Criminal charges are scary. A criminal conviction, even a misdemeanor, carries several collateral consequences including employment restrictions, incarceration, lost school opportunities, and reputational costs. Fighting criminal charges can be costly and stressful.
If you are charged with a misdemeanor offense, you likely have a number of questions. Some questions we often hear are “how serious could it be?” and “do I need an attorney?” Ohio separates crimes into two main categories; felonies and misdemeanors. Misdemeanors are the least severe category but can be very serious. If you have been charged with a misdemeanor, it is important to understand the potential punishments.
A misdemeanor is a crime that is punishable by not more than one year in jail. Under Ohio law, misdemeanors are broken down into five distinct categories, ranging from a minor misdemeanor (the least serious) to a first-degree misdemeanor (the most serious). A minor misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of up to $150. A fourth-degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $250. A third-degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. A second-degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine up to $750. Finally, a first-degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine up to $1,000. In most cases, the potential jail time and fines are not the most serious consequences of a conviction.
Collateral consequences are too numerous to name and impact people long after the court process is over. For example, the misdemeanor crime of sexual imposition could require you to register as a sex offender if convicted. An OVI, another common misdemeanor, could affect the status of your commercial driver’s license or your ability to work as a salesperson in an industry that requires a license. In Ohio, OVI convictions remain on your driving record with insurance companies and these records can never be sealed. Finally, a misdemeanor assault or child endangerment can affect your ability to work as a nurse, teacher, and even prevent you from acting as a chaperon on your child’s school field trip.
Hiring a skilled, experienced and trustworthy criminal defense lawyer is a smart decision if you have been accused of a crime. The best criminal defense attorneys have the following characteristics:
- Familiar with the local court system,
- Caring and honest,
- Willing to take a case to a jury trial,
- Recent jury trial success in criminal defense cases; and
- Experienced in deriving creative resolutions to meet client needs and forego the risk of jury trial.
A good lawyer will be able to negotiate with prosecutors and judges in order to efficiently resolve your case. The criminal justice system is complex and requires knowledge of each court’s specific practices and procedures. With the assistance of counsel, your case may be resolved quickly and efficiently without the need for trial. That said, the best plea resolutions go to lawyers who have a strong record of success in trial.
If you have been charged with a misdemeanor, or any crime, we at Rittgers Rittgers & Nakajima would be happy to sit down with you and speak about your case. It is important to us that you feel confident as you move through the legal system and truly understand your rights and options moving forward.