OVI / DUI Court Process In Ohio
Most people charged with DUI / OVI are unfamiliar with court procedures, so this page of the website is designed to give an overview of the court process for Ohio drunk driving cases. This page also explains the rights you have and how a good Columbus, Ohio DUI / OVI lawyer can protect your rights during the court process in central Ohio.The Ticket And Administrative License Suspension Report
To charge you with DUI / OVI (in Ohio, it’s called OVI), an officer must issue a traffic ticket. The ticket must give you notice of the exact offenses with which you are charged, and it should contain the corresponding code sections you are accused of violating. If you refused a chemical test or tested over the limit, the officer should also give you an Administrative License Suspension Report. When you are issued a ticket, the ticket will contain a summons. A summons is an order for you to report to a particular court at a specific time. The Court will receive a copy of your summons. If you fail to appear, the Court can issue a warrant for your arrest.The Arraignment For Ohio DUI / OVI Cases
Your first court appearance, the arraignment, should be within five business days of receiving the ticket. You have a Constitutional right to be represented by an attorney at the arraignment and every stage of the case. At the arraignment, there typically is not much negotiation, so you will be given the choice of pleading guilty or not guilty. If you plead guilty, you will be sentenced, and there is a 100% chance you will have a DUI / OVI conviction on your permanent record.
If you plead not guilty, you will have an opportunity to review the prosecution’s evidence and defend yourself against the accusations. Some people worry that pleading not guilty may result in more severe consequences if they later plead guilty or are found guilty. This generally is not true because judges understand that, if you want the opportunity to at least review the evidence, you need to plead not guilty.
If you plead not guilty, you should also appeal the Administrative License Suspension. This can be done orally at the arraignment and should also be done in writing within 30 days. If you hire an attorney, the attorney will assist you with pleading not guilty and appealing the Administrative License Suspension. The attorney should also file a Demand For Discovery to obtain the evidence from the prosecutor’s file.The Pretrial Hearing For DUI / OVI Charges In Ohio
If you enter a plea of not guilty, your next court appearance will be a pretrial hearing. Before the time of your pretrial hearing, your attorney will obtain the evidence from the prosecuting attorney's files (discovery). Those materials should include police reports, witness statements, alcohol influence reports, chemical test reports, and any video recordings related to the incident. Based on the contents of the discovery, your attorney will likely file motions to suppress evidence, such as the field sobriety tests, the chemical test, and any statements you made while in custody.
The purpose of the pretrial hearing is to provide your attorney an opportunity to talk about the case with the prosecuting attorney. At the pretrial hearing, the prosecutor will likely make an offer to resolve the case without a trial (a plea bargain). For example, the prosecutor may agree to recommend a certain sentence if you plead guilty to the original DUI / OVI charge(s). If the negotiations go better for you, the prosecutor may agree to amend the DUI / OVI charge to a lesser charge or even dismiss the DUI / OVI charge.
A lawyer will advocate for you in plea negotiations and will help you evaluate the prosecutor's offer and decide whether to accept it. If you accept the prosecutor's offer at the pretrial, a hearing is held before the judge to formalize the agreement, the judge imposes the sentence (unless the entire case is dismissed), and the case is finished. In my experience, prosecutors rarely reduce charges at the pretrial hearing stage, and many people charged with DUI / OVI give up and plead guilty at the pretrial hearing (not my clients).The Motion Hearing In DUI / OVI Cases
If your case is not resolved at the pretrial hearing, the case will be scheduled for a hearing on any motions to suppress that your attorney filed. For example, if the officer lacked probable cause to arrest you, any evidence obtained after the arrest may never be heard by the jury. Likewise, if the officer did not administer the field sobriety tests correctly, the officer may not be permitted to testify about your performance on those tests. Similarly, if the proper procedures were not followed for breath tests, blood tests, or urine tests, the results of those tests may not be admissible. A defense attorney knowledgeable about search and seizure, field sobriety testing, and chemical testing can make a significant difference at the motion hearing stage.
At the motion hearing, the witnesses testify, and the lawyers make arguments to the judge regarding why certain evidence should or should not be suppressed (thrown out). The judge then makes a decision about the admissibility of the contested evidence. At the motion hearing stage, there is also often continued negotiations between the prosecutor and defense counsel, and there is some chance the case will still be settled with a plea agreement. For the clients I represent, the motion hearing is the stage where the majority of cases are resolved.The Trial For DUI / OVI Cases
If your case is not resolved at the motion hearing stage, it will be scheduled for a trial. You have the right to a trial, and if you are charged with a crime that is punishable by incarceration, you have the right to a trial by jury. At the trial, it is the responsibility of the prosecution to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; you do not have to prove your innocence.
If you intend to have a trial, you do not want to represent yourself: "he who represents himself has a fool for a client ". The rules governing the admissibility of evidence and other trial formalities are voluminous and complex. You should hire an attorney with expertise in cross-examinations, opening statements, and closing arguments for DUI / OVI cases. When you interview attorneys, it would be helpful to find out how many cases they have taken to trial as a defense attorney (trying cases as a prosecutor is not the same).The Sentence Hearing For DUI / OVI Cases
If you plead guilty to, or are found guilty of, OVI or a lesser offense, the judge will hold a sentence hearing. During the sentence hearing, the judge hears from the prosecutor, the defense attorney, and the defendant. The judge then decides what sentence to impose. Judges have much discretion in sentencing, and there is a wide range in penalties for DUI / OVI offenses. For example, on a first offense, the jail sentence ranges from three days to six months, and the license suspension ranges from six months to three years. It would be beneficial to have an attorney speak on your behalf in the sentence hearing to effectively explain why the judge should exercise leniency in your case.Attorney For DUI / OVI Cases In Columbus And Central Ohio
The Dominy Law Firm is focused on DUI / OVI defense, we have experience in the DUI / OVI court process (including motion hearings and trials), and we teach other attorneys in trial skills workshops. For more information about our practice, please see the firm overview. You can also see what our clients say and review our past case results. We limit the number of cases we accept so we can provide personal service for our clients. If you would like to discuss how we can help in the DUI / OVI court process for your case, EMAIL US or call us at 614-717-1177 to arrange a free consultation.