How Are Felonies Categorized in Ohio?

In Ohio, a felony constitutes a category of crimes that is considered more serious than misdemeanors and carries heavier penalties. When you’re convicted of a felony in the state, it means you’ve committed an offense that’s grave enough to warrant at least one year in prison and potentially much more, depending on the crime.

Felonies in Ohio are classified into different levels for several reasons:

Severity of Crime

The system allows for punishment to be proportionate to the severity of the offense committed. More serious offenses like homicide or aggravated assault will rank higher on this scale compared to something less severe, such as certain drug offenses.

Guidance for Judges

By classifying felonies into different levels, judiciary guidelines become clearer during sentencing phases. Each level comes with its range of permissible and suggested sentences, which judges can refer to when determining appropriate punishments.

Fairness and Consistency

By setting standards and classifications, there is greater consistency across various cases. Two individuals who commit similar crimes under comparable circumstances should, in theory, receive similar sentences. 

So, what are the felony levels in Ohio, and what consequences do they bring?

Fifth-Degree Felonies

Fifth-Degree Felonies

Fifth-degree felonies in Ohio are the least serious within the felony classification, but this doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be taken seriously – you could still face significant repercussions.

Examples of fifth-degree felonies include breaking and entering, forgery, certain gambling offenses, and receiving stolen property. These crimes could carry from six to 12 months in jail. A fine of up to $2,500 may also be imposed.

Fourth-Degree Felonies

In Ohio, fourth-degree felonies are more severe than fifth-degree and come with greater potential penalties. If you commit a fourth-degree felony such as aggravated assault, vehicular assault, or grand theft of an automobile, you could face six to 18 months in jail. You’re also looking at a possible $5,000 fine.

Third-Degree Felonies

For third-degree felonies in Ohio, there’s a distinction within the category regarding penalties based on the severity of the crime committed. Certain offenses – like aggravated vehicular assault or homicide, unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, and assisting suicide – may bring longer sentences ranging between one to five years.

Other crimes within this classification which are considered less severe typically carry between nine months and three years in prison. There are also potential fines of $10,000.

Second-Degree Felonies

Second-degree felonies are incredibly serious offenses in Ohio. A conviction for a crime of this level – such as aggravated arson or felonious assault – carries a significant prison sentence. The minimum sentences for these offenses range from two to eight years in prison. You may also be fined up to $15,000.

First-Degree Felonies

First-degree felonies are the most severe of the classified felonies in Ohio. Crimes in this category carry substantial weight and consequences because they represent very serious actions, like voluntary manslaughter, kidnapping, and rape. Penalties typically include between three and 11 years in prison. You could also receive a fine of up to $20,000.

Indeterminate Sentencing for First- and Second-Degree Felonies

In Ohio, for first- and second-degree felonies committed on or after March 22, 2019 – unless they involve offenses punishable by life imprisonment like specified forms of homicide – indeterminate sentencing is required.

With indeterminate sentencing, the judge sets a minimum sentence within the statutory range appropriate for that particular degree of felony. The judge then determines a maximum sentence, which is calculated by adding 50% of the selected minimum term.

For instance, the judge might impose a minimum prison term of 5 years. Following Ohio’s indeterminate sentencing law, your maximum period would be calculated at 5 years (the minimum sentence) plus an additional 50% of that term, which is 2.5 years in this case. So, the maximum time you can serve would be set to 7.5 years in prison.

Unclassified Felonies

In Ohio, there is a group of crimes that do not fall into one of the five classifications for felonies – they are known as unclassified felonies and represent a distinct category of the most heinous felony offenses. They encompass crimes such as murder and aggravated murder.

These crimes carry incredibly serious penalties. For example, the sentence for aggravated murder can range from life imprisonment without the chance of parole to the imposition of the death penalty, reflecting its severity. 

Understanding these classifications helps ensure that justice is proportionate and consistent.

Collateral Consequences of Felony Convictions

If you are a defendant who has been convicted of a felony, it’s crucial to understand the ripple effects that extend beyond your initial sentence. These impacts are known as collateral consequences and can affect various aspects of your life even after you’ve fulfilled your court-ordered obligations. Some common ones include:

Employment Difficulties

A felony conviction may put significant barriers on your employment opportunities. Employers often conduct background checks and a felony record can lead to automatic disqualifications from certain jobs, especially those in sensitive areas such as education, finance, or government positions.

Housing Issues

Securing housing can be particularly challenging with a felony record. Public housing authorities and private landlords may be reluctant or even legally permitted to deny your rental applications.

Financial Obstacles

Access to loans, credit, and even certain types of insurance can be hindered once you have a felony conviction. Financial institutions often view individuals with criminal records as high-risk clients.

Difficulty Obtaining Professional Licenses

People with felony convictions may find it difficult to obtain licenses required for various professions, like law, healthcare, or real estate. Each licensing board has its own criteria, and a conviction could potentially disqualify an applicant.

Sex Offender Registry

Those with certain felony convictions may be subject to mandatory registration on sex offender registries. This can lead to public scrutiny, residence restrictions, and ongoing reporting obligations that affect where you can live and work.

Being mindful of the far-reaching and enduring collateral consequences you may face with a felony conviction is essential, as they can shape your social, professional, and financial life long after you have served your time.

Contact an Experienced Cincinnati Criminal Defense Attorney for a Free Case Review

If you’ve been charged with a felony or believe you will soon be facing charges, it’s essential to speak with an experienced attorney so you can defend yourself. Reach out to Suhre & Associates DUI and Criminal Defense Lawyers today to schedule a free consultation with an award-winning Cincinnati criminal defense lawyer at (513) 613 2949.