Causing or attempting to cause harm to another person or to an unborn child is an assault in Ohio. An assault can be knowing or reckless and is a first degree misdemeanor except in certain circumstances. (Ohio Rev. Code Ann. §2903.13.) Negligently causing harm to another with a firearm or other deadly weapon is a negligent assault under Ohio law and is a third degree misdemeanor. (Ohio Rev. Code Ann. §2903.14.)
A knowing act is one that is intentional. A reckless act is one that is committed, not necessarily with clear intent, but without regard for the outcome. Pushing someone out of the way in a crowd so that you can get through, without intending to injure the person, could be an assault if the person falls and is injured. A negligent act is one that is not intentional, but that occurs because the actor fails to exercise reasonable care. An accidental shooting can be a negligent assault if it results from a person not being careful enough when handling or firing a gun.
Assault committed in a sudden fit of rage or with a deadly weapon and assault that results in serious physical injury are more serious crimes known as aggravated assault and felonious assault. (Ohio Rev. Code Ann. §2903.12 and §2903.11.)
To learn about assaults committed during fits of rage or with deadly weapons, see Felony and Aggravated Assault in Ohio.
Assaults Against Certain Victims
An assault against certain victims in Ohio is a more serious crime than a misdemeanor. Members of this protected class include functioning-impaired persons, corrections employees, school employees, police officers, firefighters, emergency medical personnel, and public children services agency employees.
Assault against a protected class member can be a 3rd, 4th or 5th degree felony, depending on the victim, the circumstances and whether the defendant has a prior conviction for assault against the same type of victim.
Domestic violence is assault against a family or household member or family member. A person who threatens a family or household member with physical force, causing that person to fear an imminent physical attack, also is guilty of the crime of domestic violence in Ohio. This crime can be a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances.
To learn more about domestic violence laws in Ohio, see Domestic Violence Laws in Ohio.
Penalties for Simple and Negligent Assault in Ohio
A person convicted of assault, negligent assault, or assault against a member of a protected class faces the following possible penalties:
- for 1st degree misdemeanor, up to six months in jail and/or a fine up to $1000
- for 3rd degree misdemeanor, up to 60 days in jail and/or a fine up to $500
- for 5th degree felony, six to twelve months in prison and a fine up to $2500
- for 4th degree felony, six to eighteen months in prison and a fine up to $5000, except that if the victim is a police officer and suffers serious physical harm, the mandatory minimum sentence is one year in prison, AND
- for 3rd degree felony, nine months to three years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
A person convicted of assault in Ohio can be required to pay restitution, which involves reimbursing the victim for any expenses resulting from the crime, such as the cost of medical treatment or counseling, or repair or replacement of damaged property.
Deferred Sentence, Suspended Sentence and Probation
A court in Ohio can impose a deferred or suspended sentence and probation for assault or negligent assault. If a sentence is deferred, the court does not impose any jail or prison time but imposes certain conditions on the defendant such as probation, counseling or other treatment, or community service. At the end of the deferment period, if the defendant satisfies the conditions and completes the period without further criminal activity or arrests, the case is dismissed. The arrest and dismissal will be part of the defendant’s criminal record.
For a suspended sentence, the court can suspend all or a portion of the jail or prison sentence as long as the defendant successfully completes probation and any other conditions the court imposes. A person on supervised probation must meet with a probation officer and comply with conditions of probation such as treatment, maintaining employment and avoiding any further criminal activity or arrests.
Sealing a Criminal Record
A person who commits a misdemeanor assault (if it was a first offense) can file an application one year after completing his sentence requesting that the criminal record be sealed. The decision to grant the request is in the court’s discretion and must be based on findings that:
- the defendant has no other pending criminal charges
- the defendant has been rehabilitated to the satisfaction of the court, and
- the needs of the defendant to have the record sealed outweigh any government need to maintain the record.
A record of a conviction for felony assault – such as an assault against a special victim – cannot be sealed.
For more information about sealing an adult record in Ohio, see Sealing or Expunging Adult Criminal Records in Ohio.
For information about sealing a juvenile court record, see Expunging or Sealing a Juvenile Court Record in Ohio.
Pleas and Pre-Trial Options
If you are facing a charge of assault or negligent assault in Ohio, an attorney can investigate the case and determine if you were wrongfully charged or there are other reasons why the case should be dismissed before trial. If the charges are not dismissed, an attorney may be able to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor on your behalf, or prepare a defense and represent you at trial if you believe you have been wrongly accused or if there are no reasonable plea options. Prosecutors may negotiate and agree to a lighter sentence in exchange for a guilty plea or to the defendant pleading guilty to a different, less serious crime.
The Value of Good Representation
A conviction for assault or negligent assault – even a misdemeanor – becomes part of your permanent criminal record. If you are convicted later of another crime, the court can consider your prior conviction and impose a harsher sentence in the new case. A convicted felon loses the right to vote, hold public office, serve as a juror (for seven years) and carry or own firearms. In certain circumstances, a felony conviction also can result in loss of a professional license. A conviction for a violent crime – misdemeanor or felony – can hurt you when you are looking for a job or applying to rent a house or apartment.
Only someone familiar with the local criminal court system and cases like yours will know how good your chances are for a favorable outcome in court or at the negotiating table. A knowledgeable attorney will take all of this into consideration, assist you in making decisions about your case, and protect your rights.