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8th District: Regan Tokes Applies to Maximum Period of Civil Commitment

In State v. Young, the 8th District Court of Appeals issued a decision holding that the indefinite sentences under the Regan Tokes Law apply to determining the maximum period of civil commitment of a defendant found not guilty by reason of insanity.

The Ohio Legislature passed the Regan Tokes Act in 2019. The law added an indefinite sentence to the penalty for first- and second- degree felonies, equal to fifty percent of the definite sentence. For example, the range of prison sentences for a felony of the first degree is three to eleven years. If a judge sentenced a defendant to three years, the defendant would serve that sentence, followed by an indefinite sentence of 1 ½ years. The amount of the indefinite sentence served is determined by the Department of Corrections.   

When a defendant is found not guilty by reason of insanity, a judge may order the defendant committed to a mental hospital until the defendant is either no longer mentally ill, or until the expiration of the maximum prison term the defendant was facing for the criminal charge.

The defendant in Young was charged with aggravated burglary. At trial, the court found her not guilty by reason of insanity. The Court determined that the maximum sentence was eleven years, and that was therefore the maximum period of commitment for the defendant, Regan Tokes Law notwithstanding. The State appealed, arguing that under Regan Tokes, the maximum sentence for an F1 is 16 ½ years, because a defendant could receive a maximum definite sentence of eleven years, with an indefinite sentence of 5 ½ years. Therefore, the State argued the defendant was subject to a maximum term of commitment of 16 1/2 years.

Although the Defendant argued the State had waived the argument by failing to raise it at trial, the court of appeals held that this was plain error, subject to review on appeal. The Court agreed with the State’s argument. Because Young could have spent up to 16 ½ years in prison had she been convicted, the Court held, she was subject to a maximum commitment of the same length following a not guilty by reason of insanity verdict.

The Court declined to hear the Defendant’s argument that the indefinite sentencing provisions of the Regan Tokes Law are unconstitutional. The Defendant argued that because the law allows the Department of Corrections to determine the amount of the indefinite sentence the defendant actually serves, the law violates the separation of powers doctrine. The court of appeals held that the defendant had waived this argument by not making it at the trial level.

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