Q:

I have been charged with a criminal offense. What should I do?

A:

Contact an attorney to schedule a consultation. Most attorneys do not charge a fee for the initial meeting. It is important to understand exactly what you are charged with, the maximum penalties involved, and what your next step in the process should be.

Q:

Should I talk to the police?

A:

No one is required to talk to the police when charged with a criminal offense.  The Ohio and U.S. Constitutions provide protection against self-incrimination, which is the legalese way of saying you do not have to talk to a police officer.

Anything you say to the police will be used against you.  Police officers are specifically trained to get people to answer questions a certain way.  While it may be a good idea to talk to the police in your specific case, you should never do so without consulting with your attorney, or talking to the police with your attorney present.

Q:

What is an arraignment?

A:

This is the first Court hearing in your case.  The Judge will review your charges, and schedule your case for an additional hearing.  This could be a pretrial or trial, depending on your particular case.  This is also when the Judge will set bail.

Q:

How does bail work?

A:

There are some charges, such as domestic violence, that require you to be held in custody until you go before a Judge.  For other cases, the court may set a bond amount to secure your attendance at future court hearings.  The type of bond can vary:  posting the full amount in cash, using a bondsman, posting 10% of the bond in cash, or simply signing a piece of paper promising to come back to Court (O.R. bond).

If you are held in jail until your arraignment, the Court will set a bond amount at this hearing.  It can be very important to retain an attorney prior to the arraignment.  Your attorney can obtain information and present it to the Judge for consideration so that you may receive a lower bond.  

Q:

Should I take my case to trial?

A:

No lawyer can answer this question until all of the information about your case is fully reviewed.  Your attorney can request discovery from the prosecuting attorney, which essentially is the evidence that will be used against you.  This information will be used to conduct legal research.

Once all of the information is obtained, you and your lawyer should schedule a meeting to discuss your case and the likelihood of success at trial.  Ultimately, you have the decision whether or not to take your case to trial.

Q:

Can I have a jury trial?

A:

Maybe.  You are entitled to a jury trial in Ohio if you are facing jail time on your particular criminal offense.  If you are charged with a traffic offense, you can only be fined, so you will not be able to plead your case to a jury.

Q:

Do I have to show up to Court?

A:

Yes, absolutely, unless your attorney says otherwise.  If you fail to appear, the Court will likely issue a bench warrant for your arrest.  

If you happen to be charged with another crime in the future, the Court will know that you failed to appear in the past.  This information may cause the Court to set a high bond amount.

Q:

Can I get a criminal conviction expunged?

A:

Maybe.  Expungement is called ‘sealing of records’ in Ohio.  Ohio recently expanded how many offenses an individual may get expunged, and these can include felonies and misdemeanors.

Certain offenses may not get sealed:  first and second degree felonies, domestic violence, OVI (DUI), and others. 

It is best to consult with an attorney to determine whether your particular offense is eligible for sealing.  If so, the attorney can assist with the presentation of your case to persuade the Court that you have been fully rehabilitated and deserve to have your record sealed.