Highly Experienced Fairfield County Municipal Court Attorneys
If you are facing charges in the Fairfield County Municipal Court, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect your legal rights. You might think that minor misdemeanor charges in the municipal court aren’t that serious. The reality is that even a simple misdemeanor conviction can carry collateral consequences that follow a person for years to come. Employment, professional licensing, housing, and other basic life tasks can be made more difficult by having a conviction on your criminal record. It is important to work with an experienced defense lawyer who can mitigate these consequences and protect your constitutional rights throughout the criminal case process.
At the Joslyn Law Firm, our skilled defense attorneys have extensive experience working in the Fairfield County Municipal Court. We have negotiated plea deals with the prosecutors and appeared before the judges. We know how the court system works and how best to resolve your case. Let our experienced Ohio criminal defense lawyers protect your legal rights under the state and federal constitution. They are supported by an effective support staff of knowledgeable paralegals and assistants who are dedicated to providing excellent customer service during this difficult time. Let us guide you through the process so you can mitigate the collateral damage of misdemeanor charges.
People arrested in Fairfield County, Ohio, are typically held at the Fairfield County Jail. You can search for someone’s name to learn if they are currently in custody at this facility. If you would like information about a case pending in Municipal Court, you can search for case information online. You can also learn more about the courthouse itself and its history, as well as local court rules.
You will likely have many questions before appearing in the Fairfield County Municipal Court. The following guide is meant to provide a general overview of the court, as well as answer some of the most frequent questions our attorneys receive. This guide cannot provide information specific to your case, so it is important to schedule a free case evaluation by calling (614) 444-1900.
Fairfield County Municipal Court Information Center
- Fairfield County Municipal Court General Information
- Common Criminal Charges Filed in the Fairfield County Municipal Court
- Potential Penalties for Criminal Charges in Fairfield County Municipal Court
- Diversion For Criminal Charges
- Criminal Case Process in Fairfield County Municipal Court
- OVI/DUI Charge Process in Fairfield County Municipal Court
- FAQ About the Fairfield County Municipal Court
- Fairfield County Municipal Court Personnel
- Fairfield County Community Resources
- Fairfield County Law Enforcement
- Fairfield County Municipal Court Location and Contact Information
Fairfield County Municipal Court General Information
Municipal Courts in Ohio have limited jurisdiction over certain misdemeanor and traffic offenses. Section 1901.20 of the Ohio Revised Code grants these courts jurisdiction over misdemeanor offenses committed within its territory, violations of local municipal ordinances, and civil actions concerning a violation of a state traffic law or a municipal traffic ordinance (including violations recorded by a photo monitoring device).
In felony cases, the Municipal Court may conduct preliminary hearings and other necessary hearings prior to the indictment of the defendant or prior to the court’s finding that there is probable and reasonable cause to hold or recognize the defendant to appear before a court of common pleas. The Municipal Court may discharge, recognize, or commit the defendant. The Municipal Court may not conduct trials of felony offenses.
The Fairfield County Municipal Court is located off U.S. Highway 158 and Main Street in downtown Lancaster. You should allow yourself plenty of time before a hearing to arrive in the area, find parking, make your way to the courthouse, and find your assigned room before your scheduled hearing time.
Common Criminal Charges Filed in the Fairfield County Municipal Court
Many municipal violations and traffic offenses can be filed in a local Mayor’s Court. Some misdemeanor cases can be filed in these smaller local courts, as well. It depends on whether the magistrate has the authority to handle the types of charges that have been filed. If the case requires a trial, the case must be heard by a judge in the Municipal Court. Here are some of the types of charges that our defense lawyers commonly see filed in the Fairfield County Municipal Court:
Traffic offenses – There are many traffic laws that Ohio drivers can violate, and some violations are more serious than others, and might even lead the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) to suspend your license. Municipal courts handle all types of traffic offenses and misdemeanor traffic crimes, including:
- CDL Holder
- Driving with a Suspended License
- Hit and Run / Leaving the Scene
- Reckless Driving / Reckless Operation
- Texting While Driving
- Vehicular Assault
Operating a vehicle under the influence/Driving under the influence (OVI/DUI) – Ohio takes operating a vehicle under the influence (OVI) very seriously, and you can lose your license, pay costly fines, or even go to jail for OVI convictions.
Petty theft – Theft charges are called “petty theft” when the items or money stolen was worth less than $1,000. However, the penalties can still be serious.
Assault and Battery – Threatening someone with harm, causing bodily harm, or even offensively touching someone can result in assault and battery charges.
Domestic violence – Assault and battery becomes domestic violence when the victim is a family or household member, child, or intimate partner.
Resisting Arrest – If you are accused of trying to physically avoid an arrest or causing harm to an officer or another person during an arrest, you can face misdemeanor charges.
Drug charges – Some drug charges under Ohio law are misdemeanors, though the penalties can still include jail time, fines, and probation.
Possession of a Controlled Substance – There are many controlled substances that can lead to criminal charges, from narcotics to prescription medications.
Marijuana Crimes – Possession of marijuana is still a crime in Ohio, and you can face possible fines and other consequences for a conviction.
Drug Paraphernalia / Drug Abuse Instruments – You do not have to possess drugs to face criminal charges, as possessing paraphernalia for using drugs can result in a misdemeanor case.
Unlawful Sexual Conduct with a Minor – Many sex crimes are felonies and heard in the Court of Common Pleas. However, this is a sex offense that can be a misdemeanor case in Municipal Court.
Disorderly Conduct – There are several types of acts that can lead to disorderly conduct charges, including conduct that alarms, offends, or inconveniences others in public.
Criminal Mischief – Criminal mischief charges can apply to several different acts as well, such as hacking, using tear gas or smoke bombs, and more.
Criminal Trespass – This is often a lesser charge in burglary cases, and it involves staying on or entering someone’s property without permission, though there is no requirement that you intended to commit a crime on the property.
- Disorderly conduct, riot, inciting to violence and inducing panic
- Disturbing a lawful meeting
- Making false alarms or reports
- Failure to report a crime, injury, or knowledge of a death
- Failure to aid a law enforcement officer
- Obstructing official business or obstructing justice
- Resisting arrest
- Noise ordinance violations
- Noxious and offensive odors
- Weeds and landscaping nuisances
- Failure to control an animal
- Abandoning an animal
- Hunting animals within city limits
- Discharging weapons within city limits
- Gambling, public gaming, cheating, and other gaming violations
- Operating charity raffles or bingo games in violation of existing regulations
- Driving left of the center lane
- Failure to yield to pedestrians
- Failure to yield the right of way
- Crossing a divided highway
- Crossing a yellow line
- Improper passing
- Passing a stopped school bus
- Obstructing an intersection
- Equipment violations (headlights, taillights, license plate lights, etc.)
- Registration, tag, sticker and title violations
- Driving with an obstructed view (such as snow or ice on the windshield)
- Driving with headphones
- Failure to stop at a stop sign or red light violation
- Illegal turns
- Willful fleeing or evading a law enforcement officer
- Failure to stop and identify at the scene of an accident (hit and run)
- Drag racing
- Driving on a suspended license
- Operating a motor vehicle with willful or wanton disregard of property or person (reckless driving)
- Vehicular assault
- Following too closely
- One-way traffic violations
Potential Penalties for Criminal Charges in Fairfield County Municipal Court
You might think that sentences for a misdemeanor or municipal ordinance violation are not that serious. The fines, penalties, and court costs can add up quickly. Many of these offenses also carry the possibility of jail time. There are also collateral consequences to a conviction. You might lose your driving privileges or gun rights. It is important to consult with an attorney about all of these possibilities before you decide to plead guilty or go to trial on charges in the Municipal Court.
Ohio state law provides the following sentencing ranges, based upon the classification of the offense:
- Classification: First-Degree Misdemeanor (M-1) – Possible six months of imprisonment and $1000 in fines.
- Classification: Second-Degree Misdemeanor (M-2) – Possible 90 days of imprisonment and $750 in fines.
- Classification: Third-Degree Misdemeanor (M-3) – Possible 60 days of imprisonment and $500 in fines.
- Classification: Fourth-Degree Misdemeanor (M-4) – Possible 30 days of imprisonment and $250 in fines.
- Classification: Minor Misdemeanor (MM) – $150 in fines (no possible imprisonment).
Part of our role as your defense attorney is to argue for the least severe sentence possible.
Diversion for Criminal Charges
In some cases, defendants might qualify for a diversion program as part of their criminal case. These programs seek to rehabilitate a defendant and give them another chance without having a criminal conviction on their record. Defendants generally qualify by admitting guilt to certain first-time offenses, though they do not technically plead guilty leading to a conviction on their record. Instead, if they complete the program successfully, the judge can dismiss the charges against them. Some examples of diversion programs include the Fairfield Treatment Alternative Court (TAC) for people who need mental health treatment, and the Drug Recovery Court.
Criminal Case Process in the Fairfield County Municipal Court
Anyone can be overwhelmed by the criminal case process – especially in an imposing courthouse, with hostile prosecutors working against you. It is important to understand how a case progresses through the criminal court system. This will help you feel better prepared and less intimidated by the criminal court.
(1) Summons to appear in court
Once a prosecutor files charges against you, you must be officially notified of your court date. Serious felony charges are usually accompanied by an arrest warrant. This prevents the defendant from fleeing the area before he or she can appear in court. With most misdemeanors, however, you will simply receive a summons in the mail. Do not ignore this summons! Failure to appear at a scheduled court date can result in a bench warrant being issued for your arrest.
With traffic and vehicle infractions, the officer’s ticket will often serve as your summons to appear in court. Look carefully to see if there is an assigned date and time written on your ticket. If so, you have been summoned to court, and you are subject to an arrest warrant if you miss this court appearance.
(2) Arraignment and initial appearances
Every defendant has important constitutional rights that protect them. These rights start before charges are ever filed, in order to protect suspects during law enforcement investigations. Once charges have been filed, your constitutional rights continue throughout the case proceedings. You have the right to be arraigned. This means that you appear before a judge and hear the charges against you. You will plead either guilty or not guilty to the charges. A guilty plea effectively stops plea negotiations, so it is important to consult with a criminal defense attorney before entering any guilty plea, even on misdemeanor charges.
Your initial appearances will also give your attorney the opportunity to argue for any necessary modifications to your pretrial release conditions. If your bail is unfairly high, your attorney can ask for it to be reduced. If your no-contact orders are unreasonable (for example, if you are ordered to stay away from every employee of an international bank where you hold accounts), your attorney can explain the situation to the judge and propose reasonable alternatives. The orders entered at an initial appearance can have a dramatic effect on your life for many months to come.
(3)Discovery and disclosure
Once the preliminary legal issues are resolved, the attorneys will begin investigating the case. Each attorney must conduct his or her own review of the police report, witness statements, documents, and tangible evidence that are being used against you. This is called the discovery process. As each attorney finds evidence that he or she intends to use at trial, this evidence must be disclosed to the other side. The disclosure process continues until a set time before trial. After this deadline, no further evidence may be disclosed, and it is thus precluded from trial.
The federal constitution has extensive protections for defendants. Evidence cannot be admitted if it was obtained without a search warrant (or valid legal exception to the warrant requirement). A confession cannot be admitted if it was made involuntarily, or without the defendant being given the Miranda warning prior to being interrogated while in police custody. State rules of evidence and case law also regulate the admission of evidence in criminal trials. These rules prohibit either attorney from being surprised at trial with evidence that has not been disclosed.
There are many legal reasons for excluding evidence at trial. If the prosecution’s main evidence is deemed inadmissible, it is sometimes possible to have the charges against a defendant dismissed altogether, if the remaining evidence is not strong enough to find probable cause. These are technical legal issues that must be analyzed by a criminal defense attorney with specific experience in the Fairfield County Municipal Court.
(4) Plea negotiations
While the disclosure process is necessary to meet procedural requirements of the law, it also serves a practical purpose. Disclosure allows each attorney to make an honest assessment of his or her case. This, in turn, allows the attorneys to engage in frank plea negotiations. The vast majority of criminal cases across the United States are resolved through a plea deal. In order to negotiate a fair plea bargain, it is critical that both the prosecutor and the defense attorney understand the weaknesses of their case (and the strength of their opponent’s case).
If the prosecutor refuses to offer a fair plea deal, it might be necessary to take your case to trial. You should carefully discuss the risks of going to trial with your defense lawyer. Each case is different, and there is no right answer for every single case.
Most misdemeanor cases (other than DUIs) are held by a judge without a jury. This means that the judge will evaluate the evidence to determine whether you are guilty or not guilty. First, each attorney will have the chance to make opening arguments. The prosecutor goes first because he or she is bringing the case to court. After opening arguments, the prosecution presents its case against the defendant. This includes witnesses, photographs, documents, and other tangible evidence. The defense has the right to cross-examine each witness as he or she testifies. After the prosecution rests, the defense has its turn to present a case. Your defense attorney can call witnesses, present documents, and introduce other tangible evidence. Again, the prosecutor will be allowed to cross-examine each witness after he or she gives direct testimony to the defense attorney. After each side has presented its case, the prosecutor makes closing statements, followed by the defense attorney’s closing statements. The judge or jury will then deliberate to determine whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty.
If you are found not guilty, you are free to go. Any cash bond will be surrendered to you at the conclusion of the case. (If you hired a bail bondsman, the disposition of the bond will be determined by your service contract.) After dealing with any paperwork and administrative issues, you will be free to leave the courthouse.
If you are found guilty, the judge can either sentence you immediately or schedule a separate sentencing hearing in about a month. This additional time gives your attorney time to prepare arguments in favor of a more lenient sentence. At the same time, the prosecutor can prepare his or her arguments in favor of his or her recommended sentence. This extra time is not necessary for many minor misdemeanors and municipal infractions. If you are only facing fines and not jail time, the judge will usually issue a sentence immediately after finding you guilty.
Even if you do face jail time, you will likely not be taken into custody right away. That only occurs with serious felonies that require mandatory prison time. For short jail terms, you can often choose when you would like to serve your sentence, and the judge will issue a commitment order for that specific day. This gives you time to arrange your schedule and settle other matters before you must serve your time in jail.
OVI/DUI Charge Process in Fairfield County Municipal Court
A DUI is a serious charge that can carry a wide variety of collateral consequences. Even though most first-time DUIs are misdemeanors, they can still carry fines, jail time, and the suspension of your driving privileges. This is why it is so important to work with an experienced DUI attorney who knows how to handle this type of case.
Grounds for Challenging DUI Charges
There are legal grounds to challenge the evidence used in a DUI case. Sometimes, an attorney will be able to have the charges dismissed altogether for lack of probable cause. Other times, individual evidence can be challenged on one of several legal grounds. First, an officer must have probable cause to stop the vehicle. An officer can reasonably stop a vehicle if it is swerving, endangers other drivers, or otherwise shows signs of the driver’s impairment. An officer can also stop a vehicle for any traffic infraction. This includes not only red light violations and dangerous behaviors, but also minor infractions like a headlight being out. If the vehicle is not stopped lawfully (i.e., with probable cause), then no evidence from the stop is admissible. This includes admission of drinking, the officer’s testimony that the driver appeared intoxicated, and even blood or breath tests that were authorized based upon the driver’s appearance at the stop.
Even if a driver is stopped lawfully, evidence gathered at the stop can still be deemed inadmissible. The police require either a warrant or the driver’s consent in order to test blood, breath, or urine for the presence of alcohol. Without either consent or a warrant, this evidence cannot be admitted at trial, and the prosecutor will have a far more difficult time proving intoxication. Other evidence (such as empty containers in the vehicle or marijuana paraphernalia) must also be seized lawfully with a warrant or valid warrant exception in order to be admitted.
Plea Deals and Sentencing
A DUI sentence (whether by plea deal or after a trial) will usually consist of both fines and jail time. First-time DUIs carry a minimum jail sentence of three days. However: this jail term can be suspended if the defendant agrees to install an ignition interlock device. (The jail sentence is reinstated if the defendant fails any breath tests on the interlock device.) Defendants can even apply to have the interlock installed without fees if they are financially eligible. These changes are thanks to Annie’s Law, which went into effect in 2017.
If you are convicted of a DUI, your driving privileges will be suspended for a time. This can be shortened to six months with an ignition interlock device. Six points will be assessed against your license, and they will stay on your driving record for two years.
Your driving privileges can also be suspended before you are convicted of a DUI. Like other states, Ohio has adopted an “administrative per se” law. This is designed to encourage DUI suspects to consent to a blood or breath test. If a suspect refuses the test, his or her driving privileges will be revoked, regardless of whether the driver is intoxicated. An administrative per se suspension also occurs if the tests come back over .08. Note that this suspension occurs whether or not you are eventually convicted of a DUI. It is important to understand Ohio’s administrative per se laws so you can make an informed decision about whether to submit to a blood or breath test before an officer obtains a warrant.
FAQs About Fairfield County Municipal Court
Can I find information about my case in Fairfield County Municipal Court?
Yes, you can look up case information online here, or you can speak with our legal team who can obtain all the information you need to know about your charges and criminal case. You can also contact the Court directly and speak with the Clerk.
Where is someone in custody after an arrest in Fairfield County?
If someone is arrested in Fairfield County, they might be held in the Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office Jail. Our criminal defense attorneys can help you find out exactly where someone is being held in jail.
Can I find out why someone is in jail?
If the case is filed in municipal court, you can look up case information online. If a case has not yet been filed, you might need to wait until they are charged or released to get more information.
Do I need to post bond to get someone out of jail in Fairfield County?
Some people are released on their own recognizance, which is a promise to appear in court. Other cases require posting bond – also known as bail – in order to be released. The amount of bond should be based on the severity of the charges, among other factors. Always talk to a criminal defense attorney before you post bond, as they might be able to get the bond reduced or eliminated.
Where can I post bond for someone?
You can post bond at the Fairfield County jail or sometimes, at the bail hearing or with the court. We can help direct you to the most convenient place.
What happens if I miss my Municipal Court date?
It is critical that you appear at your scheduled court date. If you are not present at your court date and time, the judge can issue a bench warrant. This allows the police to arrest you the next time you encounter them, such as at a traffic stop. You can be handcuffed on the spot, and you can face additional charges of failure to appear along with the underlying case.
What are the rules for Municipal Court appearances?
Do not be late, as you want to make sure you are present when the judge calls your case, and you can’t be sure of the order for the particular docket. Arrive early and dressed neatly and in accordance with court guidelines. Sit quietly and wait for your case to be called. You should have a criminal defense attorney to represent you, and they can advise you of specific instructions for your court date.
Should I plead guilty?
Many people who know they committed the offense assume that pleading guilty is their only option. This is not true, however, and you should not plead guilty to any charges before speaking with an experienced criminal defense lawyer. The right lawyer can often obtain a plea deal that reduces your charges or sentence in exchange for your guilty plea. Prosecutors in Municipal Court do not offer such deals to unrepresented defendants.
Fairfield County Municipal Court Personnel
Our attorneys have done extensive work in the Fairfield County Municipal Court, and have worked with the judges, prosecutors and court staff on many different cases. Here are some of the court personnel who might be involved in your case:
- Judge James A. Fields
- Judge David L. Landefeld
- Clerk of Court Valeda A. Stone
- The Probation Department
- Prosecuting Attorney Kyle Witt (and his Criminal Division)
Fairfield County Legal and Community Resources
Some of the most important work we do in the Fairfield County Municipal Court involves the underlying causes of criminal charges. If a defendant can show that he or she recognizes an underlying problem and is seeking help, the judge and prosecutor are more likely to agree to a favorable disposition of the case. More importantly, the defendant will be able to get help for the financial, emotional, or academic problems that have caused difficulty in his or her life. There are many, many resources available to residents of Fairfield County:
- Fairfield County Clerk of Court – This page gives information about the Clerk for the Municipal Court in Fairfield County.
- Fairfield County Prosecutor’s Office – This office issues and pursues criminal charges against individuals suspected of crimes.
- Fairfield County Law Library – You can access legal resources and information for your own education and research.
- 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 Auditor – This Office serves as the tax assessor and fiscal officer of the county.
- About Fairfield County – Information about the history and current demographics and amenities of Fairfield County.
- Map of Fairfield County – Navigate around the county and get directions.
- Crime Data for Fairfield County – Information regarding arrests and crime rates in the County.
- Lancaster Fairfield Chamber of Commerce – Provides programs and services to support a healthy business environment.
- 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 the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to provide a variety of mental health services.
- 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.
- 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
Dave Phelan, Sheriff
Alex Lape, Chief Deputy
Main Office: 740-652-7900
Detective Bureau: 740-652-7331
Civil Division: 740-652-7320
Stephen B. Maynard, Chief
Direct Line: 513-829-8201
Fairfield Municipal Court Location and Contact Information
The Fairfield County Municipal Court is located off U.S. Highway 158 and Main Street in downtown Lancaster. You can access an interactive map of the area here. For questions about location, hours of operation, and other administrative issues, you can call the court at (513) 867-6002. You can also visit the court’s website here.