Ohio Legislature Passes Historic Default Mens Rea Bill
Lawmakers embrace fundamental reform to protect law-abiding Ohioans
Last night, the Ohio House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill (SB361) to protect law-abiding Ohio residents from the proliferation of criminal laws and regulations. The Ohio Senate had already unanimously passed the bill, championed by Senator Bill Seitz, earlier this month.
The Manhattan Institute has been a tireless advocate of default mens rea provisions since 2009 and has focused many of its efforts on Ohio. In June 2013, MI hosted a forum on overcriminalization in Columbus featuring legal and policy experts and a keynote address delivered by Justice Paul E. Pfeifer of the Supreme Court of Ohio. The following February, Isaac Gorodetski, deputy director of the Center for Legal Policy, co-authored an op-ed in the Cincinnati Enquirer on the need for a new default mens rea law in Ohio. This month, Director of the Center for Legal Policy James R. Copland testified before the Ohio Senate on the need for a new default mens rea provision.
Upon the bill’s passing, Copland said, “Chief among concerns about the proliferation of criminal laws --which we call ‘overcriminalization’-- is the erosion of traditional criminal intent standards. Too often today, individuals and small businesses can be criminally liable for accidentally violating regulations that do not involve self-evidently wrong conduct. The passage of legislation in Ohio to require that crimes have intent, absent clear legislative language to the contrary, is a landmark victory for citizens of the Buckeye State -- and the first of its kind in the nation.”