If you are charged with a crime, you need to treat the matter seriously. Regardless of whether you face a misdemeanor charge or a felony charge, you need to understand your legal rights and the best way to fight the criminal charges. A criminal conviction can result in numerous negative consequences, even if the crime you are accused of committing is a misdemeanor.
- 1 Are Misdemeanors or Felonies Worse?
- 2 Do I Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer for a Misdemeanor Charge?
- 3 Misdemeanors Could Escalate into a Felony Charge
- 4 Protect Your Legal Rights and Navigate the Court System
- 5 Public Defenders Are Limited in What They Can Do for You
- 6 Examples of Misdemeanor Charges in Ohio
Are Misdemeanors or Felonies Worse?
Crimes are charged as misdemeanors or felonies. Punishments for felonies are generally more severe than the punishments for misdemeanors. However, some misdemeanor convictions result in substantial fines, lengthy jail terms, and other punishments.
You should never assume that a misdemeanor charge is not a serious criminal charge. Having a criminal record in Ohio can impact your future, including your career choices, education, residential options, and custody arrangements.
Even though the crime might have been a misdemeanor, your criminal record follows you forever and impacts you in ways that you might not be able to foresee right now.
Do I Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer for a Misdemeanor Charge?
It is always wise to talk with a criminal lawyer if you are arrested or being investigated by the police. That is true, regardless of the charges against you. If you are unsure whether to hire an attorney for a misdemeanor charge, consider the following:
You Could Go to Jail
The maximum jail sentence for a misdemeanor of the first degree is 180 days. While six months in jail might not seem like a long time, it is when you are behind bars. During that time, you could lose your job, custody of your children, and your home.
The maximum jail sentences for misdemeanor charges in Ohio are:
- First Degree Misdemeanor – 180 days
- Second Degree Misdemeanor – 90 days
- Third Degree Misdemeanor – 60 days
- Fourth Degree Misdemeanor – 30 days
- Minor Misdemeanor – no jail time
With the help of a criminal defense lawyer, you could receive a lower jail sentence. A prosecutor will not tell you if you have one or more defense options to fight the charges. The court is not going to inform you of potential defenses or arguments to a maximum jail sentence.
You May Owe a Large Fine
The maximum fine for a misdemeanor in the first degree is $1,000. For someone who is living paycheck-to-paycheck, a $1,000 fine is impossible to pay. A fine that large could be difficult for anyone to pay.
The maximum fines for misdemeanor charges in Ohio are:
- First Degree Misdemeanor – $1,000
- Second Degree Misdemeanor – $750
- Third Degree Misdemeanor – $500
- Fourth Degree Misdemeanor – $250
- Minor Misdemeanor – $150
The judge is not required to sentence you with the maximum fine for a misdemeanor charge. Your lawyer can argue for a lower fine based on the facts in your case.
You Could Face Additional Penalties
Depending on the type of crime you are accused of committing, you could face additional penalties for a conviction. Other penalties that the court could impose for a misdemeanor conviction include, but are not limited to:
- Community service
- Suspension of driving privileges
- House arrest with monitoring
- Weekend imprisonment
- Mandatory counseling
- Drug or alcohol treatment programs
The penalties are based on the type of crime committed. A defense lawyer can explain the potential penalties based on the criminal charges to help you decide whether you want to negotiate a plea deal or fight the charges in court.
Other Adverse Consequences of a Misdemeanor Conviction
In addition to the court penalties, there could be other negative consequences of a misdemeanor conviction. For example, you could lose your professional license, or you may not be able to obtain a professional license with a criminal record.
You could be barred from serving in public office for a misdemeanor conviction. If you want to run for office in the future, a criminal record could hurt your campaign.
Your ex-partner could use your criminal record to argue that you are not fit as a parent or that the court should only permit supervised visitation. An employer might not be willing to give you a chance if he is aware of your criminal record.
The collateral consequences of a misdemeanor conviction can be far-reaching. Do not let a mistake follow you forever. Work with a criminal defense lawyer to mitigate the negative consequences of a misdemeanor charge.
Misdemeanors Could Escalate into a Felony Charge
There are cases in which a misdemeanor can increase to a felony charge. Certain circumstances escalate a misdemeanor to a felony.
A criminal defense lawyer fights to keep the charge a misdemeanor based on the facts of the case and mitigating circumstances. If the charge does change to a felony, you already of an attorney involved in the case who understands the facts and is prepared to defend you against the charges.
A criminal charge is not a guilty verdict. You are innocent until the state proves you committed the crime. You also maintain your civil rights throughout the process.
Your defense lawyer fights to ensure that your civil rights are protected. If the police or the prosecutor violates your civil rights, your attorney files motions to hold them accountable for the violations. In some cases, evidence could be thrown out of court for a violation of your rights.
A criminal defense lawyer appears in court with you and helps you navigate the judicial process. Having a skilled, experienced, and knowledgeable legal advocate standing up for you can give you a better chance of a positive outcome in your case than if you try to represent yourself.
Public Defenders Are Limited in What They Can Do for You
You have the right to legal counsel. If you cannot afford an attorney, the court appoints an attorney for you. However, public defenders have limited resources and time to represent the people assigned to their office.
If possible, it is best to hire a private criminal lawyer to handle your case. Your lawyer has more resources and time to devote to your case. You can also choose a criminal lawyer who has extensive experience handling cases involving the crime you face.
Examples of Misdemeanor Charges in Ohio
Many crimes are charged as misdemeanors in Ohio. Some of the common misdemeanor crimes that people are charged with include:
- Petty theft
- Driving under the influence of alcohol
- Disorderly conduct
- Minor traffic offenses
- Public fighting
- Possession of drug paraphernalia
- Prostitution and soliciting
If you are arrested, the best thing you can do for yourself is to invoke your right to remain silent and your right to talk to a lawyer. It is always in your best interest to talk with a criminal attorney before making a statement or answering questions for the police. Talking to the police before you talk with a lawyer often makes it more difficult to defend yourself against criminal charges.