Highly Experienced Fairfield Common Pleas Court Attorneys
If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges in the Fairfield Common Pleas Court, you probably have many questions and concerns. You don’t have to face the criminal case process alone. The experienced Fairfield County criminal defense attorneys at the Joslyn Law Firm know how to handle criminal cases in the Common Pleas Court. We have extensive experience in negotiating fair plea deals. We also know how to present a case to a jury in the event that a fair plea deal cannot be reached. Our highly skilled lawyers are supported by a knowledgeable and efficient support staff. From your first phone call to the time your case is resolved, you will receive excellent customer service and superb legal advice.
There are important resources available regarding the Fairfield County Common Pleas Court, including how to follow and find information about your case, locating information about the jail, information about the courthouse, and more. The court’s regular hours are 8 am to 4 pm, and you can find many contact numbers for different specific inquiries here.
The following Fairfield Common Pleas Court Information Center will explain proceedings in the Common Pleas Court and answer some common questions about the case process. Of course, we cannot answer all your questions here, and we cannot answer questions specific to your particular case. Call (614) 444-1900 to schedule your free consultation with one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys.
Fairfield Common Pleas Court Information Center
- Fairfield Common Pleas Court Overview and General Information
- Common Criminal Charges in Fairfield, Ohio
- Potential Penalties for Criminal Charges in Fairfield Common Pleas Court
- Diversion For Criminal Charges
- Criminal Case Court Process in Fairfield Common Pleas Court
- Warrants for Criminal Charges in Fairfield, Ohio
- Hiring a Criminal Defense Attorney For Cases in the Fairfield Common Pleas Court
- Q&A About Fairfield Common Pleas Court Criminal Charges
- Fairfield County Community and Mental Health Resources
- Fairfield Law Enforcement
Fairfield Common Pleas Court Overview and General Information
Ohio Courts of Common Pleas have jurisdiction over all felony and misdemeanor criminal charges that are filed within their jurisdiction. The Common Pleas Courts are not, however, designed to handle a full caseload of all criminal matters that arise in a particular county. Many misdemeanor, traffic, and civil infractions are thus delegated to the local municipal courts. The Fairfield Municipal Court has the authority to hear cases involving city ordinance violations, try misdemeanor cases, and conduct certain stages of felony criminal cases. The municipal courts cannot conduct trials of felony charges, however. Felony trials must be conducted by the Court of Common Pleas.
The Fairfield Common Pleas Court has its own court rules and two elected judges – Richard A. Berens and David A.Trimmer. Other judges might be called in temporarily when the judges are on vacation or must recuse themselves from a particular case. Magistrate Jillian Boone can conduct certain preliminary hearings and address limited matters in a criminal case, but the case must be assigned to one of the judges for trial. Magistrate Boone also serves as the Court Administrator.
Here are some other court personnel you might encounter during your criminal case:
- Judge Berens’ Bailiff Mary Bockstahler can be contacted at 740-652-7432.
- Judge Trimmer’s Staff Attorney / Bailiff Joshua Butler can be contacted at 740-652-7430.
- The Judge’s Assignment Commissioner schedules all pretrials, trials, and any other case-related matter on the Court’s calendar. Judge Berens’ Assignment Commissioner Misty Conkle can be contacted at 740-652-7431. Judge Trimmer’s Assignment Commissioner Kathy Hartman can be contacted at 740-652-7427.
- The Judge’s Judicial Assistant prepares notices, assists the public, and helps the Judge or Magistrate with their respective duties as requested. Judge Berens’ Judicial Assistant Traci Dresbach can be contacted at 740-652-7435. Magistrate Boone’s Judicial Assistant Shannon Seesholtz can be contacted at 740-652-7434.
- The Court Services Coordinator oversees all jury, notary, and transcript requests. Court Services Coordinator Kelly Starkey may be contacted at 740-652-7433.
- Adult probation matters are handled through the Community Control Department
Common Criminal Charges in Fairfield, Ohio
There are many different crimes defined under the Ohio Revised Code. Any felony or misdemeanor case can be tried in the Common Pleas Court. Generally, misdemeanor cases will be delegated to the local municipal court, but if the defendant faces both felony and misdemeanor charges, these will usually be filed together as a single case in the Common Pleas Court.
There are several common charges our legal team defends against in Fairfield County Common Pleas Court, as follows.
Drug charges – Ohio has strict laws against illegal drug possession and sales, and many drug-related charges are felony offenses. Charges might include possession of a controlled substance, possession with the intent to distribute, manufacturing drugs, drug trafficking, and more. Many substances are unlawful to possess or distribute, including narcotics, recreational marijuana, and even prescription medications if you do not have a prescription.
Weapons and gun charges – Because you can open carry in Ohio and obtain a permit for concealed carry, many people do not consider serious firearm charges. However, the law sets out different weapon-related charges you might face, including concealed carry without a license, having a firearm when you are prohibited from doing so, bringing firearms onto prohibited premises, and more. Charges for other crimes can be escalated if you possessed a firearm while you committed or attempted the crime.
Theft and fraud offenses – Theft refers to taking money or property without the authority and depriving the owner. There are many different theft crimes, including shoplifting, stealing, embezzlement, auto theft, and more. You can also face charges if you wrongfully obtain money or property through fraudulent means, such as identity theft, credit card fraud, and other schemes. The penalties for theft crimes generally depend on the value of what was stolen, and theft charges can be felonies and lead to jail time in some cases.
Financial crimes – Many crimes are focused on wrongfully obtaining money from other individuals or companies, and these are commonly referred to as white collar crimes. Even though these offenses do not cause physical harm, the charges and penalties can still be serious, especially if a financial scheme is high-value. Some financial crimes include investment fraud, embezzlement, forgery, pyramid schemes, Ponzi schemes, bank or mortgage fraud, and more.
Property crimes – While some crimes are against people, others are against property. These can include vandalism, burglary, arson, and other damage to property or trespassing. Such offenses can be serious, especially if the property was occupied at the time of the offense. One of the most serious property crimes is robbery, which involves taking property from a person by force or threats. This is also considered to be a violent crime, so the penalties can be particularly harsh.
Sex crimes – Sex crime allegations are highly concerning because even an accusation can cause serious damage to your life and reputation. If you are convicted of a sex crime, you might have to register as an Ohio sex offender, and you might be prohibited from working in certain jobs. Common sex crime charges include child pornography, sexual assault, and prostitution. It is critical to have an aggressive defense against any type of sex offense.
The above are not the only offenses that we fight in Fairfield County, and the following are additional charges our clients might face.
Violence Against the Person
- Murder and manslaughter
- Aggravated assault
- Kidnapping and abduction
- Possession of illegal substances
- Possession of drugs with the intent to sell
- Possession of prescription medications without a valid prescription
- Sexual assault
- Sexual conduct with a minor
- Molestation or groping
- Possession of child pornography
- Internet sex crimes
- Attempted sexual assault
- Grand theft
- Receiving stolen property
White Collar Crimes
- Money laundering
- Identity theft
Misdemeanors also fall into several broad categories:
Interference with Criminal Justice
- Tampering with evidence
- Evading arrest
- Assault on an officer
- Petty theft
- Larceny (small amounts)
- Forgery (small amounts)
- Possession of an unauthorized device
- Unauthorized use of property
- Minor vandalism (defacing/graffiti/etc. Not to exceed a set amount of property damage)
Offenses Against the Public Peace
- Inciting to violence
- Failure to disperse
- Disorderly conduct
- Disturbing a lawful meeting
- Misconduct at an emergency
- Telecommunications harassment
Potential Penalties for Criminal Charges in the Fairfield Common Pleas Court
The penalties you might face for a particular criminal conviction depends on sentencing policy and laws in our state, which set out potential terms of imprisonment, fines, and other penalties that might be included in your sentence. Ohio state law gives the following sentencing ranges based upon the way a crime is classified:
First-Degree Felony (F-1) – Three to 11 years of imprisonment with possible enhancements up to ten years for repeat violent offenders, and fines up to $20,000
Second-Degree Felony (F-2) – Two to eight years of imprisonment with possible enhancements up to ten years for repeat violent offenders, and fines up to $15,000
Third-Degree Felony (F-3) – Nine to 60 months of imprisonment with possible enhancements up to ten years for repeat violent offenders, and fines up to $10,000
Fourth-Degree Felony (F-4) – Nine to 18 months of imprisonment and fines up to $5,000
Fifth-Degree Felony (F-5) – Six to 12 months of imprisonment and fines up to $2,500
First-Degree Misdemeanor (M-1) – Six months of imprisonment and $1,000 in fines
Second-Degree Misdemeanor (M-2) – 90 days of imprisonment and $750 in fines
Third-Degree Misdemeanor (M-3) – 60 days of imprisonment and $500 in fines
Fourth-Degree Misdemeanor (M-4) – 30 days of imprisonment and $250 in fines
Minor Misdemeanor (MM) – No imprisonment and $150 in fines
If you face multiple charges, you could be ordered to face consecutive sentences for each conviction. In some cases, these sentences can be served concurrently without additional jail time for the shorter sentence. As you can see, these sentences can add up quickly. It is important to work with a skilled Fairfield criminal defense attorney as soon as you learn that you are the subject of a criminal investigation. The sooner an attorney gets involved in your case, the better options he or she will have for resolving the charges against you.
Diversion for Criminal Charges
Luckily, there are options for resolving some criminal cases without jail time. You might even be able to resolve your case without having a conviction on your criminal record. This is accomplished through a diversion program. If you are eligible for a diversion program, the prosecutor will enter into a formal written agreement with you. In exchange for completing all program requirements, the prosecutor will dismiss the charges against you entirely. Diversion programs commonly require substance abuse screening, anger management counseling, or other conditions related to the charged offense. You will be required not to commit any further crimes for the duration of the program. Once you have successfully met all program requirements, the prosecutor will then ask the court to dismiss the charges against you.
Diversion programs are not available in all cases. Usually, only first-time defendants charged with non-violent offenses are eligible for these programs. Prosecutors also have wide discretion to offer or withhold diversion offers. There is no state law that requires prosecutors to offer diversion on any given case. You might need an attorney’s help to convince the prosecutor that you are eligible for a diversion program. This is, however, an important investment in your future. With no conviction on your record, you will not have to report the incident on many job applications, housing applications, and other important documents that ask about your criminal history.
Criminal Case Process in the Fairfield Common Pleas Court
The criminal case process can be overwhelming for anyone. With a basic understanding of what will happen in court, you will be better prepared for your case, and less anxious about what could happen. Here is a basic overview of how a case proceeds through the Court of Common Pleas:
A prosecutor can either file charges in the Common Pleas Court (“direct filing”) or ask a grand jury to issue an indictment against you. Because an indictment is issued by a jury, it is stronger, and more difficult for defendants to challenge than a complaint filed by a prosecutor. Prosecutors therefore use grand jury indictments on serious charges. If you are facing less serious felony charges or misdemeanor charges, you will likely be charged by direct filing.
A defendant must also be summoned to court to face the charges that have been filed. This can occur in one of three ways. First, an officer can issue a ticket that includes a summons to appear in court. This is common for traffic tickets and other local offenses. Second, a summons can be mailed to you by the court once a complaint has been filed. Third, a warrant can be issued for your arrest. An arrest warrant is used for the most serious charges (such as homicide, aggravated assault, sexual offenses, and other crimes that carry the potential for lengthy prison terms). If you are arrested, you have the right to see a judge within a reasonable time after you are taken into custody. This is typically within a day (though it can take longer on weekends or over court holidays).
You have the constitutional right to be made aware of the charges against you. This is done at an arraignment. Your attorney can also address other legal matters at an arraignment or initial appearance before a judge. For example, your pretrial release conditions (such as bail) could be unfair. Your attorney can ask the judge to reduce your bail or modify other release conditions as necessary. Your attorney might also need to challenge the prosecutor’s probable cause to file the charges against you. Without probable cause, the charges must be dismissed. A grand jury finds probable cause when it issues an indictment. This makes it difficult to challenge. But when prosecutors directly file a complaint with the court, they are attesting to the probable cause themselves, usually with only the support of a police report. Your attorney might be able to challenge probable cause at an early stage of the case process.
(3) Discovery and Disclosure
Once you have been arraigned, both the prosecutor and defense attorney begin investigating the evidence in the case through discovery. They then exchange this evidence in a legal process called disclosure. The disclosure process is governed by rules of evidence and local rules of procedure. These laws are necessary to protect your constitutional right to confront the evidence against you. If the prosecutor has not disclosed a witness or exhibit to your attorney, that evidence cannot be used against you at trial. These rules also the right to present witnesses and evidence in your own defense. By formally disclosing them to the prosecutor in an official disclosure statement, the prosecutor cannot argue that he or she is being surprised by evidence.
The discovery process is ongoing. As an attorney investigates a case, further documents and witnesses become known to each side. This results in a series of disclosure statements from each side. The discovery process must be cut off well before trial so that each side can prepare for a trial without additional surprise witnesses or last-minute exhibits. After the discovery cut-off date, no additional evidence will be admitted without good cause.
The discovery phase can last for months. During this time, the court will schedule pretrial hearings to check on the status of your case. The court will check in on the progress of plea negotiations. If the parties are able to successfully negotiate a plea agreement, the court can schedule a hearing to accept the plea (and in some cases, complete sentencing at the same time). If no plea agreement is possible, the court will prepare the case for trial by resolving any disputes over the evidence.
(5) Motion hearings
There are many legal reasons for excluding evidence at trial. Perhaps the police seized evidence without a warrant (or a valid exception to the warrant requirement). Perhaps you made a confession without being given your Miranda warnings. There are many grounds for asking the court to keep evidence out of trial. This is done through a motion to suppress. Your attorney might also file other pretrial motions to limit the type of evidence that can be used or the scope of witness testimony. After the defense files a written motion, the prosecutor has a chance to file a written response. (A prosecutor can also file an evidentiary motion, in which case the defense attorney has an opportunity to file a written response.) The court will then schedule a hearing on any motions in order to rule on the legal issues before trial. Once the court has ruled on any discovery disputes or legal objections to evidence, the case can be scheduled for trial.
The vast majority of criminal cases in the United States are resolved through plea agreements. If, however, the prosecutor will not offer a fair plea deal, it might be necessary to take your case to trial. Work carefully with your defense attorney before deciding to reject a plea deal and go to trial. There are risks associated with a trial, and it is important to understand them thoroughly so you can make an informed decision.
Almost all felony charges entitle you to be tried by a jury of your peers. Unless you waive this right, your attorney will have the opportunity to make selections and objections from a panel of prospective jurors. Once a proper jury has been empaneled, both attorneys will make opening statements about the case. (In cases without a jury, the attorneys begin by making their opening statements directly to the judge.) The prosecution will then present its “case in chief.” This is the witnesses, documents, and physical evidence that makes up the prosecutor’s case against the defendant. Your defense attorney has the right to cross-examine each witness and challenge his or her knowledge of the evidence.
Once the prosecution rests, the defense presents its witnesses, documents, and physical evidence. This time the prosecutor is allowed to cross-examine the witnesses. The prosecutor can call rebuttal witnesses to challenge the defense’s case, and if necessary, the defense attorney can call rebuttal witnesses to challenge the prosecutor’s rebuttal. Once both sides rest their respective cases, each attorney is allowed to make closing statements to the judge or jury. If there is no jury, the judge will weigh the evidence to determine whether the defendant is guilty. If there is a jury, the judge will give the jurors their instructions and send them to deliberate. If the judge or jury acquits you, the case is over. If the jury convicts you, the case will proceed to a sentencing hearing.
(7) Sentencing hearing
If you are convicted of minor misdemeanor charges, the judge might issue a sentence as soon as you are found guilty. This typically happens when you are facing a penalty that is only a fine or very short jail term. For more serious charges, your sentencing hearing will be scheduled after you are found guilty. This allows your attorney time to prepare evidence and arguments in favor of a more lenient sentence. The prosecutor, meanwhile, will be preparing evidence and arguments in favor of a more harsh sentence. This is why it is important to have an attorney representing you at a sentencing hearing.
Warrants for Criminal Charges in Fairfield, Ohio
It is very important to answer any summons to court. If you fail to appear at a scheduled hearing, the judge will almost always issue a warrant for your arrest. This means that you could be arrested at any time. A simple traffic stop could end with a night in jail if you have a warrant. You could be arrested at work in front of your boss, or at home in front of your children, and you might need to be bailed out of jail. This is far more stressful, embarrassing, and costly than simply answering a summons in the first place.
Hiring a Criminal Defense Attorney For Cases in the Fairfield Common Pleas Court
You might wonder if it is necessary to hire a criminal defense attorney. After all, if the charges are minor, can’t you simply defend yourself? And if you know you are guilty, can’t you just get a plea agreement? The reality of the criminal court is very different. Prosecutors do not always offer fair plea agreements. When an experienced criminal defense attorney can point out specific legal issues and weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case, you are more likely to get a fair plea deal. There are many other ways an experienced defense attorney can help you achieve a more favorable result to criminal charges:
- The attorney might be able to have charges dismissed altogether for lack of probable cause
- An attorney will know if evidence must be suppressed due to the warrant requirement, failure to give Miranda warnings, or other legal cause.
- An attorney will know how to negotiate a plea agreement that is fair to the defendant – not just the prosecutor.
- An attorney will know when a case should go to trial.
- An attorney will know how to persuasively present your case to a jury.
- An attorney will know what sentencing arguments are persuasive, and how to convince a judge to sentence you at the lower end of the eligible sentencing range.
An attorney’s work can also save you from some of the long-lasting collateral consequences of a criminal conviction. If, for example, an attorney is able to get charges dismissed, you will not have to report a conviction on job and housing applications. If your attorney is able to negotiate a plea agreement for misdemeanor charges instead of a felony, you will not lose your rights to vote or own a gun. These consequences can follow a person for years after a criminal conviction – sometimes, for the rest of his or her life. The investment of attorney’s fees can save you from much difficulty for years to come.
Q&A About Fairfield Common Pleas Court Criminal Charges
Here are some of the questions our attorneys get most often. Don’t be afraid to ask your attorney any question you have about your case, the court process, your record, or anything else related to the charges against you.
Do I need an attorney to represent me in the Fairfield Common Pleas Court?
While you do have the right to act as your attorney, this is not advisable for many reasons. First, you may not know that the police or prosecutor have violated your constitutional rights. Only an attorney can render a legal opinion on these matters, and he or she will have to defend that opinion to the court. Second, a prosecutor is more likely to make a fair plea deal if he or she is negotiating with an attorney. A defense attorney is able to point out the weaknesses in a prosecutor’s case and advocate for diversion programs that can keep charges of your record entirely.
An attorney will also know what motions to make before the trial in order to keep prejudicial evidence away from the jury. At trial, it takes an attorney’s skills to present a case persuasively to a jury. And if you face a conviction, an attorney can help you get a favorable result at sentencing or on appeal. All of these services have a significant impact on the outcome of your case. The collateral consequences of a conviction can follow you for years to come, and an experienced criminal defense lawyer can help mitigate this damage.
How do I choose the right criminal defense attorney for my case?
The most important factor in choosing an attorney is experience. There is simply no substitute for having handled your type of case before. Look for an attorney who has handled your charges with other clients, and has appeared in the Fairfield Common Pleas Court before. The closer this experience aligns with your particular circumstances, the more comfortable the attorney will be handling your case.
Can I appeal a decision of the Fairfield Common Pleas Court?
Ohio state law does allow for appeals. There are very specific grounds for appeal, and very specific procedures that must be followed. It is important to work with an appellate attorney who has experience with your type of appeal. Not all criminal defense attorneys are skilled in doing appeals work. An inexperienced attorney can cause unnecessary delays and expenses in the appellate process.
Can I expunge a criminal record?
Ohio law does provide for the sealing of criminal records. As with appeals, there are very specific procedures that must be followed. Be sure you are eligible to have your record sealed before filing an application.
How can I find information about my case?
The Common Pleas Court maintains a website where you can look up case information. You can also call the Clerk’s office at 740-652-7360, or visit the office in person. The Clerk’s office is located on the second floor of the courthouse at 224 E. Main Street in downtown Lancaster.
What happens when you have a warrant in Fairfield County?
If you have an arrest warrant or bench warrant in Fairfield County, you could be arrested at any time. Instead of risking an arrest at your home or place of work, contact our defense attorneys who can advise you of your options.
How do I clear a warrant in Fairfield County?
In some cases, a criminal defense lawyer can get your warrant cleared without you having to be arrested or booked into jail. In other situations, you might need to turn yourself in, but your attorney can help make this process as painless as possible.
Where will someone be in custody if they are arrested?
If someone is arrested in Fairfield County, they might be held in the Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office Jail. A defense lawyer can help you find out exactly where someone is being detained.
Why is someone in custody?
Sometimes, a person will be in custody before a case is issued, and it will be difficult to find information on why they were arrested. If charges have been issued, you can look up information about their case online.
Can you post a bond to have them released?
Many people will need bond posted before they can be released, though you should never hire a bondsman or post bond without first speaking with a criminal defense lawyer. Often, a lawyer can get bond reduced or eliminated altogether.
Where do you post a bond for a case?
You can post bond at the Fairfield County jail or sometimes, at the bail hearing.
Fairfield County Community and Mental Health Resources
Often, the most important work we do in a criminal case involves the underlying causes of criminal conduct. Perhaps a client is struggling with addiction or undiagnosed mental health conditions. Maybe homeless or domestic violence are causing the problem. There are many community resources available in Fairfield County to help you address the underlying reasons you have ended up in court. When a prosecutor sees that you are working to address these problems, he or she will be more likely to negotiate a fair plea deal and advocate for a lenient sentence.
Here are just a few of the many community resources that are available to residents of Fairfield County:
Fairfield County Clerk of Court – This page will lead you to more detailed information about the Court of Common Pleas in Fairfield County.
Fairfield County Law Library – You can access legal resources and information for your own education and research.
Fairfield County Auditor – This Office serves as the tax assessor and fiscal officer of the county.
Fairfield County Child support Enforcement – Agency that helps facilitate payment of child support and enforce court support orders.
Fairfield County Job and Family Services – Helping with services related to employment, child care, medical care, and more to promote healthy families.
Fairfield County Prosecutor’s Office – This office issues and pursues criminal charges against individuals suspected of crimes.
About Fairfield County – Information about the history and current demographics and amenities of Fairfield County.
Crime Data for Fairfield County – Information regarding arrests and crime rates in the County.
Map of Fairfield County – Navigate around the County and get directions.
Lancaster Fairfield Chamber of Commerce – Provides programs and services to support a healthy business environment.
The Recovery Center – Promoting hope, health, and healing through mental health and substance abuse treatment services and counseling.
Mid-Ohio Psychological Services – Providing a wide range of dependency and behavioral health services for individuals and families.
Fairfield Behavioral Health Services – The main county authority for drug and alcohol abuse services.
New Horizons / Lancaster Office – Non-profit that partners with Fairfield County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services and Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to provide a variety of mental health services.
The Center for Family Safety and Healing – Provides child and family counseling, as well as a variety of services to promote healthy family relationships.
The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) – Provides help for victims of all ages of sexual assault and sexual violence, as well as safety and prevention information.
Fairfield Law Enforcement
Criminal charges in the Fairfield County Common Pleas Court are usually initiated by one of the law enforcement agencies within county boundaries. Here are some of the departments you might come into contact with during a criminal investigation:
Dave Phelan, Sheriff
Alex Lape, Chief Deputy
Main Office: 740-652-7900
Detective Bureau: 740-652-7331
Civil Division: 740-652-7320
Adam Pillar, Chief
Detective Bureau (Major Crimes Unit Liaison, Property Room, Fingerprints, and Annual Police Auction)
130 S Broad Street
Lancaster, Ohio 43130
Non Emergency: 740-687-6680
Stephen B. Maynard, Chief
Direct Line: 513-829-8201
Contact Our Fairfield County Court of Common Pleas Defense Attorneys
If you need assistance with a criminal case in the Fairfield County Court of Common Pleas, you should not wait to contact the legal team at The Joslyn Law Firm for help today.