Being placed under arrest and charged with a criminal offense is a scary and stressful situation. For most people who come to us for help, it is the first time they have ever run afoul of the law and require the services of an attorney.
- If you have been charged with a misdemeanor, the first court date you will attend is generally called an Arraignment. At your arraignment, you must enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. If you have chosen to hire an attorney and fight the charges filed against you, a "not guilty" plea will be entered.
- If you have been charged with a felony and not yet indicted, the first court date after your arrest is called an Initial Appearance. At the initial appearance, the judge will inform you of the nature of the charges, explain your legal rights, and address bail. Your next court date will be a Preliminary Hearing if you are net yet indicted unless the charges are dismissed for future presentation to a Grand Jury for indictment. Once indicted, you will be entitled to an Arraignment just as described above.
- At or shortly after the arraignment date, a request for "Discovery" will be made on your behalf. Discovery is a generic term that relates to the production of evidence that the state intends to present against you in court. An example of "discovery" is a list of witnesses that may testify against you, documents that the State intends to introduce into evidence, witness statements (including narrative police reports) and any video recordings of the incident and evidence that is favorable to the defense of your case.
- Most courts will schedule a Pre-Trial Hearing/Conference. Usually, the pre-trial is a meeting between the prosecutor and your defense attorney to discuss the case, the discovery, and possible resolutions to the case. There may be one or more pre-trials, depending on how quickly information is provided and exchanged between the parties. If the case is not resolved at a pre-trial hearing, it may be set for a Suppression Hearing to determine what evidence maybe used against you at trial.
- The Suppression Hearing is a very important step as it sometimes allows your attorney to attack various aspects of the State's case prior to trial. The elimination of harmful evidence is the primary purpose and goal of "Motions". A Suppression Hearing is generally heard by the judge assigned to your case . There is n o jury at a Suppression Hearing. Present at a typical Suppression Hearing will be the judge, the prosecutor, the State's witness (the arresting officer) you, your attorney and witnesses the defense may wish to present.
- If your case is not resolved at the time of the Motion Hearing, the case will be scheduled for Trial. This may be a Jury Trial (in Ohio, an 8 person jury is used in misdemeanor cases and a 12 person in felony cases) or a Court Trial, heard only by the judge (you are only entitled to a Court Trial in Minor Misdemeanor cases). Your attorney, with your input, will decide which type of trial is better for your individual case based on your case and your assigned judge. In misdemeanor cases, you must timely file a Demand for Jury Trial or your case will be heard by only the judge. Of course, the primary objective is to WIN.
It is important to understand that generally, cases can take anywhere from One (1) day to (2) Two (2) years to complete. Every case is different and you must work and cooperate with an attorney you trust to get the results you desire.
Jessica D'Varga is an Associate Attorney with The Law Offices of Saia & Piatt, Inc. She defends clients against all types of OVI, traffic, and criminal charges in Ohio.