The Ohio Revised Code classifies felonies into five degrees of severity and assigns each a corresponding range of sentences, with first degree carrying the longest sentence and fifth the shortest. A second degree felony is penalized with two to eight years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000. Ultimately, a judge adjusts the sentence within the prescribed range based on the facts of the case . The two primary factors that a judge must consider in determining the length of the sentence are the seriousness of the crime and the likelihood of the defendant committing another crime.
According to the Ohio Revised Code, the purposes of felony sentencing are "to protect the public from future crime[s] by the offender and others and to punish the offender." Therefore, a sentence should reflect the seriousness of the crime and be similar to the penalty for similar crimes committed by similar offenders. For example, a first-time offender who commits second-degree felony assault should be given a similar sentence as any other first-time offender who committed a similar assault.
The Code sets out every crime that constitutes a second-degree felony. However, crimes with many elements may be classified under multiple degrees. For example, trespassing in an occupied home when the trespasser intends to steal something is second-degree felony burglary, but trespassing in an unoccupied home with the same intent to steal is third-degree felony burglary. There are many second-degree felonies, including most kinds of fraud, forgery, or deception for $25,000 or greater, drug trafficking, and acts involving child pornography. Other common second-degree felonies include arson of an occupied building, robbery with a deadly weapon, discharging a firearm in a school zone, participating in a criminal gang, and illegally using food stamps or WIC programs for a benefit of over $100,000.
A judge can lengthen the sentence for a second-degree felony if there are circumstances that make the offender's actions worse than the average person committing the same offense. Factors that aggravate the seriousness of the crime include, but are not limited to, the offender's relationship with the victim, the victim's physical and mental state before and after the crime, if the offender was a public official or part of organized crime, and if the offender committed the crime based on a prejudice against the victim.
In contrast to aggravating factors, a judge can decrease the length of the sentence if there are circumstances that make the offender's crime less serious than an average offender. For example, a sentence may be lessened if the victim provoked the offender or if the offender didn't expect to cause harm to the victim.
Likelihood of Recidivism
A judge can adjust the penalty by considering whether it is more or less likely than average that the offender will commit another crime. According to the Ohio statutes, the offender is more likely to commit another crime if he was on parole or probation when he committed the current crime, if he was a juvenile delinquent, or if he was or is addicted to drugs or alcohol. He is less likely to commit another crime if this is his first offense, he led an otherwise law abiding life, or he shows genuine remorse for his actions.