Jail. Prison. The Clink. Inside. The Joint. The Pen. The Hoosegow. The Crossbar Hotel.
One of the first things you’re going to wonder if you’re ever accused of a crime is, what’s going to happen to me? Will I got to jail? Will I go to prison? Oh, there’s a difference between the two? How much time am I facing?
There are a huge number of different penalties besides incarceration that you might face for any crime: hefty fines, wallet-busting court costs, driver’s license suspensions, house arrest, electronic monitoring via GPS ankle bracelet, mental health counseling, drug and alcohol programming or standing on the side of a road with a pig. The list goes on. On top of that are the lasting repercussions on your life caused by an ugly mark on your record, unless you can get your record expunged.
The biggest bogeyman of all is the possibility of losing your freedom and possibly being sentenced to the lock-up for an uncomfortable amount of time with some very scary people. It is difficult if not impossible to put an exact number on your risk without examing the facts surrounding your charge, your past history, your number of current charges, and other information, but the law does lay out some broad guidelines.
Ohio in general divides crimes into felonies (more serious) and misdemeanors (less serious). Misdemeanors come in five varieties: first degree (the most serious misdemeanor) down to a fourth-degree, with another category of very minor offenses called minor misdemeanors. Your typical speeding ticket is a minor misdemeanor. Minor misdemeanor offenses do not carry jail time. From there, the possible jail time increases with each level: up to 30 days for a fourth-degree misdemeanor, up to 60 days for a third, 90 for a second, and for a first degree misdemeanor the judge could send you away for six months: 180 days.
Felonies are far more serious and also come in five levels. First degree felonies are the most serious, on down to the fifth degree, the least serious felony. If you are facing a first-degree felony then you are facing anywhere from three to eleven years in prison. For a second degree felony, you face two to eight years. Third-degree felonies carry sentences of one to five years (if they are violent) or 18 months to three years. Fourth-degree felonies could have you locked up from nine to 18 months, and fifth-degree felonies carry six to 12 months in prison.
There are, of course, always more exceptions. If you use a firearm, you could get more time. If you have prior violent crimes, you could get more time. If you had too many drugs in your car, you could get extra time. If you have multiple charges, the court could make you serve “consecutive” sentences – in other words, the sentences on each charge might get added together. And if you have done something extremely serious – murder and rape, for example – you could be looking at life without parole or the death penalty.
Now go talk to a lawyer in person, and stop looking up your possible sentences on the internet.