Misdemeanors are less serious charges than felonies. Many criminal offenses and almost all traffic offenses are classified as misdemeanors under Ohio law. Misdemeanors are categorized by degree, with a first-degree misdemeanor being most serious and minor misdemeanors being the least.

In spite of the fact that these charges are considered less serious, they still can carry severe penalties and grave collateral consequences. A skilled and aggressive criminal defense strategy can limit the impact of a misdemeanor arrest on an individual’s job and life. In a misdemeanor case, jail time may be avoided in lieu of other penalties, such as community service, counseling and treatment programs, probation or license suspension.

Punishments for each degree of misdemeanor are limited by Ohio law. For a misdemeanor of the first degree, violators are not to serve more than six months in jail or pay more than $1,000 in fines. Examples of first-degree misdemeanors in Ohio include driving under the influence (DUI), driving under suspension (DUS), domestic violence, assault, or theft of property valued under $500.

In cases where a person faces DUI, DUS or drug charges, the state typically seeks to punish them with mandatory minimum sentence provisions. For example, Ohio usually punishes drug-related offenses with a mandatory license suspension for a period between six months and three years, regardless of whether an automobile was involved in the case. Jail time may be handed out for those driving with a suspended license, and repeat offenders may be forced to submit to vehicle forfeiture.

A second-degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a maximum $750 fine. These charges typically differ from first-degree misdemeanors in that they typically involve crimes against property, such as shoplifting, theft or vandalism. A person who has already been convicted of two second-degree misdemeanors may be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor if involved with a similar third offense.

Third-degree misdemeanors cannot be punished with more than 60 days spent in jail or fines exceeding $500. One example of this class of crime is negligent assault, in which an offender hurts someone without intending to do so – for example, by setting off a fireworks display in a crowd of people.

In Ohio, misdemeanors of the fourth degree are met with a maximum jail sentence of 30 days and a fine not to exceed $250. A second traffic conviction within one year’s time is a fourth-degree misdemeanor, as are the consumption of alcohol in a motor vehicle and acts of public indecency

The Bottom Line: If you are accused of a misdemeanor, you should contact a skilled criminal defense attorney in Ohio immediately to learn more about your rights, your defenses, and the complicated legal system. I can be reached any time at 513.260.2099