November 27, 2023 | Criminal Law
If you’re a criminal defendant in Ohio, understanding how the state’s court system works is critical to building your defense strategy. The process typically begins with an arrest or citation, in which case you will then be brought to the police station and ‘booked.’ This is where the criminal court process really starts. Here’s what’s next:
Arraignment is your first court appearance before a judge (or magistrate) following arrest and booking. The charges against you are formally read in court, after which you enter a plea – typically guilty, not guilty, or no contest.
The discovery phase involves an exchange of evidence between the prosecution and defense teams. All relevant facts about your case, such as police reports, witness statements, videos/photos, or other pieces of potential evidence, are shared between parties to ensure fair proceedings.
Following discovery (or possibly beforehand), your lawyer may enter into what is called ‘plea bargaining‘ with the prosecution. This process involves negotiations between your defense team and the prosecutor’s office to resolve the case without the need for a full trial. A resolution can involve pleading guilty or no contest in exchange for reduced charges or more lenient sentencing.
If your case involves felony charges (as opposed to a misdemeanor), it will likely proceed to a preliminary hearing after arraignment. In these hearings (which are similar to mini-trials), the prosecution must demonstrate to a judge that there’s sufficient evidence to establish ‘probable cause‘ – a reasonable basis for believing you committed the offense in order to continue with formal charges and proceed towards trial.
Judge Makes Decision
Following the presentation of evidence in a preliminary hearing, the judge has an important decision to make. They must determine whether there’s probable cause to believe you committed the alleged crime.
If they decide that probable cause is lacking based on what has been presented at this stage, charges against you will be dismissed.
If they decide the state has shown probable cause, your case will be held for court, and pre-trial and trial dates will be set.
Motions are formal requests filed by attorneys asking the court for particular rulings or orders on aspects of your case. During these hearings, both sides can present arguments related to specific issues in your case.
For example, your attorney might file a motion to suppress, asking the judge to exclude certain improperly obtained evidence from being presented at trial. Alternatively, it could be something procedural, like a motion for more time to prepare.
The judge reviews all information provided and makes decisions about how things should proceed; their ruling can have a significant impact on key elements of the case.
This is the formal examination of your case in front of a judge and perhaps a jury, assuming it hasn’t been previously resolved through a plea agreement or dismissed altogether. Here’s what you can expect:
In this initial stage, both prosecution and defense attorneys present an overview of their case to orient the judge/jury about their interpretation regarding the facts at hand.
Evidence and Witness Presentation
Both sides call witnesses for questioning (direct examination), followed by cross-examination, where opposing counsel has an opportunity to challenge witness testimony or evidence presented.
After all evidence is presented, each side offers closing arguments that summarize key points from trial, trying to persuasively connect the dots for why things should be seen from their perspective.
The judge or jury then deliberates to reach a final decision about your case based on the evidence and testimony presented during trial. If you’re acquitted, proceedings end, and you’re free to go. A guilty verdict will lead to sentencing, which usually occurs at a later date.
At sentencing, the judge will decide your punishment based on several factors, including the evidence presented, the nature of your crime, your criminal history, and sentencing guidelines, among others. They may also consider mitigating circumstances like your age or remorse shown, and the prosecutor may try to show aggravating factors to increase your sentence.
In some cases, you may be able to appeal the decision reached by the trial court. An experienced criminal defense attorney can advise you on whether this is an option in your circumstances.
A Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Be of Significant Help
Undergoing a criminal trial in Ohio necessitates an understanding of each step of the process. Being well-informed can significantly help you navigate these complex proceedings. Should you ever find yourself facing such circumstances, remember that legal representation is not just an option but often a necessity due to the intricacies involved.
Contacting an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible is a wise choice. If you need help, don’t hesitate to contact us to schedule a free consultation.
Contact the Dayton Criminal Defense Attorneys at Suhre & Associates, LLC For Help Today
Suhre & Associates, LLC – Dayton
130 West Second Street #17-129
Dayton, OH 45402