Coronavirus (COVID-19) and its Impact on Criminal Cases

In light of COVID-19 and its unprecedented impact on our entire way of living, I will briefly discuss several temporary changes pertaining to Criminal Cases in Southwest Ohio, with special emphasis on Montgomery and Warren Counties.

  1. JAILS ARE LESS LIKELY TO ACCEPT NEW INMATES INTO THEIR FACILITIES. To slow down the spread of this pandemic, jail populations have been reduced to minimize the risk to staff and inmates.  It appears that only the highest risk offenders (violent offenders, history of fleeing) are being booked into the jails.
  2. COURTS AND JAILS ARE WORKING TOGETHER TO RELEASE OR SHORTEN THE SENTENCES OF INMATES CURRENTLY IN JAIL.

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Horwitz & Horwitz, LLC’s Response to Coronavirus (COVID-19)

We at Horwitz & Horwitz, LLC sincerely hope that everyone reading this message is taking whatever measures are necessary to keep themselves and their families safe and healthy during this uncertain time.

As a provider of legal services, HORWITZ & HORWITZ, LLC is deemed an “Essential Business and Operation” and exempt from the Ohio Director of Health’s Stay at Home Order requiring all non-essential businesses to cease all non-basic operations.  In essence, this Order recognizes that there are certain legal matters impacting the public that cannot be ignored until a date uncertain.  As a law firm that focuses on Bankruptcy and Criminal/Juvenile Law, we understand that the financial stress people are dealing with as a result of job loss or reduction in income or the stress of facing a criminal charge may be just as difficult as dealing with the health crises caused by COVID-19.

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The Reagan Tokes Act: Does GPS Electronic Monitoring of Parolees Give the Public a False Sense of Security?

It’s the kind of crime that stabs you right in your gut and stays there. A beautiful, vivacious OSU student is attacked, raped and murdered as she leaves her part-time job in Columbus, near campus. Her attacker is subsequently caught and tried for murder, requiring her devastated parents and sister to sit through and even testify at a heart-rending trial. Yes, he’s convicted and sentenced to life in prison. But sadly, that’s not the end to this story, as the family of Reagan Tokes sadly discovered.

The worst part of this story is that this monster was actually wearing an “ankle bracelet” GPS tracking monitor during the time of the offense – on early release from a past rape conviction of a young, pregnant woman. Despite being housed in a “re-entry” program for ex-offenders, his whereabouts were not being monitored by either the GPS provider or the housing center in real-time. Most of us naively believe that if someone on home incarceration wanders outside of designated areas, an alarm must alert authorities to the fact that the wearer is not where they are supposed to be. The Tokes family found out that’s a myth, something the perpetrator surely already knew. [Read more…]

Bankruptcy Help on the Way for Student Loan Borrowers

At long last, it appears that Congress is looking to help the millions of people saddled with student loan debt that they have no hope of ever totally repaying.   That help is coming through the bankruptcy laws being changed to make it possible to discharge (wipe out) those loans through bankruptcy proceedings.

Student loan debt has been a tremendous problem nationwide.  It is estimated that as many as forty-four million Americans owe more than $1.5 trillion in outstanding student loans.  That makes student loan debt second only to credit card debt as the highest category of debts owed by Americans.  The sponsor of the proposed legislation, Sen. Dick Durbin, hopes that it can be an escape clause for student loan borrowers who, he says, carry their student loan debts to their graves. [Read more…]

Ohio Legislature Amends Intervention in Lieu of Conviction (ILC) Statute, Broadening Eligibility

Intervention in Lieu of Conviction or ILC is a program in which an eligible offender charged with a low-level non-violent felony offense, who committed the offense due to drug or alcohol usage or mental illness or intellectual disability, has the opportunity to obtain a dismissal of the charge(s) after completing court-ordered treatment.  This is a huge opportunity for a person be rehabilitated, without having the stigma and complications resulting from a felony conviction.

Originally, ILC was limited to first-time offenders.  Through a series of amendments to the statute, ILC was made available to offenders with a prior non-violent felony conviction, but only if participation was recommended by the prosecuting attorney.  As you would expect, recommendations from the prosecuting attorney were often few and far between.  Furthermore, offenders who have already “been through” ILC in the past were ineligible to participate in ILC again in a subsequent case.

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What Is The Importance Of My Credit Rating?

Calculator and graphing paperYou are surely aware that the three major credit reporting agencies (CRAs), also known as the credit bureaus, have a lot of power over whether you can get financing for vehicles, homes, and other credit transactions.  But you may not know how the CRAs get the information for your credit report, or what your credit score really means.  Since consumer credit history, scores, and reports are extremely important in your life, you need to make sure that you understand them and what you can do about them if they are not reporting accurately.

When you apply for credit, the potential lender goes to the three main credit bureaus, (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion), to review your credit report.  There are many other CRAs as well, but these three have emerged as the primary sources of credit reports.  Your credit report contains information about your bill payment history, current loans and debts, and other financial information.  It usually also states your current address and the name of your employer, as well as past addresses and employers.  Finally, a credit report may include whether you’ve been sued in the past or filed for bankruptcy. Negative information about you can stay on your credit report for seven to ten years.

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Ohio Legislature Amended Nonsupport Statute to Negate State v. Pittman

In January 2017, I posted a blog article discussed December 23, 2016, in the case of State v. Pittman, 2014-Ohio-5001, in which the Ohio Supreme Court held that a person could not be criminally prosecuted for failing to make the payments set forth in an arrearage-only order issued after the date of his children’s emancipation.  The reason behind the decision was that the Nonsupport of Dependents statute, RC 2919.21(B), stated: “No person shall abandon, or fail to provide support as established by a court order to, another person whom, by court order or decree, the person is legally obligated to support.”  In determining the intent behind the statute, the Court focused on the word “is” to show the meaning, stating “RC 2919.21(B) is ambiguous.  It criminalizes a person’s failure to support – in the matter established by a court order – another person whom he is legally obligated to support.  Because the statute uses the present tense in the phrase ‘is legally obligated to support,’ a person charged with a violation must be under a current obligation to provide support.”

Thus, based on Pittman, a person who had a minor child and failed to pay a minimum $50 per month child support order and was $1,000 in arrears could be criminal prosecuted, while a person who had an adult child and no current child support order, but was $100,000 in arrears could not be prosecuted.

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Should a Chapter 7 Debtor Reaffirm on a Home Mortgage?

There are two assets that the majority of Debtors filing bankruptcy under Chapter 7 want to keep if they can:  their car and their home.  While they want to wipe out (discharge) their unsecured debts, they are willing to keep paying their car loans and home mortgages.  And the lenders on both are also eager for the Debtors to keep paying them and keep the collateral, so long as the Debtors are current on those loans. Lenders may prepare contracts to re-commit the Debtor to the terms of the original loan agreement and send them to the Debtor’s attorney for signature by both the Debtor and the attorney, and eventual filing with the Bankruptcy Court.  The Court will approve them, so long as continuing to pay is not an “undue hardship” on the Debtor, meaning that there is enough income left over to make those payments after other monthly living expenses are paid.  These contracts are known as “reaffirmation agreements” or, for short, “reaffs”.

The important thing for a Debtor to understand is that entering into a reaff removes this Lender from the protection of the bankruptcy discharge.  If the Debtor cannot continue to make the payments on the car or house, the Lender can not only take back its collateral, but the reaff gives the Lender the right to go after the Debtor personally for any portion of the balance owed that the sale of the collateral doesn’t cover.  Therefore, entering into a reaffirmation agreement actually benefits the Lender more than the Debtor.

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Consumer Fireworks in Ohio – A Few Highlights

Firework Fourth of July

With the 4th of July quickly approaching, in addition to attending community firework displays, many people enjoy purchasing and shooting off their own fireworks.  The laws governing fireworks in Ohio are among the most restrictive in the country.  Because fireworks are readily available for purchase and use in nearby states, many Ohio residents assume Ohio has similar laws and are not well informed on the issue.

The purpose of this article is to provide a few highlights of the Ohio laws governing consumer fireworks.  For further information, please consult Ohio Revised Code (ORC) Chapter 3743, the Ohio Fire Code (OFC) 1301:7-7-56, and the Ohio Department of Commerce, Division of State Fire Marshall.

Consumer fireworks are referred in Ohio law as “1.4G Fireworks”.  These are fireworks that may be found in a licensed fireworks showroom and sold to the public at various retail locations across Ohio.  If you choose to purchase 1.4G fireworks, you have 48 hours to take the fireworks out of Ohio.  Purchasers must sign a form stating the destination to which the fireworks will be taken.  The only items that can be used in Ohio are designated “trick and novelty” which smoke, pop, and/or sparkle.  In Ohio, use of 1.4G fireworks (firecrackers, bottle rockets, etc.) is illegal.

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Does the Automatic Stay in the Bankruptcy Law Prevent a Landlord from Being Able to Evict the Tenant on a Residential Lease?

You are probably aware that when you file a bankruptcy, an “automatic stay” goes into effect right away, which means that none of your creditors can take any further action against you without first getting the approval of the bankruptcy court.  Therefore, if anyone is suing you, that lawsuit has to stop and, if it’s for money damages against you, will most likely be dismissed.  Even if you are in the middle of a divorce action, those proceedings are frozen during the pendency of the bankruptcy action, or at least until an order of relief from stay to go forward is granted by the Bankruptcy Court.

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