Traffic Ticket Court Process in Ohio
This page provides an overview of what to expect in court for traffic tickets in Columbus, Ohio and the courts of central Ohio. You may not want or need to go to court, so you may choose to simply pay the ticket. However, if you choose to go to court, or if you receive a ticket requiring a mandatory court appearance, you’ll find the information on this page valuable. When you find yourself facing the court process, a Columbus traffic ticket lawyer can help.
To charge you with a traffic violation, an officer issues you an Ohio Uniform Traffic Ticket. The traffic ticket notifies you what offense(s) you are charged with. It lists the offenses by name and by code number. The ticket also contains a summons: an order for you to appear in court on a certain day and at a certain time. It will also notify you whether you can pay the ticket in advance (and cancel the court appearance) or whether you must appear in court. A copy of the ticket is also delivered to the court. If you do not pay the ticket or appear in court at the designated time, the court will likely issue a warrant for your arrest and place a block on your driver license.
The first court appearance is an arraignment. At the arraignment, there will be an explanation of your rights and the pleas you can enter. You will then be asked to enter a plea. Your plea choices will be Guilty, No Contest, or Not Guilty.
- If you plead guilty, you are admitting your guilt. The judge or magistrate will enter a finding of guilty and likely impose the sentence immediately.
- If you plead No Contest, you are not admitting guilt, but you are admitting the truth of the facts. The judge or magistrate will then determine if the facts constitute the offense and will typically enter a finding of guilty an impose the sentence immediately.
- If you plead Not Guilty, the judge or magistrate will order that the case be scheduled for another hearing.
If you do not receive a plea offer from the prosecution you find acceptable, you can plead Not Guilty and move to the next phase of the case.
The next phase of the case, if your offense involves possible jail time, is the pretrial hearing. If the offense with which you are charged does not carry a potential jail sentence, your case will be scheduled for a trial rather than a pretrial. If you do have a pretrial, you should expect to discuss the case with the prosecutor and negotiate an agreed resolution. If you reach an agreement about the resolution, you go before the judge to formalize the agreement. If you do not reach an agreement, your case is scheduled for the next phase: either a motion hearing or a trial.
There may or may not be a motion hearing for your case. Sometimes there are legal issues which can and should be decided before a trial. For those legal issues, you want to file a motion: a document asking the court to issue a decision on a legal issue. In traffic cases, the most common motions request the judge to suppress evidence which was obtained unlawfully. At the motion hearing, the judge hears evidence on the legal issues raised in the motions and issues a decision. The motion hearing is also an opportunity for further negotiations with the prosecution. If the case is not concluded at the motion hearing, or if there were no motions filed, the case will be scheduled for a trial.
One of your Constitutional rights is to have a trial. If your offense carries a possible jail sentence, you can have a trial to a jury. If your case does not involve potential incarceration, your trial will be to a judge. At the trial, the prosecution has the burden of proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecution must introduce evidence to do that, and you can introduce your own evidence if you choose. You can also cross examine the prosecution’s witnesses and subpoena witnesses to testify on your behalf. You can testify if you choose, but you cannot be forced to testify. If you are found Not Guilty, there is no sentence. If you are found guilty, the judge then holds a sentence hearing.
If you plead guilty to some traffic offense, or if you are found guilty of a traffic offense in a trial, the judge holds a sentence hearing to determine what sentence to impose. The judge will ask for input from the prosecution and the defense (as well as any victims, if there were any), and then the judge will impose the sentence.
You may find it beneficial to be represented by an attorney for your Ohio traffic ticket case. This is especially true if you intend to contest the ticket and hope to improve the outcome of the case. The Dominy Law Firm has represented hundreds of clients for traffic offenses in central Ohio since 1997, so the firm has probably handled a case like yours. To see how clients feel about the firm, take a look at the client reviews page. If you would like to discuss representation for your traffic ticket, you can complete this CONTACT FORM or you can call 614-717-1177.