Ohio Misdemeanor Defense Attorney
In Ohio, less serious criminal offenses are charged as misdemeanors. While these types of crimes are considered less severe than felonies, they still carry the potential for a substantial sentence if you are convicted — including a period of incarceration.
Misdemeanors include a wide range of criminal offenses. In many cases, misdemeanors can be charged as a more serious crime based on an individual’s criminal history and the facts of the case. For all but the least serious offenses, misdemeanors are punishable by jail time and steep fines.
If you have been charged with a misdemeanor in Ohio, you don’t have to plead guilty. An Ohio misdemeanor attorney can help you fight against misdemeanor charges, and secure both your freedom and your future.
WHAT IS A MISDEMEANOR?
In Ohio, criminal charges can be separated into two categories: misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors are less serious than felony crimes and carry lower potential sentences. Any criminal offense that has a potential sentence of less than one year in jail is classified as a misdemeanor.
Penalties for a misdemeanor vary based on the severity of the crime and may include jail time and/or a fine. They are divided into five levels or degrees, from the least serious (minor misdemeanors) to the most serious (first-degree misdemeanors). The potential sentence for a misdemeanor conviction is as follows:
- 1st Degree: up to 180 days in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000
- 2nd Degree: up to 90 days in jail and a maximum fine of $750
- 3rd Degree: up to 60 days in jail and a maximum fine of $500
- 4th Degree: up to 30 days in jail and a maximum fine of $250
- Minor: no jail time, and a maximum fine of up to $150
Any period of incarceration for an Ohio misdemeanor will be served in county jail, as opposed to state prison. A judge may impose additional or alternative punishments for a misdemeanor conviction, such as house arrest with monitoring, probation, community service, or even a term in a halfway house. The court may also require you to seek counseling or treatment, or (in some cases, such as for DUI/OVI charges) revoke your driving privileges.
OHIO MISDEMEANOR CRIMES
In the state of Ohio, misdemeanor offenses include both criminal charges as well as traffic violations. Generally, minor misdemeanors involve some type of traffic violation, such as failure to stop at a red light or speeding. They also include charges such as disorderly conduct (in some instances) and reckless driving.
Other types of misdemeanor offenses include:
- Criminal trespass (4th-degree misdemeanor)
- Possession of drug paraphernalia (4th-degree misdemeanor)
- Disorderly conduct (4th-degree misdemeanor in some cases)
- Criminal mischief (3rd-degree misdemeanor, unless it creates a risk of harm to others)
- Revenge porn (3rd-degree misdemeanor, up to a 1st-degree misdemeanor)
- Possession of a fake, suspended, or revoked concealed carry permit (3rd-degree misdemeanor)
- Abuse of a corpse (2nd-degree misdemeanor)
- Obstructing official business (2nd-degree misdemeanor)
- Petty theft: (1st-degree misdemeanor)
- Operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs (OVI): (4th-degree misdemeanor up to a felony, depending on the facts of the case)
- Assault: (1st-degree misdemeanor up to a felony)
- Drug possession: (1st-degree misdemeanor up to a felony)
- Domestic violence: (4th-degree misdemeanor up to a felony)
- Illegal cultivation of marijuana (minor misdemeanor up to a felony)
These are just some of the many possible misdemeanor charges in Ohio.
Importantly, many criminal offenses in Ohio can be charged in a number of ways, from a minor misdemeanor through a felony. The exact charge is based on the facts of the case.
For example, the crime of domestic violence is charged as a misdemeanor of the fourth degree if a person causes a family or household member to believe that they will cause them imminent physical harm, by threat of force. However, if a person causes or attempts to cause either physical harm or serious physical harm to a family or household member, then the charge is a misdemeanor of the first degree. A domestic violence charge can also be elevated:
- If a person has a prior domestic violence conviction, from a 4th-degree misdemeanor to a 2nd-degree misdemeanor, or from a 1st-degree misdemeanor to a felony;
- If a person has two or more prior convictions for domestic violence, from a 4th-degree misdemeanor to a 1st-degree misdemeanor, or from a 1st-degree misdemeanor to a felony; and
- If a person knew that the victim was pregnant, from a 4th-degree misdemeanor to a 3rd degree misdemeanor, or from a 1st-degree misdemeanor to a felony.
This example demonstrates how relatively minor misdemeanor crimes can be charged as a higher degree offense (including a felony) based on the defendant’s criminal history and the specific facts of the case. A skilled Ohio misdemeanor attorney can advocate for a particular offense to be reduced to a lower level crime — or to be dismissed entirely.
DO I NEED A LAWYER FOR A MISDEMEANOR CHARGE?
Although misdemeanors are considered less serious than felony crimes, they are still criminal offenses. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor in Ohio, you may be sentenced to jail time, required to pay a fine, and face other consequences from the court.
If you plead guilty or no contest to a misdemeanor charge or are found guilty at trial, you will have a criminal record. This can affect your life in a number of ways, including making it more difficult to get a job, find housing, get student loans, or obtain a professional license. If you are not a United States citizen, certain misdemeanor convictions can even lead to deportation.
After being charged with a misdemeanor, you may be tempted to take the first plea deal offered by the prosecutor so that you can get it behind you and move forward with your life. While it may be easier to do this in the short-term, it often leads to far bigger problems over time. A seasoned Ohio misdemeanor lawyer will investigate the facts of your case, research the case law, and fight for your rights. Depending on the facts of your case, they may even be able to get the charges dropped or reduced.
At Engel & Martin, our team includes experienced former prosecutors who have handled thousands of misdemeanor and felony cases. We understand how the system works, and we put our knowledge of Ohio criminal law and practice to work for each of our clients. Whether the case involves a violent felony or low-level misdemeanor, we aggressively defend our clients and work to achieve the best possible outcome.
CHARGED WITH A MISDEMEANOR? WE CAN HELP.
Being charged with a crime can be scary, even if it is a relatively minor offense. A conviction can seriously impact your life, from having to spend time in jail to paying steep fines and fees. Our law firm will stand by your side throughout the process.
Engel & Martin is dedicated to helping our clients through the most difficult times of their lives. With offices in Mason and Columbus, we represent clients throughout Ohio and the United States. To learn more or to schedule a consultation,