Sentencing in Columbus
Occasionally, despite an attorney’s good faith best efforts, a criminal trial can result in a conviction. In the unfortunate event the defendant is convicted of a criminal offense or pleads guilty through a plea agreement, the court will have two options. The judge can either sentence the defendant immediately or they can schedule a pre-sentence investigation and sentencing hearing.
Ohio Criminal Sentencing Lawyer
It is important to hire a knowledgeable attorney to help you understand your sentencing options in Columbus, and the surrounding areas in Ohio, including Delaware, Dublin, Westerville, London, West Jefferson, Newark, Lancaster, Circleville, Pataskala, Pickerington and Ashville.
Brian Joslyn of the Joslyn Law Firm is knowledgeable in all areas of Columbus criminal law will make every effort to help you avoid the most serious penalties and repercussions to your alleged offense. Call the Joslyn Law Firm at (614) 444-1900 for a consultation today.
Pre-sentencing Investigations in Columbus
Pre-sentencing investigations are typically carried out by a probation department in Ohio, which prepares a report for the judge, prosecutor and defense attorney that details the defendant’s history. The issues addressed in the report can include, but are not limited to:
- The defendant’s criminal history,
- The defendant’s financial condition,
- The defendant’s character, and
- Any other information directly reflecting the defendant’s behavior that may assist in the determination of a criminal sentence.
On the sentencing date, the prosecutor will highlight the negatives in the report and make a recommendation regarding the criminal sentence. The defense will then have an opportunity to contest the negative aspects of the report and point out the positive aspects of defendant’s history and character. Your defense attorney will attempt to persuade the judge that sentencing should be more lenient than the prosecution suggests. After reviewing both arguments, the judge will make a determination and sentence the defendant.
Types of Punishment in Ohio
An individual that has been convicted of a criminal offense in Ohio can face any of the following forms of punishment:
Fines – This form of punishment is typically assigned to misdemeanors and less serious crimes. However, fines can also be imposed in addition to jail or prison sentences.
Restitution – In this form of punishment, the criminal defendant pays a sum of money to the victim, which is generally conditional upon the defendant’s gain or advantage from committing the offense.
Probation – This type of penalty is an alternative to a jail or prison sentence, and involves the court ordering the defendant to be conditionally released into the community.
Jail or Prison – This form of punishment can be imposed for any degree of felony or misdemeanor offense, except minor misdemeanors.
Death Penalty – The most unfortunate and severe penalty, this type of penalty can only be imposed in homicide cases.
Ohio’s General Sentencing Guidelines
Misdemeanor Jail Terms and Fines – Ohio Revised Code § 2929.24(A) – The offense level, maximum jail sentence and maximum fines are as follows:
- Misdemeanor 1 – Maximum jail term up to 180 days; maximum fine up to $1,000;
- Misdemeanor 2 – Maximum jail term up to 90 days; maximum fine up to $750;
- Misdemeanor 3 – Maximum jail term up to 60 days; maximum fine up to $500;
- Misdemeanor 4 – Maximum jail term up to 30 days; maximum fine up to $250;
- Minor Misdemeanor – No jail term; maximum fine up to $150.
Felony Prison Terms and Fines – Ohio Revised Code § 2929.13 – The offense level, maximum prison term and maximum fines are as follows:
- Felony 1 – Prison term ranging from 3 to 10 years; maximum fine up to $20,000;
- Felony 2 – Prison term ranging from 2 to 8 years; maximum fine up to $15,000;
- Felony 3 – Prison term ranging from 1 to 5 years; maximum fine up to $10,000;
- Felony 4 – Prison term ranging from 6 to 18 months; maximum fine up to $5,000;
- Felony 5 – Prison term ranging from 6 to 12 months; maximum fine up to $2,550.
Penalties and Sentencing
Under Ohio law, penalties and sentencing will depend on the degree of the offense. Serious penalties are imposed for repeat offenders, those who use or threaten to use violence, or anyone who commits a crime with the use of a weapon.
Defendants in Ohio will serve a sentence pronounced in open court, rather than indeterminate sentence set by a judge. The sentence announced in open court is the actual time a defendant will serve, minus any time already spent in jail or prison. Judges have full control over the defendant’s sentence as opposed to a Parole Board. The Parole Board is prohibited from releasing defendants from non-life sentences. Only the judge retains control of an offender’s release time through what is termed “judicial release.”The judge can also allow the offender to be placed in a boot camp or treatment program.
Additionally, for each day an inmate participates in a bona fide school, work, training or treatment program, they earn credit toward a reduction of their sentence by one day for every month in such a program.
Mandatory Sentencing in Columbus
In certain cases, the judge must give the convicted offender mandatory sentences, such as an additional three years for using a firearm during a felony. However, for most mandatory terms, the judge can exercise discretion regarding the actual duration of the prison term.
Mandatory prison terms are imposed for the following offenses:
- Aggravated murder (when a death sentence is not imposed);
- Any rape or attempted rape on a minor under the age of thirteen;
- First or second degree felonies when the offender has a prior second degree or higher felony conviction;
- First, second or third degree drug offenses when made mandatory by statute;
- Corrupt activity (racketeering) when the most serious underlying offense is a first degree felony;
- Felony vehicular homicide and assault or drunk driving when specified by statute;
- Possession of a firearm during a felony;
- Gross sexual imposition or sexual battery if the offender has a prior conviction for either offense or for rape involving a victim under thirteen years old;
- Any sexual offense where the indictment indicates the perpetrator is a sexually violent offender;
- Wearing or carrying deadly weapons during the commission of a felony; and
- Illegal conveyance, by a prison employee, of contraband items, such as narcotics, alcoholic beverages, weapons, or pornography into a prison facility.
Individuals identified as repeat violent offenders or drug offenders are subject to lengthy mandatory sentences, and can have as many as ten years added to their sentences. Ohio law requires judges to impose an additional term of three years imprisonment for felons who possess, use or brandish a firearm during the commission of a felony.
If the crime involved a hidden firearm and/or the perpetrator did not draw attention to the weapon, an additional one year may be imposed. If the weapon is an automatic or equipped with a silencer, the mandatory sentence is six years. The sentence for a firearm occurs prior to and is separate from the original offense, and cannot be served concurrently with the original offense. The sentence for the charged crime cannot be suspended or reduced by the firearm sentence, except through credit for time already served.
Ohio Sentencing Discretion
Although the Ohio Criminal Code defers to judicial discretion, certain guidelines must be followed. For example, in the case of first and second degree felonies, a mandatory prison term is imposed to punish the offender and protect the public. However, for fourth and fifth degree felonies, some offenders are sentenced to prison, while other property and non-violent offenders are generally given community controlled sanctions. If the judge decided upon prison as a form of punishment, the following factors regarding the given offense must be considered:
- Did the offense cause physical harm to any person?
- Did the offense involve an attempted or actual threat of harm with a weapon?
- Did the offender have a prior conviction for attempting or threatening harm if the current attempt or threat was made without a weapon?
- Did the offender possess a firearm?
- Was the offense committed by a person in public office or in a position of trust?
- Was the offense for hire as part of organized crime?
- Was the offense a sex offense?
- Was the offense committed by an offender with a prior record?
- Was the offense committed while the offender was under indictment or under community control for another offense?
If any of these factors is present, the Ohio Criminal Code instructs the judge to impose a prison sentence, provided the court finds the offender is not eligible for community sanctions. If none of the factors apply, then the judge must impose community sanctions.
A judge may choose either to adhere to or forgo the Ohio Criminal Code’s guidelines. For example, a judge may, in his/her discretion, sentence a second degree drug offender without a prior criminal history to community service or, in the case of a non-violent repeat offender, the judge may determine that prison is the appropriate sanction, where the offender is not amenable to community service. If the judge departs from the guidelines, they must give reasons for that decision.
In the case of misdemeanor offenses, the judge must consider the factors similar to those for felony offenses, including the risk of repeat offenses, public safety, the nature and circumstances of the offense, the offender’s past criminal history, the offender’s character, and any victim impact statements, whether the offender is in need of rehabilitation, and the offender’s ability to pay a fine if one is imposed. In departing from the Code in misdemeanor cases, the judge need not provide specific reasons. Sentence appeals in misdemeanor cases are not as common as in felony cases.
Victim impact statements are assertions made at sentencing by the victim or the victim’s family members, either verbally in open court or in writing. The statements allow victims and their family member to express to the judge how the crime has affected them.
Another kind of impact statement is one a victim provides to a probation officer during a pre-sentencing investigation. The pre-sentence investigation is conducted before the alleged offender is sentenced in order to provide the judge with background information about the offender, such as his or her criminal history, personal history, social history, employment record, financial history, family history, physical and mental status. The probation officer gives this information to the judge, along with the victim’s impact statement. All of this information remains confidential.
After the judge reads the pre-sentence report, receives the victim’s impact statement, and hears the defendant in open court, the judge will impose the sentence. Judges may be more lenient with first-time offenders, as long as the duration of the sentence does not undermine the seriousness of the offense or disregard the likelihood of repetition. Judges are generally harsher toward individuals who are repeat, violent and dangerous offenders.
Prison-bound offenders must be sentenced to a minimum term if they have not previously served a prison sentence. A judge can elect to sentence the offender for a longer term, but the sentence must be in accordance with other basic sentencing guidelines. However, the worst offenders must be penalized with the longest sentences. If a defendant receives the maximum sentence, he or she has the right to an appeal.
Alternatives to prison are probation or community control. Judges can place offenders on community control if they have already served a portion of their prison sentence. Eligibility for early judicial release depends on the length of the sentence. Probation and community control are not available to those serving mandatory prison terms.
Most offenses do not carry mandatory prison terms. For non-mandatory sentencing, the judge’s discretion can include:
- Ordering the sentence be served in a local jail or prison on nights or weekends, affording the offender time to work and to be with his or her family (this is much more common in with misdemeanor defendants than felony defendants);
- Imposing either a suspension of fines or installment payments;
- Providing for commitment or treatment options for offenders who are proven to be mentally deficient or ill, or alcohol or drug dependent.
Community Control Sanctions in Columbus
In the mid-1990’s, in response to prison overcrowding, the Ohio General Assembly called for alternatives to imprisonment in certain types of cases while addressing the underlying causes of the offenses and reducing the likelihood of repeat offenses.
Individuals not facing mandatory prison sentences may receive any of the following residential and non-residential sanctions (as outlined in the Ohio Criminal Code):
- Residential sanctions include community-based correctional facilities, jails, minimum-security jails, and halfway houses;
- Non-residential sanctions include house arrest, electronic monitoring, community service, drug testing and treatment, basic and intensive supervision, monitored time, alcohol monitoring, curfew, employment, education, training, victim-offender mediation, anger-management programs, license-violation reports, and day reporting, which allows the offender out of jail to work or seek treatment;
- Financial sanctions may include conventional fines, fines imposed according to the offender’s standard percentage of daily income over a period of time, mandatory fines in higher-level drug cases, restitution to victims for their monetary losses, and reimbursement for the cost of sanctions or for the cost of jail or prison; and
- State prison-monitored boot camps, intensive work, school, or training programs.
Non-residential and financial sanctions are also available to misdemeanor offenders.
Boot camp typically involves a ninety-day incarceration period, during which the offender receives military-style discipline, undergoes laborious training, receives substance-abuse education, undergoes a psychological intervention, and receives social and employment skills training. Incarceration is followed by a 30 to 90 day stay in either a halfway house or a community-based correctional facility, followed by supervision in the community.
Such alternatives to jail or prison time are available to offenders who are approved by a judge and prison officials, and who are deemed to be young, healthy and nonviolent offenders who have spent limited time in prison.
Ohio Intervention and Diversion Programs
The Ohio General Assembly and the Court of Common Pleas have authorized intervention programs as alternatives to prison time for individuals with substance- abuse issues. Anyone who is eligible for the program will not be convicted of their alleged offense if they successfully complete the program. However, anyone who fails to complete the program under the required terms will be convicted of the offense and sentenced under the state’s guidelines.
Individuals who are eligible for the program are first-time offenders who are willing to perform community service and/or employment training, and not commit any offenses while in the program.
Joslyn Law Firm | Criminal Penalties in Ohio
Contact the Joslyn Law Firm today for a consultation about your criminal sentencing in Columbus, Ohio. It is important to hire a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney in Columbus to help you make every effort to achieve the most desirable outcome in your particular case. Call (614) 444-1900 for a consultation about your criminal charges and sentencing questions in Franklin County and surrounding counties, including Pickaway County, Madison County, Delaware County, Licking County and Fairfield County in Ohio.