Frequently Asked Questions
At Joslyn Law Firm, we advise our clients on their rights and on the criminal process. Few things can be more disorienting than being accused of a crime. Our attorneys know that, and make sure our clients understand what is happening and what their options are. The sooner you contact us, the sooner we can get to work protecting your rights and advising you on the critical decisions you must make.
Here are some frequently asked questions, with our answers:
- Should I talk to police or other law enforcement officers?
- I think they have enough evidence against me. Should I not just plead guilty?
- What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?
- What kinds of cases are heard in the Mayor’s Court?
- What kind of cases are in municipal court?
- What is heard in the Court of Common Pleas?
- What does it mean to have federal charges against me?
- Can I represent myself?
- Can I get a trial by jury?
- What does it mean to have my case dismissed?
- How much will hiring an attorney cost?
Should I talk to police or other law enforcement officers?
If you have any reason at all to believe police suspect you of a crime, do not talk to them. Say you won’t answer any more questions without your attorney present. Police are building a case against you when they interview you. They intend to use everything you say against you. Do not try to explain anything away. They will cherrypick your words and the prosecutor will twist them to make you look guilty at trial.
The less evidence they have, the better off you are. Prosecutors are required to present sufficient admissible evidence to prove every element of their case beyond reasonable doubt. Don’t hand evidence over to them. A lawyer can tell you what to say and what not to say.
I think they have enough evidence against me. Should I not just plead guilty?
No, you should never give up. You may think prosecutors have an open-and-shut case, but there are mistakes police can make that can lead to evidence getting thrown out. Drugs allegedly taken from your pocked may be inadmissible if you were not legally stopped and/or searched. Failed OVI tests may be the result of mistakes in cleaning or calibrating the instrument.
A lawyer will also be able to tell you other options you have besides pleading guilty. You may be able to seek treatment before court for drug addiction or anger management and be able to get deferred adjudication.
Never give up. Your best hope, though, is to hire an attorney who knows how to get these good results.
What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?
Simply put, felonies are more serious charges than misdemeanors and have greater penalties under law. In most cases, the criminal statute in Ohio law will state explicitly whether the crime is a felony or a misdemeanor, and will state the degree.
There are five degrees of felonies and five degrees of misdemeanor, along with a “minor misdemeanor” designation. Each has a different range of punishment, including a prison sentences and a maximum fine. Some crimes, like murder, do not fall into these categories. Others, like drug trafficking, have mandatory minimum sentences that can stretch into decades in prison.
A felony conviction is a dramatic, life-changing event. In addition to longer prison sentences and heavier fines, there are a number of related repercussions, often called “collateral consequences.” Under federal and state law, you may not possess firearms for life. While in prison, you lose your right to vote.
Misdemeanors should never be taken lightly, though. They are criminal offenses, and you will have a criminal record as a result. Some misdemeanors, like OVI, can become felonies after multiple convictions.
What kinds of cases are heard in the Mayor’s Court?
If arrested or cited for a misdemeanor in a town with more than 100 people with a mayor’s court, the case will at least begin there. Mayor’s courts are presided over by the mayor, though usually an appointed magistrate hears cases. There are no juries. The defendant in a case in mayor’s court can transfer to a municipal court for any time for any reason.
What kind of cases are in municipal court?
Municipal courts can hear misdemeanors and traffic violations. They also hear preliminary matters in felony cases.
What is heard in the Court of Common Pleas?
If your case was a felony, it will be heard in this court. Courts of Common Pleas are countywide, and have jurisdiction over a wide number of matters, including domestic and juvenile hearings.
What does it mean to have federal charges against me?
Federal charges involve alleged criminal violations of the United States Code. Federal law covers a broad range of topics, including drug crimes, weapons offenses, sex crimes, child pornography, human trafficking, fraud (including healthcare fraud, Medicaid fraud, PPP loan fraud), and more. Cases in Columbus are heard at the Joseph P. Kinneary U.S. Courthouse.
The federal government has extensive resources to prosecute cases. Additionally, convictions often have mandatory minimum sentences. While you may seek a federal public defender, he or she is likely to have a large caseload. A private attorney can offer dedicated service.
Can I represent myself?
You can, but it is a very bad idea. There is an old saying among attorneys: “The lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.” What that means is that even if you have all the necessary education and training, and have obtained a license to practice law, it is still very unadvisable to represent yourself.
Prosecutors and judges will not be easy on you. In fact, you may be worse off. The prosecutor is going to see you as easy prey, and has little reason to try and work out a deal. The judge will advise you to get an attorney from the beginning. If you do not take his or her advice, he or she is not going to be inclined to give you a break.
The smartest and most capable people hire an attorney if they are accused of a crime. An attorney will look at your situation objectively and build the best strategy. An experienced lawyer will also know how the local courts work, and will know the judges and prosecutors well enough to deliver the best results.
Can I get a trial by jury?
Ohio Revised Statute 2945.17 grants the right to a jury in any criminal matter unless the charge is a minor misdemeanor or does not carry a possible jail sentence or a fine greater than $1,000. Mayor’s courts never have juries, but the defendant may transfer the case to municipal court for any time for any reason, including that he or she wants a jury to hear the case.
Pursuing a jury trial is an important strategic decision. In some cases, it may be better to have a bench trial, in which the judge makes the decision. Your attorney is in the best position to review your case and make a recommendation.
What does it mean to have my case dismissed?
Having charges dismissed means the Court disposes of the charges without reaching a verdict. If jeopardy has attached, the same charges cannot be pursued against you for the same set of facts.
There are several ways this can happen. Your attorney can file a motion to dismiss the criminal complaint due to insufficient evidence, lack of probable cause or any other fatal flaw in the charges against you. This can happen at any point in the proceedings, including before the trial. In other cases, your lawyer and the prosecutor reach a plea deal called deferred adjudication, in which if you meet the requirements, your charges are dismissed after time.
If your charges are dropped, there are still court records about your arrest and prosecution. It’s important to get these records sealed, as they could show up in background searches.
How much will hiring an attorney cost?
There are many factors that could affect the cost of representation. The most important is the seriousness of the charge; prosecutors typically put more resources into more serious charges and the defense sometimes needs more resources to fight back.
One thing is certain: A criminal conviction will be far more expensive. You could lose your job and your home. A criminal record means a lifetime of being able to earn less. You will be a less attractive candidate for jobs, and may be barred from some occupations for life. Schools will be less likely to admit you, meaning you will not be able to increase your potential through education.
If you have concerns about your ability to pay right now, come in for a free consultation. We may be able to work payments out.