on November 7, 2012
by Brandon R. Cogswell

Judicial Release in Ohio: You Too, May Get Out of Prison Early! Maybe

Prison in Ohio is a concept that most people, hopefully, don’t consider.  The loss of liberty associated with a prison sentence is a scary thought.  The reality is, if a person finds himself or herself accused of criminal conduct, going to prison is a very real risk.  But Ohio provides an avenue for early release from prison called judicial release.  In the past, judicial release was known as “shock probation.”  It’s a unique power that the sentencing judge has to grant inmates early release from prison under certain circumstances.

Eligibility requirements

Ohio Revised Code 2929.20 sets out the requirements for judicial release.  Only eligible offenders qualify for judicial release.  Eligible offenders cannot be serving a mandatory prison sentence.  If the sentence includes a mandatory sentence, the offender must serve the mandatory time before the eligibility clock begins to run.  Public officials serving a sentence for certain felonies cannot become eligible offenders.  Eligible offenders may file for judicial release after serving a required amount of time in a state prison facility.  Consecutive and concurrent sentences do not affect an offender’s eligibility for judicial release.  

  • If you’re serving less than two years you can file after 30 days.
  • If your serving two years or more but less than five years you can file after 180 days.
  • If your prison term is 5 years, you cannot file for release until after four years.
  • If your prison term is more than 5 years but less than 10 years, you must serve five years.
  • If your prison term is more than 10 years, you have to serve half your sentence or five years, whichever is greater.

The Hearing

Offenders essentially only get one bite at the apple for early release.  The reason for this is partially because the court can deny the motion with or without a hearing.  If the court denies the motion without a hearing, inmates can refile later as long as the first motion was not denied with prejudice.  If the court holds a hearing and then denies the motion, game over, the offender is finishing out his or her sentence unless the court moves for early release.  Needless to say that’s rare, to say the least.  A hearing is required before the motion is granted.

The hearing must occur within 60 days after the motion is filed, but the court may delay up to 180 days.  After the hearing, a decision is required within 10 days.  If the court is going to deny the motion and not have a hearing it has 60 days.

All parties involved in the original action will receive notice of the hearing and an opportunity to be heard.  The prison must provide the court with reports on successful rehabilitative activities, if any. The report will also include information about the inmate’s conduct at the prison and his or her participation in educational or vocational training, work, treatment and other rehabilitative activities along with any disciplinary action taken against the inmate.


Inmates can file for judicial release on their own, without an attorney.  Having effective representation, however, is important for a number of reasons:


1. Like Luke Skywalker and the Deathstar, you will only get one shot.  You want the best X-Wing pilot you can find.

2. The same court that sentenced you is the one who decides to let you out early.  If the same judge is on the bench, offenders are asking the judge to second guess his original sentence.  For example, if a judge thinks a four year sentence instead of a six year sentence is appropriate, that’s going to be the sentence.  A judge isn’t going to sentence someone to six years and rely on that person to file for judicial release after four years.  

3. An inmate with the assistance of counsel can present an effective argument in favor of early release if the inmate can show rehabilitation.  And that’s the key, rehabilitation.  

Once the motion is granted, the offender is released from prison and placed on supervision, also known as community control, for 1 to 5 years, with the balance of the prison sentence suspended.  If the offender violates community control, the court may put the offender back in prison to serve the balance of the prison sentence.


Burton Law accepts clients for judicial release cases.  Contact me by email or telephone and mention this blog article for more information on the fees associated with judicial release eligibility opinion letters and cases.

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