Ohio Criminal Law: Misdemeanor or Felony? Jail or Prison?

What is the difference between a misdemeanor conviction and a felony conviction in Ohio? A serious misdemeanor can carry a jail sentence and fine, while a felony conviction will result in a prison sentence and heavy fines. Both will impact your quality of life going forward. That is why it is so important to engage legal counsel immediately if you are stopped, questioned, or arrested by law enforcement. A qualified, experienced criminal lawyer can be the difference between a lighter charge or dismissed charge in a misdemeanor or felony in Ohio.

Jail and Misdemeanors

Detainees in a local jail will remain there until an appearance can be scheduled before a judge or magistrate. During this first appearance, the court may agree to release the detainee “on his or her own recognizance,” if the misdemeanor is minor or there is no record of a prior offense. In other cases, the court can set bail to ensure the detainee will appear at the later date or place the detainee under supervision, such as a probation agency if the detainee poses a threat to him or herself or others.

A new detainee has one chance to call a lawyer or ask for one if they do not know one. The biggest mistake a new detainee can make when arrested or later at the jail is to speak to law enforcement or the court about the crime or circumstances before they have legal representation, and unfortunately, many do. Remember: You have a right to remain silent, but you most invoke that right, verbally, at the time of the arrest and ask to speak to your attorney. If you do not clearly invoke your right to silence with such a statement, you may subject yourself to continued questioning by police.

There is one exception to your right to silence. Since April 2006, Ohio law states that if you are in a public place and under certain circumstances you must give your name, address, and date of birth to an officer. If you fail to provide this information, you will be committing a fourth-degree misdemeanor and may be arrested.

Our advice is to keep Graham & Graham’s contact information in your wallet or phone (740) 454-8585 and call us immediately in the event of any encounter with law enforcement if you are stopped, questioned, or arrested.

Of course, no one anticipates getting stopped, questioned, or arrested, but when it does happen, the most important action you can take is to call a lawyer, immediately. There are many things a lawyer can do or say to prove your case and get charges reduced or dismissed and avoid jail time.

Examples of common misdemeanors include petty theft, public intoxication, simple assault, disorderly conduct, trespass, vandalism, reckless driving, discharging a firearm within city limits, possession of cannabis, and in some jurisdictions first-time possession of certain other drugs.

Ohio Misdemeanor Jail Time

Under Ohio Revised Code 2929.24, misdemeanor jail time ranges from:

• First-degree misdemeanor—maximum 180 days

• Second-degree misdemeanor—maximum 90 days

• Third-degree misdemeanor—maximum 60 days

• Fourth-degree misdemeanor—maximum 30 days

Prison and Felony Crimes

State and federal governments run prisons, also known as penitentiaries, which are secure facilities that house people who have been convicted of a felony criminal offense. Felonies typically range from violent crimes such as rape or murder to white-collar crimes like identity theft, embezzlement, and more.

Under Ohio Revised Code 2929.14, felony prison time ranges from:

• First-degree felony – three to eleven years

• Second-degree felony – two to eight years

• Third-degree felony – either nine, twelve, eighteen, twenty-four, thirty, or thirty-six months; or, for certain third-degree felonies – twelve, eighteen, twenty-four, thirty, thirty-six, forty-eight, fifty-four, or sixty months

• Fourth-degree felony – six to eighteen months.

• Fifth-degree felony – six to twelve months.

Certain felonies carry mandatory sentences, higher sentences, or even life imprisonment.

Engaging the best criminal defense lawyer, one who has deep and broad experience with felony cases, is your only hope that your felony charge can be reduced, dismissed, or won in court at trial.

In certain cases, a crime can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Examples include drug crimes, assault, and drunk driving offenses with mitigating or aggravating circumstances or prior offenses. In all cases, you’ll want to engage a qualified criminal defense lawyer you can trust to ensure that you are fairly and justly represented.

The Impact of a Misdemeanor on Your Life

Compared to felonies, misdemeanors may at first seem much less severe—jail vs. prison, shorter sentence, lighter fine. However, a misdemeanor can impact your life going forward, regardless of the sentence or fine. A misdemeanor conviction creates a criminal record that can limit employment opportunities and can trigger probation, community service, mandatory counseling, protective orders, and other restrictions on your movements. And although the fine may be lighter than a felony, any monies due can add to financial stress.

Further, if you make your living driving a commercial vehicle and you are convicted of drunk driving, on the first offense in Ohio you will lose your CDL and ability to operate for six months. A repeat offender with a second conviction in Ohio will forfeit their entire career, as the CDL is permanently revoked.

Your best chance of reducing or avoiding jail or prison and severe penalties is to engage an experienced criminal defense law firm. Graham & Graham is a well-established firm with highly engaged criminal lawyers and a track record of success. We are ready to protect your rights and obtain the best outcome in light of your facts.

Now is the time to enter this number into your phone contacts:

Kris Hill, Criminal Defense Attorney
Graham & Graham
(740) 454-8585

Serving all of Ohio, Graham & Graham is based in Zanesville and has an office in Cambridge, Ohio. You may not need us now, but when you do, you can count on us to be there whenever and wherever you need our help.