Criminal Court Process In Ohio

The Court Process For Criminal Cases In Columbus And Central Ohio
This page of the website gives an outline of the court process for criminal cases in Columbus, Ohio and the central Ohio area.  The exact process may differ some from court to court, but the general process will be generally the same in all central Ohio courts.  If you are charged with a criminal offense in Columbus or central Ohio, the information on this page will be helpful.

The Complaint And Summons Or Warrant
When an officer charges you with a criminal offense, the officer serves you with a complaint.  The complaint tells you the offense(s) you are charged with and a summary of the conduct which constituted the offense(s).  The complaint identifies the crimes by name and statute number.  A copy of the complaint is filed with the court in which you must appear.  The complaint also contains either a summons to appear in court or an arrest warrant.  If you are issued a summons and fail to appear in court, there will likely be a warrant issued for your arrest.

The Arraignment For Ohio Criminal Cases
The arraignment is the first court appearance.  Some courts refer to it as an initial appearance.  At the first court appearance, your rights will be explained, and you will enter a plea.  You may enter a plea of Guilty, No Contest, or Not Guilty.

•    A guilty plea is an admission of guilt.  If you plead guilty, you will be found guilty, and the judge or magistrate will probably sentence you immediately.
•    A plea of No Contest is not an admission of guilt but is an admission of the truth of the facts alleged in the complaint.  If it is determined those facts constitute the crime charged, the judge or magistrate will likely find you guilty and sentence you immediately.
•    A plea of Not Guilty is a denial of guilt.  If you plead not guilty, the case will be scheduled for future court appearances.

If you do not resolve the case at the arraignment stage, your case will move to the next stage, which is typically a pretrial hearing.

The Pretrial Hearing For Ohio Criminal Cases
If the crime charged is punishable by incarceration, the next stage of your case will be a pretrial hearing (some courts use a status conference or discovery conference instead, and not all courts hold pretrial hearings).  If the crime charged is not punishable by incarceration, the next stage will be a trial instead of a pretrial hearing.  At the pretrial hearing, you or your lawyer discuss the case with a prosecuting attorney and possibly negotiate a plea agreement.  If there is a plea agreement, you go before the judge to make the agreement official and likely finish the case.  If you do not settle on a plea agreement, the case will be scheduled for the next stage:  a motion hearing or a trial.

The Motion Hearing For Ohio Criminal Cases
Your case may or may not have a motion hearing.  If there are legal issues to decide before a trial, you or your lawyer will file motions regarding those legal issues.  An example is a motion to suppress evidence which was unlawfully obtained by law enforcement.  If motions are filed, a motion hearing is held so the judge can hear evidence and arguments about the issues raised in the motions.  The judge then issues a verbal or written decision.  At the motion hearing, there may also be additional negotiation with the prosecuting attorney.  If the case is not finished at the motion hearing stage, or if no motions were filed, the next stage of the case is a trial.

The Trial For Ohio Criminal Cases
You have a Constitutional right to a trial.  If the crime charged is punishable by incarceration, you have the right to a jury trial.  If not, there will be a bench trial.  In a jury trial, a jury of 8 or 12 people will decide whether the evidence proves your guilt.  In a bench trial, a judge decides whether the evidence proves your guilt.  For you to be found guilty, the prosecution must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  You do not have to prove your innocence.  You have the right to cross examine the witnesses called by the prosecution, and you have the right to subpoena your own witnesses.  You can also testify, if you choose, but you cannot be compelled to testify.  If the verdict is Not Guilty, you are not sentenced.  If the verdict is Guilty, there will be a sentence hearing.

The Sentence Hearing For Criminal Cases In Ohio
If you enter a plea of Guilty, or if you are found guilty in a trial, a sentence hearing is held for the judge to decide your sentence.  At the sentence hearing, the prosecuting attorney will make a statement, any victims may make a statement, and you can make a statement as well.  The judge then imposes a sentence.

Attorney For Criminal Cases In Columbus And Central Ohio
You have the right to be represented by a lawyer for Ohio criminal cases, and you will likely find it beneficial to have the best representation possible.  A good criminal defense lawyer can improve the case outcome.  The Dominy Law Firm has improved case outcomes for clients since 1997, and we have handled all types of criminal cases, so we can help with a case like yours.  To see what clients say about the firm, please see the client reviews page.  To discuss representation for your case, you can arrange a free telephone consultation by completing a CONTACT FORM or by calling 614-717-1177.

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