What is a Misdemeanor in Ohio?

There are varying classes of misdemeanors as characterized by states across the U.S., with each state providing its own provisions for these crimes. Misdemeanors are divided into different levels according to severity; some offenders can be sent to jail for their deeds, while many others are merely sentenced to pay a small fine. We are Misdemeanor Defense Attorneys who offer free consultations in our Mansfield & Mount Vernon Ohio offices.

In the state of Ohio, misdemeanors are categorized by degrees, the worst of which is a first-degree misdemeanor and the least of which is a minor misdemeanor. As is typical across the U.S., Ohio misdemeanors include both criminal charges and traffic violations. The most severe of these crimes are punishable by up to one year spent in jail. Minor misdemeanors typically include most small traffic infractions, such as failing to come to a complete stop at a stop sign or speeding on the highway, which are punishable only by fines.

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.

For offenders charged with the lowest level of misdemeanor, a minor misdemeanor, jail time is precluded, and the maximum fine is $150. Most traffic violations fall into this category.