Not Guilty Adams will be with you every step throughout the legal process. Every case is different, but a typical theft case might proceed as follows:
The first step in the legal process is your arraignment. This is your first appearance before the court after an arrest for theft or fraud.
- An arraignment is a court proceeding at which a criminal defendant is formally advised of the charges against him/her and is asked to enter a plea to the charges of either guilty or not guilty. Typically, the plea is not guilty.
- When you are asked to enter a plea, we will plead not guilty on your behalf and start the formal core procedures.
We will help you with petitioning the court for a favorable bail amount.
- Bail is the amount of money that you have to pay in order to be released from jail until the criminal matter is resolved. The amount of bail is generally based on the nature of your charges and whether or not the charges are a misdemeanor or felony. Once bail is paid with cash or bond, you will be released from jail.
- A bond is a formal written agreement by which a person undertakes to perform a certain act, for example, appearing in court or fulfilling obligations of the contract. Failure to perform the act obligates a person to pay a sum of money or to forfeit money on deposit for bond.
Your case will then be set for a formal pretrial in front of your assigned judge. Attorneys may address potential future hearings that might occur as your case progresses and make motions that will impact your case.
- Unless the prosecution and defendant reach a plea deal beforehand, the prosecutor and defense attorney will argue their cases in front of the court at the pretrial hearing.
- A pretrial is also known as continued arraignment, a disposition scheduling conference, and a plea or trial setting. Essentially, the pretrial is an opportunity for the defense attorney and the prosecutor to engage in what is called the discovery process.
Discovery is the process where the prosecution provides all of the evidence that they plan on using to prosecute the suspect. Once demanded or provided, the defense has a reciprocal duty to provide discovery.
- The defense typically provides discovery in situations where they plan on introducing evidence that will benefit their defense or call witnesses that will benefit their defense.
- Evidence, like police reports, photographs, video/audio tapes, witness statements, expert witness reports and curriculum vitae, 911 calls, police personnel files, and police training records will be provided. Other evidence related to your theft or fraud case may also be provided, such as forensic accounting reports, accounting records, bank records, and credit card records.
At pretrial, the defense may make pretrial motions. These motions may be made to ask the court to regulate how or what evidence may be used at trial. Pretrial motions often help to encourage both parties to reach a plea agreement. When the defendant’s pretrial motions are successful, the prosecution will typically be more generous in plea negotiations.
- A motion to suppress is a pretrial motion asking the court to throw out evidence against the defendant that is inadmissible or unnecessary. A motion to suppress can be filed when the defense attorney believes that the state or the government has not established probable cause for the arrest, or when there are certain search and seizure issues whereby the police illegally searched and seized evidence that is incriminating in nature. If the defense argues that the police violated the 4th Amendment and illegally searched and seized evidence, then that evidence may get suppressed or thrown out and not used against the accused.
- The defense can also file a motion to suppress evidence based upon 5th Amendment grounds to suppress a statement that the accused made. If the police did not mirandize the suspect at the appropriate time, that statement against the defendant’s interest may get thrown out (suppressed) and cannot be used against the defendant.
- There are also pretrial motions to request that the case dismissed for not affording the accused his right to a speedy trial either statutorily or through the Constitution.
- A motion in limine may be made right before your trial in order to allow the judge to consider whether the evidence that will be offered by the prosecution or defense should be admitted or excluded because it violates evidentiary rules.
- Defense attorneys file a motion to compel to ask the judge to compel the prosecution to provide evidence that they plan on using at trial and/or favorable evidence that they have not yet provided to the defense. If such evidence is not provided, the defense will ask the judge for sanctions, which can vary depending on the case and the circumstances.
- Sometimes, as a supplemental request to a motion in limine, the defense attorney can make a motion to dismiss the case because the prosecution did not comply with the court's order to produce or preserve evidence.
Plea negotiations may take place at any time, such as before charges are filed, at the arraignment, after pretrial hearing and motions, and any other time before the trial verdict. If the case is not settled before the pretrial hearing, the defense and prosecution often use the hearing to gauge where they stand with their case and to learn where their strengths and weaknesses are.
Plea negotiations often heat up after pretrial hearings because both parties have a better idea of where the leverage is and how much they would be willing to give in order to settle the case. Defendants may agree to plead guilty to a lesser charge, or prosecutors may decide to offer pretrial diversion so that the defendant is held accountable, and if he or she follows the diversion guidelines, the criminal case will be dismissed.
- A plea bargain may be offered by the prosecution and is also known as a negotiated plea agreement.
- An indictment means that you have been formally charged with one or more felonies. By entering into a negotiated plea, you may be able to get a charge reduced or you may be able to get numerous counts to your indictment dismissed in exchange for a plea to another count or counts in the indictment.
- Most of the time, the prosecution requires you to plead guilty if you are offered a plea bargain.
- A guilty plea means that instead of making the prosecution prove their case at trial, the defendant admits his or her guilt. Guilty pleas cannot be coerced by prosecutors, but defendants may voluntarily admit their guilt.
- If you enter a not guilty plea, this means that you claim your innocence, and the prosecution must then present their criminal case against you at trial. The state must prove each and every element of the offense by proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
- In an Ohio criminal case, reasonable doubt means that after carefully considering and comparing all of the evidence presented at trial, the judge or jury cannot say that they are firmly convinced of the truth of the charge. This doubt is based on reason and common sense; it is not near possible doubt. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is proof of such character than an ordinary person would be willing to rely and act upon it in the most important of his/her own affairs.
- A third type of plea is a no contest plea. This is the criminal defendant’s plea that while not admitting guilt, the defendant will not dispute the facts of the charge. A no contest plea cannot be used against you in a civil matter.
When a criminal case goes to trial, the defendant has the right to a speedy trial, unless that right is waived. Defendants often decide to waive their right to a speedy trial, however, because it gives them more time to prepare their defense. When the right is not waived and the prosecution fails to get the case to trial in a reasonable amount of time without a good reason for the delay, the case may be dismissed for violating the defendant’s 6th Amendment right and Ohio state law.
Ohio’s speedy trial law provides the following speedy trial deadlines:
- Minor misdemeanor charges should be brought to trial within 30 days after the defendant’s arrest or service of summons.
- 3rd degree misdemeanors, 4th degree misdemeanors, and other misdemeanors with a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail should be brought to trial within 45 days after the arrest or service of summons.
- 1st degree misdemeanors, 2nd degree misdemeanors, and other misdemeanors with a maximum penalty of more than 60 days in jail should be brought to trial within 90 days after the arrest or service of summons.
- Felony charges should be brought to a preliminary hearing within 10 – 15 days after the defendant’s arrest.
- Felony charges should be brought to trial within 275 days after the arrest.
- If one person is facing multiple charges of different degrees and felonies and/or misdemeanors arising out of the same act or transaction, the time permitted will be for the highest degree of offense charged.
If your case goes to trial, your attorney will prepare you for what to expect. In general, criminal trials proceed as follows:
- Bench or jury trial – In most cases, when defendants are facing potential jail time or a fine that exceeds $1,000 for their criminal charges, they have the right to a jury trial. A jury will hear the case and then decide on the defendant’s guilt or innocence. A trial before a judge and no jury is known as a bench trial, and defendants may skip the jury and opt for a bench trial if they choose. Choosing a jury or bench trial depends on the facts of each individual case, and defense attorneys will recommend one or the other to defendants based on their defense strategies.
- Voir dire – If the case is going to be tried to a jury, the trial will begin with the jury selection process known as ‘voir dire.’ The attorneys are provided some basic information about juror candidates, and during voir dire, they ask jurors questions to help them decide which jurors they should eliminate. Jury selection is really more of a jury elimination process, and the candidates that are left at the end become the jury.
- Opening – The trial begins with each side presenting an opening statement to the jury, which is effectively a preview of what the jury will observe during the trial. Openings are an overview of the case from each party’s perspective. The prosecution typically opens with its version of the case and what the evidence they present during the trial will prove. The defendant’s attorney then provides a brief overview of the defense and an explanation of how that defense will result in the prosecutor’s failure to meet its burden of proof for a guilty verdict.
- Direct exam by the state – The prosecution goes first in a criminal trial and calls their witnesses to testify. Prosecutors question their witnesses, typically law enforcement officers and victims, in an effort to provide the evidence necessary to convict the defendant.
- Cross-examination of the state’s witnesses – After the direct examination, the defense attorney cross-examines the state’s witnesses by asking them questions. The defense attorney uses questions to try to discredit the witness or call attention to the possibility that the witness does not accurately remember certain important facts. The goal of the cross-examination is to impeach the credibility of the prosecution witnesses or evidence presented.
- Rule 29 motion - In Ohio, after the prosecution calls all of its witnesses, the defense may raise a rule 29 motion to dismiss because the state has not satisfied the elements of its case. This motion is successful when the prosecutors just don’t set forth the evidence necessary to prove that the defendant is guilty. If successful, the case is dismissed, and the trial is over. If it is unsuccessful, it is the defense’s turn to call witnesses.
- Defense witnesses, if any – The defendant has no obligation to testify because the right to remain silent applies at trial too. The defense also does not have to call witnesses or present any evidence, and the jury cannot hold that against the accused.
- State’s cross-examination - If the defense does call witnesses, then the prosecution will have the chance to cross-examine the witness after direct examination. Prosecutors have the same cross-examination goal as defense attorneys do, which is to impeach the credibility of the defense’s witnesses or evidence presented.
- Rebuttal witnesses - The state may call rebuttal witnesses if they choose to do so. This means that they can recall their witnesses to refute the defendant’s witnesses or evidence presented.
- Closing argument – The closing argument is one last chance, or in the state’s case, two last chances, to make their case. The state will present its closing argument by going over the evidence, the law, and conclusions the jury should draw. The defense then responds with a closing argument that summarizes the defendant’s case and reminds the jury of important evidence and information that supports a not guilty finding. Finally, the state gets a rebuttal closing argument to address and refute the defendant’s closing.
- Preparation of jury instructions, if necessary - Typically, Ohio courts have standard jury instructions, but in unique cases and fact patterns, there may need to be customized jury instructions that the defense attorney argues to the court should be included.
- Verdict – The trial verdict is issued once the judge or jury makes a finding as to the defendant’s guilt or innocence. The jury finding must be unanimous. The prosecution’s burden of proof is ‘beyond a reasonable doubt,’ which is a high burden of proof. Juries are supposed to presume that defendants are innocent until proven guilty. This means that a jury can only find a defendant guilty if the prosecution’s evidence shows guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
- Sentencing – After the verdict, the defendant’s sentence will be read. Sometimes the sentence is read the same day of the verdict, and sometimes defendants have to wait to learn their sentencing.
- Restitution hearing - In theft and fraud cases, defendants are often required to pay restitution. If the state and defense attorney cannot agree to a restitution amount, there will be a restitution hearing where each side will argue their restitution calculation.
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If you are facing criminal charges, you need to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Cincinnati office directly at 513-929-9333 to schedule your free consultation.