact on the penalties that a person can face. Interestingly, prior convictions are not always something that the judge or jury can consider. There are other legal rules that can prevent the introduction of prior convictions. However, the burden is often on the person wanting to exclude such information to appropriately raise these challenges. Therefore, it is essential that defendants accused of felonies utilize an attorney familiar with these challenges their ability to alter a case's final outcome in favor of their client.
Source: The Columbus Dispatch, "Bill targets repeat violent offenders caught with guns," Jim Siegel, April 30, 2013