Felony Offenses in Ohio
A felony offense is generally defined as an offense that is punishable by a year or more of incarceration (prison). Felonies offenses in Ohio are categorized into “degrees” ranging from First Degree to Fifth Degree with Fifth Degree being the lowest. This means a Fifth Degree felony or “F5” is the least punishable felony degree and First Degree Felony is the most punishable. This of course does not include capital offenses (capital murder) which is generally denoted as “FX”
Examples of Fifth Degree Felonies would be theft of more and $1k and less than $7k, drug possession (cocaine, heroin, LSD, etc.), or forgery.
Examples of First Degree Felonies would be Murder, Rape, Robbery, etc.
Its important to keep in mind that just because you are charged with a felony, does not mean that you will ultimately be convicted of that felony. This is why hiring a competent attorney is so important. An attorney who knows the court in which you are charged, has a good relationship with the prosecuting attorneys, and a good understanding of the possible outcomes will be invaluable considering the punishments a defendant faces if he/she walks in and pleads guilty to the felony offense.
Felony Sentencing in Ohio
A person who pleads guilty to or is found guilty at trial of a felony (F1-F5) will face a judge for sentencing. The judge has wide discretion in fashioning such a sentence. However, judges must make certain findings in order to support their sentencing decision. Generally speaking, a judge has two options: A sentence of prison or a sentence of community control sanctions.
Community Control Sanctions is commonly referred to as “probation” however, probationary-type sanctions are merely one part of a set of residential, non-residential, and financial sanctions. Basically Community Control Sanctions are a court ordered set of rules for the convicted defendant to abide by. They order the defendant to do certain things: Jail, Report to Probation, Counseling, Drug Treatment, Pay Resitution, etc. They also order the Defendant not to do certain things: don’t use drugs, don’t violate the law, curfews, stay away orders, etc. Therefore, a judge may impose community control sanctions instead of a term of months or years in prison.
If a defendant violates community control sanctions, they will be hauled into court by summons or arrest all over again to face a sentence that the judge has suspended. In the case of a felony, the judge may do three different things: impose more community control, change the terms of community control (adding new terms), or terminate unsuccessfully and impose a prison term.
Ohio sets minimums and maximums for felony sentences.
F1 – 3-11 years in prison, $20,000 fine,
F2 – 2-8 years in prison, $15,000 fine
F3 – 12-60 months in prison (for Certain Crimes), $10,000 fine
OR 9-36 months in prison, $10,000 fine
F4 – 6-18 months in prison, $5,000 fine
F5 – 6-12 months in prison, $5,000 fine.
Felonies of the First Degree (F1), and Second Degree (F2) can also be punishable by a range of years under Reagan Toke’s Law. This means that in many circumstances, a judge must set a minimum and maximum sentence. Reagan Tokes Law applies to F1 and F2 offenses committed on or after March 22, 2019 that are not punishable by life imprisonment.
Example: Defendant convicted of F2 felony assault (2-8 years possible); judge can give any number between 2-8 as a minimum sentence; whatever that number is, is increased by 50% which is the maximum term. So if the judge gives 2 years, its actually 2-3 years in prison.
There is also statutory guidance for judge’s to follow when deciding whether to give prison or community control. There are what are commonly referred to as “presumptions.”
F1 and F2 offenses are presumed to be punished by prison. Imagine a scale that types towards prison and away from community control.
F3 offenses are not presumed to have either prison or community control and are instead merely guided by the purposes and principles of felony sentencing.
F4 and F5 are bit different. If the offense is non-violent and the offender has no prior felony, no misdemeanor conviction with 2 years, etc. there is mandatory community control of 1 year. If any of the nine factors in 2929.13(B)(1)(b) apply AND the court finds the offender is not amenable to (or won’t/doesn’t abide by) community control sanctions, the court has discretion to impose prison. Otherwise, there is generally guidance against prison for F4 and F5 offenses.
There are a variety of things a defendant can do post conviction: Appeal the conviction, Modify or terminate community control sanctions early, seal the criminal record, judicial release, etc. See “Post Conviction” Section.
Post Release Control
Commonly referred to as “parole,” Post-Release Control (PRC) is a period of supervision of an offender by the Adult Parole Authority (APA) following release from prison that includes post release control sanctions imposed by the Parole Board. This is kind of like community control but following a prison sentence. The APA will monitor the offender after release using many different tools. A violation of PRC can result in the offender returning to prison.