Ohio lawmakers overhauled the state's sentencing structure in 1996 to give judges more leeway in tailoring sentences to individual defendants rather than basing sentencing on the actual crime. The revisions allow judges to look at the defendant's prior record, the severity of the offense, type of offense and whether violence or a weapon was involved. Under the Ohio code, judges sentence defendants who are convicted of a fifth-degree felony with a specific rather than indeterminate sentence. According to the Ohio State Bar Association, judges are required in each felony case "to punish the offender and protect the public".
Crimes in Ohio are categorized by misdemeanor and felony. Misdemeanors are considered by the courts and lawmakers as less serious, while felonies are treated as more serious offenses. Ohio further sub-classifies felonies into five classes, with first-degree felonies as the most serious. First-degree felonies include murder, kidnapping and rape. Fifth-degree felonies are the least serious type of felony, and are only slightly more serious than misdemeanor charges.
Defendants convicted of a felony face the possibility of more prison time, higher fines and more community sanctions than those convicted of misdemeanors. Felony five level offenses usually carry a presumption against prison time, however. This means that a judge will only order a prison sentence if there are aggravating circumstances. Generally, defendants convicted of a fifth degree felony are given a prison sentence if the crime involves a weapon or is carried out by a person who has served prison time previously. Other factors requiring a prison sentence include any offense committed by an organized crime syndicate, a sex offense or a crime committed by a person in a public office or position of trust, such as a school teacher or parent. If there are no aggravating circumstances, the judge may require a sentence of community service or probation.
Maximum Prison Sentences and Fines
The typical jail term for a fifth-degree felony is six to 12 months. A defendant may be released early from prison, but the decision on an early release is left to the discretion of the trial judge. Fines assessed in fifth degree felony cases are dependent on whether the defendant is an individual or an organization. An individual convicted of a fifth degree felony may be assessed up to $2,500 while an organization faces a fine up to $7,500.
Examples of Class Five Felonies
Ohio fifth degree felonies include assaulting a police officer or teacher, assaulting someone in a correctional facility, theft of money or items valued between $100,000 and $500,000, forgery, violating a protective order or trafficking in marijuana, LSD or heroin. It also includes receiving stolen property and breaking and entering.
Read More: What is a Class D Felony?
A class five felony is the least serious type of felony crime. It includes such offenses as receiving stolen property and breaking and entering.
Based in Salt Lake City, Terri Ellefsen has written for print and Web media since 1977. Her articles have appeared in "Fairways Magazine" and "The Salt Lake Tribune," where she covered police, courts, education and government. She regularly writes content for business and golf websites.