The state of Ohio categorizes misdemeanors into five classes: first, second, third, and fourth degree, as well as minor misdemeanors. First-degree misdemeanors are considered the most serious class, while minor misdemeanors are the least serious. Unless a particular Ohio criminal law allows for a specific sentence, each degree of misdemeanor offense has a maximum penalty associated with it.
More serious crimes (felonies) are punishable by death or terms in state prison. For information about felonies in Ohio, see Ohio Felony Crimes by Class and Sentences.
In Ohio, first degree misdemeanors are typically punishable by up to 180 days in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both jail time and a fine. Unauthorized use of a vehicle, petty theft, and carrying a gun without a permit are examples of first degree misdemeanors. (Ohio Rev. Code Ann. §§ 2929.24, 2929.28 (2019).)
Under Ohio's laws, a second degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to 90 days in jail, a fine of as much as $750, or both. For example, manufacturing or selling drug paraphernalia, obstructing official business, and abuse of a corpse are examples of second degree misdemeanors. (Ohio Rev. Code Ann. §§ 2929.24, 2929.28 (2019).)
Third degree misdemeanors in Ohio are punishable by up to 60 days in jail, a fine of up to $500, or both. For instance, loitering for the purpose of prostitution is a third degree misdemeanor. (Ohio Rev. Code Ann. §§ 2929.24, 2929.28 (2019).)
Fourth degree misdemeanors are punishable by up to 30 days in jail, a fine of as much as $250, or both. Criminal trespass is an example of a fourth degree misdemeanor. (Ohio Rev. Code Ann. §§ 2929.24, 2929.28 (2019).)
In Ohio, minor misdemeanors are punishable by a fine of up to $150. There is no jail time for a minor misdemeanor. For instance, disorderly conduct and reckless driving are minor misdemeanors. (Ohio Rev. Code Ann. §§ 2929.24, 2929.28 (2019).)
When a crime is committed, the statute of limitations begins to "run," which means that the state has a set period of time within which to begin criminal prosecution. First, second, third, and fourth degree misdemeanors in Ohio typically have a limitation period of two years, while the limitation period is six months for minor misdemeanors. (Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2901.13 (2019).)
Even if you are only facing a minor criminal charge, you should speak to a criminal defense attorney in your area. Being convicted of a misdemeanor not only brings with it significant potential penalties, but you may also have difficulty securing future employment or passing a background check. An experienced attorney will be able to tell you how your case is likely to fare in court based on the law, the facts, and the assigned judge and prosecutor. With a lawyer's help, you can obtain the best possible outcome under the circumstances.