by Bill Davis
Last summer, millions of dollars in taxpayer money were spent in response to protests that turned violent throughout Ohio. A bill proposed in the Ohio Senate looks to make sure those responsible will pay for it.
Senate Bill 41, currently being discussed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, calls for restitution from those who are convicted of property damage during riots, including vandalism. The restitution would pay the expenses of police and emergency crews who have to respond to riots. The bill also allows the government to take possession of any property left behind by those who end up convicted.
State Senator Tim Schaffer, R-Lancaster, is sponsoring the bill. Lou Tobin, the Executive Director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, offered his support before the committee recently.
“(This bill) provides a clear legal authority and a mechanism for governments and governmental agencies to recover at least some of the costs related to events like these so that the taxpayers are not stuck with the bill,” Tobin said. “While events like those that we witnessed last summer are hopefully exceedingly rare, prosecutors would appreciate the opportunity in the future to seek to recover the costs of damages to their communities from such acts.”
The bill creates a process through the court system to determine if restitution is necessary. Any event that leads to a public safety response would be eligible. The government must provide an itemized list of costs to a judge, who then must determine if any restitution should be paid. This hearing must be held before the criminal’s sentencing.
The costs for this measure aren’t known, but having more cases before judges will increase judiciary costs. The sentencing phase may take longer in some cases, and additional hearings may be required if restitution is challenged.
Some of the cost can be absorbed by the other part of the bill, which allows the government to seize property. After any potential threat, government agencies may take possession of any items left behind. Although there is a cost to store and/or dispose of this property, selling these items in auction will recover some of the expense.
– – –