FAQ - Criminal Court Process in Columbus and Central Ohio

Q: What is a Criminal Complaint?

A: A criminal complaint is a court document that identifies and summarizes the charges against you. A typical criminal complaint will contain the following: 1) a list of all the criminal charges that the government will be filing against you; 2) the date of the alleged offense(s); 3) a summary of the facts that specifically relate to the charges; and 4) the specific law, statute or ordinance that you allegedly violated. A copy of the complaint, with a summons to appear or an arrest warrant, is filed with the court in which you must appear.

Q: What is an Arraignment?

A: An arraignment is the first or initial court appearance. At the arraignment, the court will explain your rights to you, and you will enter a plea of Guilty, No Contest, or Not Guilty to the charges.

Q: What Comes After the Arraignment?

A: For charges punishable by incarceration, the next step is a pretrial hearing. Some courts use a status conference or discovery conference instead, and not all courts hold pretrial hearings. Charges not punishable by incarceration, will have a trial instead of a pretrial hearing.

Q: What is a Pretrial Hearing?

A: A pretrial hearing is a court appearance where you and/or your lawyer discuss the case with a prosecuting attorney. Your lawyer may negotiate a plea agreement at this stage in the case. If you reach a plea agreement, you may go before the judge immediately and finish the case, or the court will schedule a plea/sentence hearing. If you do not reach an agreement with the prosecutor, the court will set the case for a motion hearing or a trial.

Q: What is a Motion Hearing?

A: A motion hearing is a court procedure wherein your attorney and the prosecuting attorney argue legal issues. The judge listens to the arguments of both sides and makes a verbal decision or issues a decision in writing. Not all cases have a motion hearing. If your case is not completed at the motion hearing, or if there were no motions, the case will proceed to trial.

Q: What is a Trial?

A: All persons charged with a crime have a Constitutional right to a trial. A jury or judge will hear and examine the evidence in your case and determine whether you are guilty of the charges against you, beyond a reasonable doubt. In cases where the charges are punishable by incarceration, a jury of 8 to 12 people will decide your guilt. In all other cases, a judge will decide. If the verdict is Not Guilty, the case will be finished. If there is a Guilty verdict, a sentence hearing will be held.

Q: What is a Sentence Hearing?

A: If you plead guilty, or if the result of a trial is a guilty verdict, the court holds a hearing to determine your sentence. During that sentencing hearing, the judge will hear from the prosecuting attorney, and possibly victims. You and your attorney can also make a statement to the judge. The judge then imposes a sentence.

Attorneys for Criminal Cases in Columbus and Central Ohio

The Dominy Law firm in Columbus, Ohio represents clients charged with criminal offenses in Franklin County, Ohio and other central Ohio courts. To learn more about the Dominy Law Firm, please see this site's ‘About Us’ page. You can also see what clients say about our firm’s representation on the ‘Client Reviews’ page. If you would like to discuss how the Dominy Law Firm can help with your case, please call (614) 717-1177 or submit a CONTACT FORM to schedule a free phone consultation.

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