What Is a 4th Degree Misdemeanor in Ohio?

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In the state of Ohio, a fourth-degree misdemeanor is the second least serious type of misdemeanor crime. A misdemeanor of the fourth degree is punishable by up to 30 days of jail time and a fine up to $250.

Examples of fourth-degree misdemeanors include unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia and failure to disperse. For any misdemeanor offense, a jury will consist of eight people.

Higher and Lower Misdemeanor Charges

Ohio has five degrees of misdemeanors, ranging from misdemeanor of the first degree, the most serious offense, to minor misdemeanors, the least serious. The penalties for each level of misdemeanor are:

  • First-degree misdemeanor: up to 180 days' jail time and fine up to $1,000.
  • Second-degree misdemeanor: up to 90 days' jail time and fine up to $750.
  • Third-degree misdemeanor: up to 60 days' jail time and fine up to $500.
  • Fourth-degree misdemeanor: up to 30 days' jail time and fine up to $250.
  • Minor misdemeanor: no minimum penalty for jail time, but potential fine up to $150.

Statute of Limitations in Ohio

Ohio law provides that a prosecution is banned unless it is initiated within certain time periods after a criminal offense is committed:

  • Felony: six years.
  • Misdemeanor: two years, except if for minor misdemeanors.
  • Minor misdemeanor: six months.

A prosecution is initiated when the jury returns an indictment, or formal notice, that the offender is being charged. The prosecutor files an information, or charging document, on the date a lawful arrest without a warrant is made, or on the date a warrant, summons, citation or other process is issued, whichever occurs first.

The period of limitations does not run at any time while an accused person purposely avoids prosecution. Leaving the state or concealing one’s whereabouts is evidence of avoiding prosecution.

Probation Instead of a Jail Sentence

A court may sentence an offender to complete a term of community control, or county-level supervised probation, for a fourth-degree Ohio misdemeanor instead of, or in addition to, jail time.

If the court sentences an offender to jail, the judge can suspend all or a portion of their time. The suspension of jail time is conditioned on the offender complying with the terms of probation.

An offender who is on supervised probation is required to pay the cost of probation and obey all terms set by the court and their probation officer. Terms typically include undergoing drug and alcohol testing and seeking permission to leave the state. An offender may have to abide by a curfew.

Halfway Houses and Intermittent Confinement

A judge may require an offender to complete their sentence in a halfway house or residential treatment center. A judge can allow the offender to complete intermittent confinement on nights or weekends so they can continue to work or receive treatment.

Other Aspects of Probation

Probation records are not public information. An offender on supervision may not have any lethal weapons, including but not limited to, rifles, shotguns or handguns on their person, in their residence or in their vehicle.

Offenders are usually drug tested by urinalysis and tested for alcohol with a Breathalyzer test.

Eligibility for Pretrial Diversion

An offender in Ohio who commits a fourth-degree misdemeanor, especially a first-time offender, may be eligible for a court’s pretrial diversion program.

A participant in this type of program must agree to the conditions of the program, including submitting to mental health counseling if requested, drug tests, supervision and paying fees. If the offender completes the program successfully, the prosecutor will dismiss the charge.

Expungement for Misdemeanors

Expungement is a legal process that allows an offender to have all references to a prior criminal conviction cleared and their court file sealed. In order to qualify for expungement of a fourth-degree misdemeanor or other level of offense, an offender must first check that:

  • Ohio law allows the expungement of their offense.
  • They were not subject to a mandatory prison term for the conviction. (An offender sentenced to prison time but eligible for probation would still qualify.)
  • Statutory waiting period has passed for the conviction they seek to expunge.
  • They have no current criminal charges pending against them in Ohio or another state.

The statutory waiting period for a misdemeanor offense is one year. If the offender was charged with a crime, but the case was dismissed or a court or jury found them not guilty, the offender can have those records of the charges expunged and sealed.

Sealed Criminal Records May Be Accessed

Even though the current record is sealed, there may be ways for people to see the previous case through companies that compile data.

A court does not have control over this. An individual can learn more about the expungement process by visiting their local public defender’s office. This office will have an expungement packet available, which they may also place online.

OVIs and Penalties for Misdemeanor Convictions

In Ohio, a charge of operating a vehicle while impaired, or OVI, is akin to a charge of driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) in another state. The penalty for an OVI depends on the number of times the offender has repeated the crime. Typically, the severity and penalties are:

  • First-time OVI: Charged as a first-degree misdemeanor, between three days and six months in jail, fine between $375 and $1,075, and driver’s license suspension of between one and three years.
  • Second-time OVI: Charged as a first-degree misdemeanor, between 10 days and six months in jail, fine between $525 and $1,625, and driver’s license suspension of between one and seven years.
  • Third-time OVI: Charged as a first-degree misdemeanor, between 30 days and one year in jail, fine between $850 and $2,750, and driver’s license suspension of between two and 12 years.

OVI Look-back Periods

Ohio has a 10-year look-back period for OVIs. During this period, a repeat offense is considered a subsequent offense. An individual who commits a sixth or subsequent OVI within 20 years may be charged with a fourth-degree felony.

The penalties for a fourth-degree felony in Ohio include between six months and 18 months of jail time and a fine up to $5,000.