Governor John Kasich, on December 19th, passed into law SB 361 which makes, “it a little harder to unwittingly commit a crime,” according to an article written by Elizabeth Brown on reason.com.
The law is, “aimed at shielding individuals and small businesses from prosecution when they accidentally or unknowingly break one of the state’s myriad rules, regulations, or criminal statutes.”
This is a wonderful step for Ohio. Finally legislation that puts trust back into the individual rather than the common mentality of “guilty until proven innocent.” This is a small, but positive move forward for the legal system for Ohio.
According to the article, “In recent years, states across the nation have seen an upsurge in the size and scope of their criminal codes, paired with an ever-growing labyrinth of rules and regulations that increasingly criminalize ordinary conduct,” stated Manhattan Institute heads Isaac Gorodetski and James R. Copland at Economics21. “Ohio’s SB 361 will provide a template that other states should embrace” to counter this trend of over-criminalization.
Legislators must, now, explicitly specify the “degree and mental culpability (responsibility for a fault or wrong)” for an individual to be guilty of committing a “newly-created” crime. This means that any new legal codes, regulation, or law must be written with explicit terms as to when and how someone breaks the law on purpose. Otherwise, not knowing that one is breaking a law or regulation is not enough evidence to prove that the person is guilty and deserving of punishment.
For “existing” crimes, the legislation specifies, “individuals with no intent to do harm or no knowledge of their action’s criminality cannot be guilty unless the criminal statute specifically says intent is irrelevant or strict liability is ‘plainly indicate(d)’. In the absence of such indications, ‘the offense is established only if a person acts recklessly.’”
“This important shift will not affect the prosecution of conduct traditionally thought of as criminal—crimes relating the public safety and public order—but it will limit the use of the inefficient criminal-justice system to enforce mundane regulatory offenses. As such, the Ohio legislation will promote good stewardship of taxpayer resources and will encourage both entrepreneurship and volunteerism by removing the threat of prosecution that has hung over Buckeye State residents,” stated Isaac Gorodetski and James R. Copland at Economics21
Portions of this article were quoted and adapted from the article, “Ohio Just Made It a Little Harder to Accidently Commit a Crime.”