Ohio’s interstate prisoner transfer law applies to inmates in county jails, rules Ohio Supreme Court

The Ohio Supreme Court issued a ruling last week that clarified a law governing interstate transfer of prisoners and settled a split among Ohio district courts. Ohio Revised Code 2963.30 is Ohio's version of the Interstate Agreement on Detainers (IAD), which is a  law that sets up procedures to temporarily transfer a prisoner incarcerated in one state to another for trial over pending issues in that jurisdiction. The law serves as a compact among 48 states, the federal courts and the District of Columbia to facilitate a defendant's right to a speedy trial. The law specifically applies to defendants imprisoned “in a penal or correctional institution of a party state.” The question before the court was whether a county jail qualifies under this statute.

In a 5-2 decision, the Court ruled that  "'penal or correctional institution of a party state,' as it is used in R.C. 2963.30, includes a county jail as well as a state prison or correctional facility." The case in question involved a defendant incarcerated in Maryland with pending charges in multiple Ohio counties. Although he was brought to one Ohio county to deal with some of these charges while he was incarcerated, he was not fully adjudicated in another county until after his Maryland sentence was completed.  At that point he was tried and sentenced to 12 months in prison in Ohio for the crimes of theft and breaking and entering. On appeal, the Fifth District reversed his conviction, finding that his trial was outside the time frame permitted by the interstate transfer law.

The Ohio Supreme Court affirmed the Fifth District, finding that the language of the law was ambiguous about what qualified as a "penal or correctional institution of a party state," and that it should be liberally construed to further the purposes of the "expeditious and orderly disposition of detainers filed in other jurisdictions and cooperative procedures for inmate transfers."

Chief Justice O'Conner wrote the opinion for the Court, which was joined by Justices Pfeifer, Lanzinger, French, and O’Neill. Justice O'Donnell penned a dissent that was joined by Justice Kennedy.

For more information about this case see this article from Court News Ohio and the online docket entries for the case, here and here.

Photo Credit: Andrew Bardwell via Wikimedia Commons