The United States government is set up to allow each state to create its own criminal law. In most states, including Ohio, most crimes fall into two categories or “grades”—felonies and misdemeanors.
While misdemeanors are less serious than felonies, a misdemeanor conviction can still have a significant impact on your life.
For example, depending on the offense, a first-time misdemeanor offense can carry the possibility of fines, probation, and even jail time.
The Degrees of Ohio Misdemeanors
In Ohio, there are five types of misdemeanors.
- Minor misdemeanors,
- Fourth-degree misdemeanors,
- Third-degree misdemeanors,
- Second-degree misdemeanors, and
- First-degree misdemeanors.
Minor misdemeanors are the least serious, and first-degree misdemeanors are the most serious. Many crimes can be graded in different ways, depending on the facts alleged by the prosecution.
For example, domestic violence (Ohio Revised Code section 2919.25), can be a fourth-degree misdemeanor, third-degree misdemeanor, second-degree misdemeanor, or a first-degree misdemeanor.
In the case of domestic violence, the crime is a first-degree misdemeanor if someone knowingly causes or attempts to cause physical harm to a family or household member.
Domestic violence is also a first-degree misdemeanor if you recklessly cause serious physical harm to a family or household member. Other examples of first-degree misdemeanors include:
- Driving under the influence of drugs;
- Petty theft of items valued at $1,000 or less;
- Driving on a suspended license; and
—As stated, first-degree misdemeanors are the highest grade of this crime classification and generally carry the stiffest penalties.
Punishments for First-Degree Misdemeanors
In most cases, if you are convicted of a first-degree misdemeanor in Ohio, the judge has discretion in how to sentence you.
This means the judge will hear arguments from your attorney as well as the prosecution and then determine what the appropriate sentence will be. In some cases, the judge may also allow the victim to present a “victim impact statement.” However, generally, a first-degree misdemeanor conviction carries the following penalties:
- Up to six months in jail; and
- Up to a $1,000 fine.
Depending on the nature of the offense, a judge may also impose other punishments, including mandatory house arrest, community service, probation, drug testing, or counseling.
Typically, these punishments are alternatives to incarceration. For instance, if the judge sentences you to probation with community service and drug testing but you fail to complete the requirements as ordered—the court will likely sentence you to jail time instead.
When determining what the appropriate sentence is, a judge will consider several factors:
- The prosecutor’s recommendation;
- The impact the crime had on the victim’s life;
- The level of remorse expressed by the defendant;
- The defendant’s prior record; and
- The impact incarceration would have on the defendant’s life.
Generally, a first-time misdemeanor charge will not result in a jail sentence. However, in the case of more serious misdemeanors, jail time may be on the table. Additionally, some first-degree misdemeanors carry mandatory minimum sentences.
Why Having an Attorney Is Crucial for Those Facing First-Degree Misdemeanor Charges
It is important for anyone facing first-degree misdemeanor charges to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. Not only will an attorney help you determine the best way to defend against the allegations, but they can also advocate on your behalf during plea negotiations and at a sentencing hearing.
For sentencing hearings, attorneys know the types of things judges want to hear and the most effective way to convey this information.
For example, many people convicted of a first-degree misdemeanor believe that they should hide their substance abuse issues from the judge because it may involve admitting to past criminal activity.
However, often a judge who learns of a defendant’s mental health issues (including substance abuse) may be more inclined to fashion a rehabilitative sentence instead of one that includes jail time. It isn’t that drug use is an “excuse” for a person to commit a crime, but it certainly plays into the overall circumstances that a judge may consider when coming up with a sentence.
That said, it is also essential to present this information in an effective manner that may compel the judge to be lenient. Experienced attorneys know how to do this, and they often even know the judge.
Knowing the predisposition of the judge can be quite valuable, and help your attorney fashion an argument that is most likely to get you a positive result.
Attorneys may also be able to negotiate an agreement between you and the prosecution for a sentence that you can live with. This avoids the uncertainty of trial and can spare you the stress of not knowing what your future holds.
Contact an Experienced Ohio Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
If you were recently arrested for a first-degree misdemeanor, reach out to the dedicated criminal defense attorneys at Gounaris Abboud, LPA. At Gounaris Abboud, our Ohio criminal defense lawyers have decades of experience representing clients facing all types of crimes, ranging from a first-time misdemeanor offense to serious felony charges.
We understand that facing criminal charges is a stressful experience, and we do everything we can to put your mind at ease throughout the process. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation, give us a call today. You can also reach us through our online contact form.