Ohio felony sentencing laws place most Ohio crimes into five classes. These range from the lowest (fifth degree felony) to the highest (first degree felony). This article will focus on the basic sentencing scheme. This article will not discuss specialized Ohio felony sentencing laws, such as the death penalty, life imprisonment, and mandatory additional prison time. Rape and murder are crimes that fall into such specialized Ohio felony sentencing laws.
State v. Bess, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that Ohio law tolls or stops the running of the statutes of limitations when the offender purposefully avoids prosecution. This applies to crimes that had not yet been charged or even discovered, as long as the offender purposefully avoids prosecution. In this case, Bess learned in 1989 that he was being investigated for raping a young girl. He fled to Georgia and assumed a false identity in order to avoid prosecution. He was indicted later that same year. He remained in Georgia until he was arrested in 2007 and returned to Ohio. During trial preparation, the prosecutor interviewed the girl’s brother and learned for the first time that he too was raped by Bess. A second indictment charged Bess with that rape. Bess was convicted. While there was no question that the State of Ohio could try Bess for rape of the girl, the real question was whether he could be charged and convicted of a crime eighteen years after he purposefully fled to avoid prosecution. The Ohio Supreme Court said that he could be charged and convicted in this manner because he purposefully fled the jurisdiction to avoid prosecution. (more…)