If you are accused of a crime in Cincinnati, you will be put through the Cincinnati criminal law process. This can be incredibly scary for people unfamiliar with the system and the way the process goes. Learning about each step of the Cincinnati criminal law process can help ease your fear as you experience it, which is why we have provided this information for you.
Of course, the most important protection you can have after being arrested is the counsel of an experienced Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky criminal defense attorney. Don’t risk your future by proceeding alone.
Steps of the Ohio Criminal Justice Process
In Ohio, you will experience the following during the criminal justice process:
Arrest and Booking
Once police have probable cause that you committed a crime, they will arrest you. After your arrest, you will be booked, which means that your information will be put into the Ohio police database and you will be put into a Cincinnati jail pending bail. At this time, you should be read your Miranda rights, including your right to remain silent and your right to have an attorney. Take these to heart and don’t say a word until your lawyer arrives.
After criminal charges are filed, you’ll be arraigned. At your arraignment, the judge will formally read out the charges, and if there is sufficient evidence to proceed, bail will be reviewed. During this first appearance, you’ll also enter a formal plea to the charges. You can plead:
- Guilty: This is an admission of the facts and the crime. If you plead guilty, you skip straight to sentencing, which is why it is rare.
- Not Guilty: This alleges that you did not commit the crime as accused. After this plea, a pretrial or trial date will be set.
- No Contest: This is a way to maintain your innocence regarding the crime you were accused of, but does not dispute the facts in evidence. Sometimes this is negotiated as part of a plea deal. Your Cincinnati criminal defense attorney will be able to advise you when this is a good option.
During what is known as discovery, evidence is collected by both the prosecution and your defense attorney for the trial. At this stage, prosecution is required to hand over any witness statements, victim statements, physical evidence, and police and investigative reports that will be used against you at trial.
Between your arraignment and the actual trial, it can feel like a long time passes, but your attorney doesn’t sit around doing nothing during this time. They prepare your defense. Sometimes, they will make pre-trial motions in court. These motions ask the judge for small rulings on issues related to the trial before it officially begins. Some common ones include asking for more time to prepare for the trial, getting evidence excluded or included in the trial, and changing the location of a trial.
Before the trial officially begins, many defendants are offered a chance to settle the charges through a plea bargain. This plea bargain will be offered by the prosecution and will usually offer lesser charges or sentences in exchange for a guilty plea. Your Cincinnati criminal defense lawyer should have local court knowledge, so they can help you understand whether or not the plea is a good option.
If you don’t take a plea bargain, your case will go to trial. In Ohio, it must be within 30-45 days of your arrest for most misdemeanors and within 270 days of your arrest for felonies. During this trial, a jury will decide whether you are guilty or innocent. The process generally goes as follows:
Opening Statements: During these opening speeches by attorneys, the prosecution and the defense introduce their side of the case to the judge and jury.
Presentation of Evidence: This stage of the trial is what most people picture when they think of court. Witnesses are called to be questioned and cross-examined, and evidence is presented.
Closing Arguments: These final speeches by the prosecution and then the defense allow lawyers to sum up what was presented and make a final plea for their side.
Jury Instructions: Before they can make a decision about the case, the judge will instruct the jurors on their responsibilities and decisions to be made.
Jury Deliberations: The jury goes to a private area where they discuss the case and then vote to determine your guilt or innocence.
Verdict: Once the jury reaches a verdict, they return to the courtroom to declare you guilty or innocent of each charge. If you are found guilty, the judge will schedule a sentencing date. If you are innocent, you will be free to go home.
At your sentencing hearing, the judge will lay out your punishment for the crime you were deemed guilty of. This can include anything from community service and probation to fines and incarceration. Generally there are guidelines for the sentence you can expect based on the severity and circumstances of the crime. Your attorney can also present information that may make the judge sentence you more leniently before the sentence is handed down.
A guilty verdict doesn’t have to be the end of the process. If you were treated unfairly during your trial, your lawyer can appeal the sentence. This is not a retrial, per se, but rather a review of the process and potential errors in the trial. Your Cincinnati criminal defense lawyer can assess whether or not an appeal is likely to succeed.
Your Cincinnati Criminal Defense Attorney Can Guide You Through Each Step of the Process
As you can see, the Cincinnati criminal law process can be long and difficult, but you don’t have to go through it alone. Your Cincinnati criminal defense attorney will be by your side, fighting for your rights and best interests every step of the way.
As local area Cincinnati lawyers, we at Luftman, Heck, & Associates understand the intricacies of the courts here, so we can design a strategy to get you out of the process with the best possible outcome. Call our compassionate team today at for a free consultation on your case, where we listen to your side of the story and tell you how we may be able to help. Trust your case to a Cincinnati firm with years of experience who won’t ever give up on you.