Ohio Criminal Court Process
Every criminal charge in Columbus is serious and must be addressed quickly and knowledgeably. If you have been charged with a crime in the Columbus or Central Ohio area, you it is important to seek the immediate assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Individuals who are unfamiliar with the criminal justice system may find terms such as “arraignment” and “preliminary hearing” confusing and vague. Your criminal defense attorney can better help you understand the criminal process in Ohio and assist throughout all elements of the criminal process.
Brian Joslyn of the Joslyn Law Firm will represent your best interests in any type of criminal proceeding and will help you understand the criminal process in Columbus, Ohio.
Call the Joslyn Law Firm for a consultation today.
An Overview of Ohio Criminal Justice System Steps in Order
How Does Criminal Court Work in Ohio?
In Ohio, after an individual is arrested for allegedly committing a criminal offense, they will be taken to the police station. This is where the criminal court process in Ohio starts. The following steps in the Ohio criminal court process will commence in this order:
- Criminal Booking – Where the individual is taken to the police station and information is gathered.
- Arraignment – The individual’s first court appearance where they enter a plea
- Discovery – Introduction of evidence
- Plea Bargaining – Period where a plea deal may be offered
- Preliminary Hearing – This happens in felony cases. Evidence is displayed and both sides have the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses.
- Pre-Trial Hearing – If a plea deal is not reached, sometimes the judge will schedule a pretrial hearing.
- Criminal Trial – A jury of peers listens to both sides of the case to determine whether or not the defendant is guilty of the crime they are charged with.
- Appeals – If the trial does not provide the desired outcome, the defendant can submit an appeal.
Criminal Booking in Columbus, Ohio Courts
Upon arrest in Ohio, the alleged offender will be taken to the police station where the criminal booking process begins. This process typically involves:
- Photographing the arrested individual
- Answering simple informational questions such as name and date of birth
Additionally, any personal belongings, such as wallets, rings, and watches, will be cataloged and stored during the booking process. This information is collected as part of the standard procedure followed by law enforcement officers in Ohio during the initial stages of the criminal court process after an arrest has been made.
When Does Booking Occur In A Criminal Procedure?
In Ohio, the booking process takes place promptly after an individual has been arrested for an alleged criminal offense. Upon arrest, the alleged offender is transported to the police station where they undergo standard booking procedures, including fingerprinting, photography, and questioning to obtain personal information such as their name and date of birth.
Arraignment in Columbus
What Is An Arraignment?
In Ohio, an arraignment is the initial court appearance for an individual who has been charged with a criminal offense, such as OVI, DWI/DUI, a drug-related crime, theft, a violent crime, or a sexual offense. During the arraignment, also referred to as the first appearance, the defendant is informed of the charges they are facing and their constitutional rights. The defendant typically enters a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest during this proceeding. The judge may also determine if bail is available and set the bail amount. It’s crucial to understand the implications of each plea:
- Not Guilty – This plea asserts that the facts and charges against the defendant are untrue and that the alleged offender did not commit the alleged crime.
- Guilty – This plea is an admission of the facts and charges against the alleged offender.
- No Contest – This plea asserts that the alleged offender did not commit the accused crime, but they cannot contest the charges.
What Happens After Arraignment For A Felony?
Following arraignment for a felony in Ohio, the defendant has the right to a preliminary hearing, which is a crucial step in the criminal process and typically occurs within ten days of the defendant’s initial appearance. At the preliminary hearing, the defendant’s attorney can request the prosecution to present evidence intended to be used against the defendant and conduct a cross-examination of prosecution witnesses. The defendant’s attorney may also present their own evidence, employing aggressive and tactical maneuvers to identify weaknesses in the prosecution’s case.
Upon reviewing all the evidence, the judge will determine if the prosecution has presented sufficient evidence to establish probable cause that the defendant committed the alleged offense. If the judge finds that probable cause does not exist, the defendant may be released. However, if probable cause is established, the defendant’s case will proceed to the appropriate court. In misdemeanor cases, the case will remain in the municipal court, while in felony cases, the common pleas court will assume jurisdiction if probable cause is found.
How Long After Arraignment Is Sentencing?
The timeline for sentencing after arraignment in Ohio is not fixed and can vary depending on multiple factors. These factors include the complexity of the case, the type of offense, and the court’s schedule. After the arraignment, which is the initial court appearance where the defendant is informed of the charges and enters a plea, the case will progress to subsequent stages of the criminal process, which may involve pre-trial hearings, plea negotiations, or a trial if no plea agreement is reached.
If the defendant enters a guilty plea or is found guilty after a trial, the court will schedule a separate hearing for sentencing. The sentencing hearing is a distinct stage where the judge considers various factors, such as the seriousness of the offense, the defendant’s criminal history, and any mitigating or aggravating circumstances, to determine the appropriate punishment. The time between arraignment and sentencing can vary depending on factors such as the court’s schedule and the complexity of the case, and it may take several weeks to several months for the sentencing hearing to be scheduled and conducted.
It’s important to note that the timeline for sentencing after arraignment can also be affected by other factors, including delays requested by the defense or prosecution, the need for additional evidence or witnesses, and the availability of the court’s calendar. To get specific information and guidance on the timeline for sentencing after arraignment in a particular case, it’s recommended to consult with a qualified legal professional in Ohio.
Can Charges Be Dropped At An Arraignment Hearing?
Arraignment hearings are typically not the venue where judges have the authority to dismiss charges, and in practice, such dismissals are rare. However, prosecutors do have the authority to dismiss charges at arraignment, but only if there is a compelling reason to do so. For instance, if the prosecutor discovers that the defendant was wrongly charged with a crime, they may choose to dismiss the charges.
Another scenario where charges may be dismissed at an arraignment is when the prosecutor and defense counsel negotiate an early plea deal, resulting in the dismissal of one or more charges against the accused. Therefore, it is crucial for defendants to seek the guidance of a criminal defense attorney after their arrest and prior to their arraignment. With legal representation, defendants can collaborate with their criminal defense lawyer to thoroughly examine all the evidence in their case and gain a comprehensive understanding of the charges filed against them. This diligent approach can potentially uncover any wrongful charges and create an opportunity for dismissal through negotiations with the prosecutor.
Can Charges Be Changed After Arraignment?
Yes, in Ohio, charges can be changed after arraignment. According to the law (Ohio Revised Code Section 2941.30), the court has the authority to fix mistakes or problems in the indictment, information, or bill of particulars, even during or after a trial. This includes things like errors in how the charges are written or differences between the charges and the evidence. However, it’s important to know that the court cannot change the name or type of crime that a person is charged with. So, while charges can be modified to correct errors or inconsistencies, the basic nature of the crime charged cannot be changed by the court after arraignment.
Subsequent to the arraignment, your attorney will request the prosecution to hand over any witness statements, victim statements, physical evidence, and/or police and investigative reports that will be used against you at trial.
In the unlikely event the prosecution fails to comply with this request, your attorney will file a motion to compel discovery.
A plea bargain is an incentive given by the prosecution to the defendant to plead guilty. This option should only be undertaken in circumstances where the evidence is unfavorable against the defendant’s attorney, and the defendant’s attorney believes a plea bargain is in his client’s best interest. The defendant should not initiate a plea without first consulting with an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
There are two general types of plea bargains in Ohio.
The charge plea bargain allows the defendant to plead guilty to a lesser charge or only a portion of the charges. The sentence bargain occurs when the defendant pleads guilty to the charges and the prosecutor agrees to a specific sentence, which should be approved by the judge.
Although most judges will approve the sentence, there is no law that mandates the judge to abide by the terms of the plea bargain. Additionally, it is important to remember that a plea bargain is a contractual agreement between the prosecutor and the defendant.
If either party fails to uphold their end of the agreement, consequences will follow.
If the defendant in any way fails to comply, the prosecutor may revoke the agreement and re-file charges. If the prosecutor breaches the agreement, the defendant may either seek to have the guilty plea set aside or the defendant’s attorney may request a court order compelling the prosecutor’s compliance.
Although plea bargains are generally not the most desirable option, they are sometimes the best alternative available under the circumstances.
Trials can be grueling, and often take weeks or months to complete.
When considering a plea bargain, the most favorable reasons to choose to enter a plea bargain can include one or more of the following:
- A plea bargain is a quick method to end the criminal process;
- A plea bargain can be a guaranteed way to stay out of jail;
- A plea bargain may result in less serious criminal charges;
- A plea bargain can minimize the costs associated with criminal proceedings; and/or
- A plea bargain can result in less public exposure for the defendant.
Columbus Preliminary Hearing
In felony cases, the defendant is entitled to a preliminary hearing. This hearing is a crucial stage in the criminal process, and typically occurs within ten days of the defendant’s initial appearance.
During the hearing, the defendant’s attorney will ask the prosecution to display evidence intended to be used against the defendant. The defendant’s attorney may engage in cross-examination of prosecution witnesses and also present evidence of his own.
This stage of the process must be approached with aggressive, tactical maneuvers in order to uncover weaknesses in the prosecution’s case.
After the judge has heard all evidence, he or she will make a determination as to whether the prosecution has presented sufficient evidence to support a finding of probable cause the defendant committed the alleged offense.
If the judge finds that probable cause does not exist, the defendant will be released.
In misdemeanor cases, the defendant’s case will remain in the municipal court if the judge finds probable cause exists. The common pleas court will have jurisdiction over a felony criminal case if the judge finds probable cause exists.
What Is A Preliminary Hearing In Ohio?
In Ohio, a preliminary hearing holds great significance in the criminal process for felony cases, typically occurring within ten days of the defendant’s initial appearance. At this hearing, the defendant’s attorney will request the prosecution to present evidence that will be used against the defendant. The defense attorney has the opportunity to cross-examine prosecution witnesses and present their own evidence. It is crucial for the defense attorney to employ strategic approaches to identify weaknesses in the prosecution’s case.
Following the presentation of all evidence, the judge will determine if there is sufficient probable cause to believe that the defendant committed the alleged offense. If the judge determines that probable cause is lacking, the defendant will be released. In cases of misdemeanors, if probable cause is found, the case will remain in municipal court. However, for felony cases, if probable cause is established, the case will be transferred to the common pleas court, which has jurisdiction over felony criminal cases.
What Happens At A Pre-Trial?
At a pre-trial hearing, the prosecution and defense engage in discussions regarding the strengths and weaknesses of their respective positions and may attempt to renegotiate a plea agreement if one was not entered after the arraignment. Your criminal defense lawyer may also file pretrial motions, such as motions to suppress evidence or motions in limine, to exclude unfavorable or prejudicial evidence from the trial, and to present a robust defense strategy.
Based on the motions presented, the prosecutor may seek a plea agreement as an alternative to going to trial. If the case involves a felony offense, the plea agreement is formally entered in court, and the case is typically referred to the probation department for a pre-sentencing examination, followed by a separate sentencing hearing.
On the other hand, if the case involves a misdemeanor offense and a plea agreement is reached, the judge will usually proceed to sentence the defendant immediately after a guilty plea. However, if a plea agreement cannot be reached, the case will proceed to trial.
How Long Between Pre-Trial And Trial?
The length of time between a pre-trial and trial can fluctuate depending on the jurisdiction and the unique circumstances of the case. As per the Ohio Court Of Claims, a pre-trial hearing is generally scheduled to take place around 30 days prior to the trial. However, it’s crucial to acknowledge that this timeline can vary based on factors such as the complexity of the case, availability of court resources, and other relevant considerations. It’s advisable to consult with legal counsel for precise and up-to-date information on the specific timeline between pre-trial and trial in a given legal proceeding.
The Criminal Trial
What Are The 4 Stages Of A Criminal Trial?
The criminal trial process typically involves four main stages:
- Opening Statements – Once a jury is selected, the trial begins with opening statements. Both the prosecution, representing the government, and the defense make their initial statements to the jury. At this stage, no witnesses testify and no physical evidence is presented. The prosecution’s opening statement is often more detailed, as they bear the burden of proof in establishing the defendant’s guilt.
- Witness Testimony and Cross-Examination – This stage is the core of the trial, where each side presents its key evidence to the jury. The prosecution presents its case-in-chief, systematically presenting evidence to convince the jury beyond a reasonable doubt of the defendant’s guilt. This may involve calling witnesses, including eyewitnesses and experts, to testify. After the prosecution’s case-in-chief, the defense has the opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses and present their own evidence.
- Closing Arguments – Similar to the opening statements, the closing arguments provide the prosecution and defense with a chance to summarize their cases and highlight the evidence in a favorable light. This is the final opportunity for the parties to address the jury before deliberations. The prosecution seeks to show why the evidence supports a guilty verdict.
- Jury Instruction – Following the closing arguments, the judge instructs the jury on the legal standards they must use to determine the defendant’s guilt or innocence. This includes explaining the relevant laws and elements of the charges. The jury then begins its deliberations to reach a verdict based on the evidence presented and the legal instructions provided by the judge.
How Long Does It Take For A Felony Case To Go To Trial?
The timeline for a felony case to reach trial can vary due to different factors, such as the filing of a motion to suppress evidence or statements. If such a motion is filed, the Court may conduct a hearing to consider the evidence related to the motion, and whether or not you testify at the hearing will be determined in consultation with your attorney, taking into account the progress of the hearing.
The pretrial litigation phase, which includes motions filing, attorney scheduling, and the Court’s docket, can take anywhere from thirty days to six months or even longer. On average, it takes 270 days for felony case trials. The duration for a felony case to go to trial is influenced by these factors and may vary on a case-by-case basis.
What Is The Trial Process Like In Ohio?
In Ohio, the trial process begins with the selection of a jury from a pool of available jurors, followed by opening statements made by each side to outline their expected proof. Evidence and testimony are presented by both sides, with objections raised by attorneys and ruled upon by the judge. Closing arguments are then made, and the judge provides instructions of law to the jury before they retire to the deliberation room to reach a verdict. Once a verdict has been reached and signed by the jurors, it is announced in the courtroom and the judge dismisses the jury.
During the trial, jurors must base their decision on the laws as they are, rather than as they may personally prefer. The plaintiff, who bears the burden of proof, has the opportunity to open and close the arguments, while the foreperson leads the jury in discussions, and any questions are submitted in writing to the judge.
How Long Does The Average Criminal Trial Last?
The duration of an average criminal trial can vary based on multiple factors, including the complexity of the case, the amount of evidence to be presented, and the testimony of witnesses. While trial days in court can span from a few days to several weeks, straightforward cases typically conclude within a few days.
During a typical trial, both sides present their arguments along with supporting evidence and cross-examine witnesses. The timeline for this process depends on the unique circumstances of the case. Following the presentation of the case, the jury deliberates and ultimately reaches a verdict.
Ohio Appeals Process
How To File An Appeal In Ohio Criminal Court?
To initiate an appeal in an Ohio criminal court, you are required to submit several documents to the trial court. These documents, which include the notice of appeal, praecipe, and docketing statement, must be filed with the trial court clerk, providing both the original copy and sufficient copies for the court, court reporter (if a transcript of proceedings has been ordered), and other parties involved in the appeal. It is important to note that the notice of appeal must be filed with the clerk of the trial court within 30 days of the entry of the final judgment, and it must be received by the clerk within this timeframe, not just postmarked.
In case any post-judgment motions were made at the trial level, the 30-day timeframe begins once the trial court enters an order resolving all of the post-judgment motions. Additionally, the notice of appeal must be accompanied by a copy of the judgment or order from the trial court, which must bear the signature of the trial judge and the date of entry.
What Are The Possible Outcomes Of An Appeal?
The outcomes of an appeal differ from those of a trial before a new judge. An appeal involves presenting a legal argument to a panel of appellate judges, focusing on issues of law rather than rendering a “guilty” or “not guilty” verdict or favoring one party over the other. The appellate court may take any of the following actions:
- Affirm the decision of the trial court, upholding the verdict rendered at trial without any changes.
- Reverse the decision of the trial court, which could result in a new trial being ordered.
- Remand the case to the trial court. This typically occurs when the appellate court establishes a new legal standard, requiring the trial court to retry the case or conduct a sentencing hearing in accordance with the newly established standard.
Joslyn Law Firm | Criminal Proceedings Lawyer in Columbus
Contact the Joslyn Law Firm today for a consultation about your criminal process questions in Columbus, Ohio.
It is important to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Columbus to help you achieve the best possible outcome in your particular situation.
Contact the Joslyn Law Firm at (614) 444-1900 for a consultation about your criminal charges in Franklin County and surrounding counties, including Pickaway County, Madison County, Delaware County, Licking County and Fairfield County in Ohio.