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April 2, 2008

Ohio litigation over state crack/powder sentencing disparity

The debate over crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity is usually all about federal sentencing, but this local article spotlights a state-level litigation over these issues in Ohio.  Here is the start of an interesting article:

The debate over the penalties for possessing crack cocaine versus those for the powder version of the drug is being argued in Summit County. An Akron attorney has filed court papers on behalf of 10 area defendants contending the harsher state penalties for crack cocaine are unconstitutional and racially based.

Attorney Jana DeLoach said she also has filed similar motions on behalf of defendants in Cuyahoga, Lucas, Richland and Stark counties. In some cases, DeLoach said she has filed the motions at no fee to the defendants.

DeLoach contends that the differences in Ohio law between the two forms of cocaine have resulted in longer prison terms for blacks, who are more likely to possess crack cocaine, and lesser terms for whites, who might possess powder cocaine.

She cited statistics showing that 85 percent of crack cocaine convictions involve blacks. ''I believe the disparity in sentencing between crack and powder cocaine is based on race and it needs to stop.  There is no rational basis at this point to continue treating these offenses differently,'' she said.  Prosecutors say they intend to fight the motions.

This debate is going on elsewhere.  State senators last year passed a bill to bring the penalties in line.  Currently in Ohio, it takes 25 to 100 grams of powder cocaine to reach the third-degree felony penalty for possessing five to 10 grams of crack cocaine.

The Senate's solution was to raise the penalties for powder cocaine and put it in line with crack cocaine laws.  The bill has not been passed in the Ohio House. Opponents of the Senate proposal contend the changes will only bring more inmates to Ohio's already crowded prisons.

April 2, 2008 at 07:57 PM | Permalink


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I was just looking up Ohio's law for crack cocain and I found your blog. I actually find it very interesting. My husband -John Loving- which is a 28 year old black male, was just sentenced to 15 years out of Wood County -Ohio- for the sell of crack cocain. John had a court appointed attorney, that did nothing for him. John also got a $10,000.00 court fine, plus court cost. The attorney will not even file a motion to have his fine stayed, until he is released from prison. So now they will take his commasary, he has to live on $10.00 a month for the next 15 years. I believe he was over sentenced, but we have no help to even fight it. Seneca County -Ohio-is another county that has been over sentencing blacks, it is awful how they are doing these people, something needs to be done about. I wish I could help, if I just knew who to go to and what to do. My main concern is my huband, I want to help him. Who can I write?

Posted by: Amy Loving | Jun 26, 2008 1:03:41 PM

My brother just sent a artical about Jana Deloach so I read it and I feel like Canton (stark county) is also over sentencing black men. My brother John Stephens is doing a 10 yr sentence and he has never had any trouble `with the law accept a traffic ticket. I am not saying he should go unpunished but 10 years is pretty harsh for a 1st time non violate offender. The lawyer we got sucked me as his fixed income sister dry and then told me it was nothing he could do to help after he got all my money but at the free meeting it was i will fight this yeah we can win this. and just this pass yrs alone my brother has had to suffer the passing of our mother in there. I hope some body reading this can help make a chage with these crazy laws. At least point me in a direction of can he file for any time knocked off he had a stated term 10yrs and released dated 2016 thank you

Posted by: Melvia | Aug 18, 2008 11:43:36 AM

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