For most Ohioans who find themselves charged with a crime and who are not intimately familiar with the criminal justice system, our impressions of how serious a crime is can be based in whole or in part on how serious the crime sounds. For example, “murder” sounds bad – real bad – but yet the crime of “menacing” does not sound quite as serious. Did you know, though, that both murder and menacing can be considered felony charges?
When a person is charged with a criminal offense (not a simple traffic violation like speeding), the offense is generally characterized either as a felony or as a misdemeanor. This information, more than how “bad” or “serious” the charge sounds, is critical to helping you decide how best to address your charge(s).
Ohio Misdemeanors – Are They Really That Serious?
There are four classes of misdemeanors in Ohio, ranging from misdemeanors of the first degree (the most serious misdemeanors) to misdemeanors of the fourth degree (the least serious misdemeanors). A person convicted of committing a misdemeanor offense may be ordered to serve up to a maximum of 180 days in the local jail, along with being directed to pay other fines and costs or complete other sentencing terms and conditions.
While it is true that misdemeanors are not as serious as felonies, this does not necessarily mean that it is always better to simply resolve a misdemeanor charge as quickly as possible. A conviction for certain offenses (mainly violent crimes or drug-related crimes) can impact your legal status in the United States if you are not a citizen. In addition, a conviction of certain misdemeanors can impact your ability to obtain or maintain certain professional licenses such as commercial driver’s licenses, licenses to practice law or medicine, or licenses to operate a child care center.
Ohio Felonies are Serious Matters as Well
Other crimes are felonies. Felonies in Ohio are described using a numerical scale, with fifth-degree felonies being the least severe felonies and first-degree felonies being the most serious. There are also a class of offenses known as special felonies: this would include especially heinous crimes such as murder as well as other felonies to which the Ohio Legislature did not want the normal felony sentencing rules to apply.
Unlike misdemeanors, felonies can result in a prison sentence (prison is a state-run institution, whereas local jails are administered and run by local law enforcement officials) that may last far longer than a mere 180 days. Just like misdemeanor convictions, though, convictions for felony offenses can carry with them serious collateral consequences such as immigration issues, restriction in your ability to purchase or own a firearm, difficulties in obtaining student loans or other federal aid, and loss of professional licenses.
Is an Attorney Necessary for “Small” Charges?
It is a mistake to assume that your misdemeanor charges are “too minor” to warrant experienced legal representation. As you can see, even charges that “sound” minor in nature can lead to big trouble for you. Having an Ohio criminal defense lawyer familiar with the laws and defenses available to you helps ensure your constitutional and statutory rights are protected, that the prosecution and law enforcement do not take advantage of you and your situation, and that you do not end up taking a bad plea deal (or reject a good plea offer) without fully understanding the implications of your decision on your freedom and your future.
Speak with Dawes Legal, LLC
If you find yourself facing criminal charges, one of your first calls should be to Dawes Legal, LLC. We will fight to get you out of jail, back to work and to your family, and help you to successfully resolve your criminal case. Contact our office at (614) 733-9999 today for help.