Court Process For Serious Vehicular Crimes In Ohio

Court Appearances For Serious Vehicular Crimes

Most people charged with Vehicular Homicide and Vehicular Assault in Columbus and central Ohio are unfamiliar with the court process. As a result, having to go to court can be intimidating and confusing. How many court appearances are there? What is the difference between an arraignment and a pretrial? When and how much will I have to speak in court? To answer those types of questions and decrease your anxiety about having to appear in court, this page summarizes the court process for serious vehicular crimes like Vehicular Assault and Vehicular Homicide.

The Court Process Is Different For Felonies And Misdemeanors

Some serious vehicular crimes in Ohio are categorized as felonies, and some are categorized as misdemeanors. Felony charges have a couple additional phases in the court process. If you are facing a misdemeanor charge, you can skip to the heading ‘Arraignment’. If you are facing a felony charge, you should begin with the next section.

Initial Appearance And Preliminary Hearing

In some felony cases, you are given a complaint and a summons to appear in Municipal Court. The first court appearance in Municipal Court is an Initial Appearance. At the Initial Appearance, you should expect to enter a Not Guilty plea and address bail. Within 15 days (or within ten days, if you are in jail), you will attend a Preliminary Hearing in Municipal Court. The purpose of the Preliminary Hearing is for the judge to determine whether your case will be bound-over to the Common Pleas Court. In many cases, however, the Preliminary Hearing is not held. Instead, you are simply informed whether your case has already been presented to a Grand Jury or will be presented to a Grand Jury in the future. Either way, the case in the Municipal Court is dismissed after the Preliminary Hearing, and any future proceedings are held in the Common Pleas Court.

Grand Jury Hearing

Felony cases in Ohio are presented to a Grand Jury by a prosecuting attorney. The defendant and defense counsel are not present. After the evidence is presented by the prosecutor, the Grand Jury decides whether the defendant will be charged with the alleged crime(s). If the answer is ‘yes’, the Grand Jury issues an indictment: a document notifying the defendant that he or she has been charged with the crime(s). The indictment is delivered to the defendant with an arrest warrant or a summons to appear in court for an Arraignment.


The first court appearance for misdemeanors in the Municipal Court, and for felonies in the Common Pleas Court, is the Arraignment. At the arraignment, the judge will set bail and ask you to enter a plea to the charge(s). Your options for pleas are: (1) Guilty; (2) No Contest; and (3) Not Guilty. Pleading Guilty is a complete admission of guilt, and pleading No Contest is an admission of the facts alleged in the complaint or indictment. If you plead Guilty or No Contest, the judge likely will soon impose the sentence. The court process will be completed, and you will serve the sentence imposed by the judge. If you plead Not Guilty, the case will be scheduled for a Pretrial Hearing, and the two sides will exchange discovery.


Discovery is the exchange of evidence between the prosecution and the defense. To initiate the discovery process, the defense should file a Demand for Discovery. The prosecution then provides evidence to the defense, such as:

  • accident investigation and reconstruction reports
  • Electronic Data Recorder report
  • arrest report and officers’ narratives
  • witness statements
  • alcohol/drug influence report
  • Drug Recognition Evaluation report
  • Administrative License Suspension report
  • test results from blood/breath/urine tests
  • expert witness reports
  • medic reports
  • medical records
  • photographs and videos

Each party has an obligation to provide discovery to the other party. If you receive discovery from the prosecution, you are required to provide the prosecutor with certain items, such as a witness list and evidence you intend to introduce if there is a trial.

Pretrial Hearing

The purpose of the pretrial is for the prosecution and defense to discuss the case and negotiate toward an agreed resolution. If the parties reach an agreed resolution (plea agreement), the case may be finished at the pretrial hearing with a plea/sentence hearing. If you plead guilty to an offense, you will be required to speak, as the judge needs to determine you understand the possible penalties and the rights you give up by pleading guilty to an offense. If the parties do not reach an agreement, they report the case status to the judge and request that the case be scheduled for another hearing. By the time of the pretrial, the defense lawyer has typically filed a motion to suppress evidence, so the next hearing is usually a motion hearing.

Motion Hearing

At a motion hearing, the judge receives evidence and testimony related to the defendant’s motion to suppress evidence. The lawyers then argue to the judge regarding what conclusions should be reached from the evidence. The judge may issue an immediate oral decision, or the judge may take the issues under advisement and later issue a written decision. At the motion hearing stage, there is also typically additional negotiation between the parties.


If your case is not resolved at the pretrial hearing or motion hearing, your case will be scheduled for a trial. At the trial, each side gives an opening statement, calls witnesses, and makes closing arguments. The judge or jury then decides whether the evidence proves your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Sentence Hearing

If you are found guilty in a trial, or if you plead guilty at some phase of the court process, the judge will hold a sentence hearing. At the sentence hearing, each side can make a recommendation to the judge regarding what sentence should be imposed. The sentence hearing is a time you will be asked to speak in court. Before imposing the sentence, the judge will ask what you would like to say on your own behalf. After hearing from the prosecution, your lawyer, and you, the judge announces the sentence.

Lawyers For Serious Vehicular Crimes In Columbus And Central Ohio

The court process can be daunting, so you should consider hiring a lawyer. Cases of Vehicular Homicide and Vehicular Assault involve serious consequences, and the lawyer you hire can make a significant difference in the outcome of the case. The lawyers at the Dominy Law Firm have experience and expertise in serious vehicular crimes defense, as demonstrated in their books, the Ohio Vehicular Assault Guide (Rivers Edge Publishing) and the Ohio Vehicular Homicide Guide (Rivers Edge Publishing). If you would like to discuss representation for your Vehicular Homicide or Vehicular Assault in Columbus or central Ohio, please call 614-717-1177 or complete a CONTACT FORM to schedule a free phone consultation.

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