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July 23, 2006

Well, this should be fun...

A couple of weeks ago Gov. Bob "Single Digit Approval Ratings" Taft signed a bill adding Sections 2152.202 and 2925.511 to the Revised Code, authorizing a court in a drug case (adult or juvenile) to order the offender to reimburse the state for the costs of the test which determined the substance was indeed narcotics. 

What's going to be fun is that the statute requires the court to hold a hearing on the matter.  How's the court going to determine what an individual test cost?  I gotta figure it's going to need a whole lot of information, like the cost of the equipment that's used in testing, how many tests they're used for, how long they'll last, what the salaries are for the people who do the tests...  and of course, you're going to have subpoena a whole boatload of records on that.  I can just imagine a hearing like that lasting for days.  What's more, the law specifies it's only for drug abuse offenders, not for drug trafficking offenses, and I'm not sure what sense that makes. 

Actually, I'm not sure what sense any of this makes.  There's been an apparent determination over the past few years that the cost of prosecuting offenders should be shifted to the offenders themselves.  While that has some superficial logic, there's also a penny-wise/pound-foolish aspect to it as well.  Few attorneys, let alone defendants, realize that court costs can easily run into  thousands of dollars, and current law allows the state to automatically deduct any costs due from money paid to an inmate, or even received from his family.  I talked to one client this week, who told me that he gets $17 a month from working in the prison laundry.  That $17 doesn't go into his commissary fund, it goes to the state to pay for the costs of prosecuting him.

The vast majority of the people who are sentenced to prison will eventually be released, and state policy seems to be to ensure that when they do, they'll be broke.  Given the obstacles already faced by an ex-con, this doesn't seem to be the most sensible way of reducing an already-high rate of recidivism.

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