Category: Criminal Law

THE MISDEMEANOR CRIMINAL PROCESS

Arraignment

DO I NEED TO ATTEND: Depends on the court (however you should always assume that you need to). If you need to and you fail to show up a warrant for your arrest will be issued.

WHAT HAPPENS: Typically the court will tell you your options to plea (“no contest”, “guilty”, or “not guilty”). They will also tell you the nature of the crime and the possible punishment.

If you plead guilty then the court may proceed to sentencing or may have you come back for another day to be sentenced. A plea of no contest is an admission of the facts but no admission of guilt. This plea usually ends up with a finding of guilt and sentencing at that time or the court having you come back another day for sentencing. A plea of not guilty will result in a pretrial or trial being set for another day.

There is a possibility that a bond hearing will occur to determine if a bond should be set, but in a misdemeanor case this is unlikely. Most courts have bond schedules already set up with their police departments and the bond has already been set. An exception to this would be someone arrested for domestic violence or other crime of violence where other condition than bail money might be required (such as a no contact order with the victim).

Discovery

DO I NEED TO ATTEND: Not really a hearing, so no.

WHAT HAPPENS: Discovery is the process of getting information from the prosecutor. A lot of times discovery happens at a pretrial; however, many prosecutors will hand over materials on a letter from the counsel. Usually discovery includes the police report, witness statements, and prior crimes.

In addition we have subpoena power to ask for documents from other parties.

Suppression

DO I NEED TO ATTEND: Most of the Time Yes

WHAT HAPPENS: In some cases there are flaws in an investigation that require that types of evidence be thrown out. Examples of such flaws are improper executions of a warrant, an unreasonable search and seizure, or an improper administration of a test.

A motion for suppression can be filed which will result in a hearing to determine if the item should be suppress. Actual suppression of evidence is rare. However, even if the suppression does not work it can sometime lend light to other parts of the case.

Pretrial

DO I NEED TO ATTEND: Almost always yes.

WHAT HAPPENS: A pretrial is a court hearing where the defense and the prosecution meet to try to resolve the case. In most cases the resolution is a plea bargain (lesser charges). In general, pretrials occur without intervention of the court. If you agree to the proposed plea bargain the court may set a sentencing or do the sentencing at the pretrial (we almost always know prior to the plea bargain).

If the case is not resolved or there are some additional issues that need to be ironed out the court can set the case for a subsequent pretrial or set the case for trial.

Trial

DO I NEED TO ATTEND: Yes

WHAT HAPPENS: If there is a disagreement regarding to the facts in the case or there is no resolution, the case is set for trial. In Ohio, misdemeanor cases are set for a bench trial unless the defendant requests a jury trial ten days before the trial.
Witness are called and there is cross and direct examination. You do have a right to remain silent (meaning the prosecutor cannot compel you to testify in your trial.

After the trial a verdict of guilty or not guilty is entered. If found guilty the court can sentence at this point or it can set up a sentencing hearing.

Sentencing

DO I NEED TO ATTEND: Yes

WHAT HAPPENS: A court may in more serious misdemeanor cases require a person to go through a pre-sentencing investigation (PSI) with the probation department. The department will then issue a report with the findings of the investigation and sometimes a recommendation for sentencing.

At a sentencing generally the prosecutor is given a chance to speak at the sentencing (most of the time they don’t). I am given a chance to speak for leniency and you are given an opportunity to to say something on your behalf. A sentencing is not a time to argue your innocence (that can increase the penalty). If that is what you want to do, then don’t say anything. After hearing this the judge imposes sentence. Most first time misdemeanors with the exception of domestic violence and other violent acts don’t result in jail time. Most jail sentences are in the 1-10 day range for first offenses.

THE MISDEMEANOR CRIMINAL PROCESS

Arraignment

DO I NEED TO ATTEND: Depends on the court (however you should always assume that you need to). If you need to and you fail to show up a warrant for your arrest will be issued.

WHAT HAPPENS: Typically the court will tell you your options to plea (“no contest”, “guilty”, or “not guilty”). They will also tell you the nature of the crime and the possible punishment.

If you plead guilty then the court may proceed to sentencing or may have you come back for another day to be sentenced. A plea of no contest is an admission of the facts but no admission of guilt. This plea usually ends up with a finding of guilt and sentencing at that time or the court having you come back another day for sentencing. A plea of not guilty will result in a pretrial or trial being set for another day.

There is a possibility that a bond hearing will occur to determine if a bond should be set, but in a misdemeanor case this is unlikely. Most courts have bond schedules already set up with their police departments and the bond has already been set. An exception to this would be someone arrested for domestic violence or other crime of violence where other condition than bail money might be required (such as a no contact order with the victim).

Discovery

DO I NEED TO ATTEND: Not really a hearing, so no.

WHAT HAPPENS: Discovery is the process of getting information from the prosecutor. A lot of times discovery happens at a pretrial; however, many prosecutors will hand over materials on a letter from the counsel. Usually discovery includes the police report, witness statements, and prior crimes.

In addition we have subpoena power to ask for documents from other parties.

Suppression

DO I NEED TO ATTEND: Most of the Time Yes

WHAT HAPPENS: In some cases there are flaws in an investigation that require that types of evidence be thrown out. Examples of such flaws are improper executions of a warrant, an unreasonable search and seizure, or an improper administration of a test.

A motion for suppression can be filed which will result in a hearing to determine if the item should be suppress. Actual suppression of evidence is rare. However, even if the suppression does not work it can sometime lend light to other parts of the case.

Pretrial

DO I NEED TO ATTEND: Almost always yes.

WHAT HAPPENS: A pretrial is a court hearing where the defense and the prosecution meet to try to resolve the case. In most cases the resolution is a plea bargain (lesser charges). In general, pretrials occur without intervention of the court. If you agree to the proposed plea bargain the court may set a sentencing or do the sentencing at the pretrial (we almost always know prior to the plea bargain).

If the case is not resolved or there are some additional issues that need to be ironed out the court can set the case for a subsequent pretrial or set the case for trial.

Trial

DO I NEED TO ATTEND: Yes

WHAT HAPPENS: If there is a disagreement regarding to the facts in the case or there is no resolution, the case is set for trial. In Ohio, misdemeanor cases are set for a bench trial unless the defendant requests a jury trial ten days before the trial.
Witness are called and there is cross and direct examination. You do have a right to remain silent (meaning the prosecutor cannot compel you to testify in your trial.

After the trial a verdict of guilty or not guilty is entered. If found guilty the court can sentence at this point or it can set up a sentencing hearing.

Sentencing

DO I NEED TO ATTEND: Yes

WHAT HAPPENS: A court may in more serious misdemeanor cases require a person to go through a pre-sentencing investigation (PSI) with the probation department. The department will then issue a report with the findings of the investigation and sometimes a recommendation for sentencing.

At a sentencing generally the prosecutor is given a chance to speak at the sentencing (most of the time they don’t). I am given a chance to speak for leniency and you are given an opportunity to to say something on your behalf. A sentencing is not a time to argue your innocence (that can increase the penalty). If that is what you want to do, then don’t say anything. After hearing this the judge imposes sentence. Most first time misdemeanors with the exception of domestic violence and other violent acts don’t result in jail time. Most jail sentences are in the 1-10 day range for first offenses.