The Municipal Court Process for Misdemeanor Charges

Addressing clients’ fears and providing realistic expectations have been the cornerstones of our municipal court practice at The Law Office of Brian Jones. Understanding that knowledge can help people cope with difficult circumstances and better prepare for the future because we aim to keep our clients informed through all stages of their defense against misdemeanor charges. It is also important to remember that you should not discuss any aspects of the case with others and avoid posting anything related to your case on any social media website. This information then becomes public and can be used by the Prosecution in your case.

Understanding the Municipal Court:

The Municipal Courts hear a great variety of cases. Municipal Court is where cases involving motor-vehicles offenses, such as illegal parking, speeding and driving while intoxicated, are heard. Municipal Courts also hear cases involving misdemeanor criminal offenses such as simple assault, trespassing and shoplifting.

Roadmap: Arraignment To Appeal

Arraignment

The defendant may plead guilty, not guilty or no contest. If the defendant is in jail, the Court will also set bond.

If the defendant pleads guilty or no contest, he/she can expect to be sentenced immediately. Very few cases are dismissed at arraignment.

Once the arraignment is completed, the defendant prepares for trial in Municipal Court.

Discovery

Ohio is an open discovery state, so any evidence that will be presented at trial by the Prosecution must also be released to a defendant’s attorney. This process usually takes around three to four weeks, but in some cases continues until the days leading up to trial.

Pre-Trial Conference

A pre-trial is a meeting between the attorneys for the prosecution and defense, and typically occurs within 4-8 weeks. You will be notified by our office when these dates are set. Topics discussed include plea bargain offers from the prosecution, other factors affecting the quality of the case for the prosecution and defense, and other resolution considerations such as the defendant’s character and prior criminal history.

Motions

Some cases proceed to a Motion Hearing (such as a Motion to Suppress Evidence), where our office challenges the admissibility of evidence the prosecution wants to present to the jury against you. This is also the time when other issues may be resolved, and further negotiations regarding a potential plea deal are discussed.

Municipal Court Trial

Ultimately, the case may be set for Trial, either to Judge or to Jury. In misdemeanor cases, a demand for jury trial must be timely filed to preserve that right or the right to a trial by jury is forfeited. Our office’s policy is to demand a jury trial in all cases, but that demand may be withdrawn at any time. A trial is a complex event. As your case progresses, your attorney will discuss with you the evidence each side will likely present to the jury (or judge), the law as it relates to the allegations against you and your attorney’s experience with how jurors (or judges) react to different presentations and pieces of evidence. Trials are fluid events, so it is impossible to predict every situation that will arise and how a jury (or judge) will react to unforeseen events. We will take every precaution to ensure a predictable trial, but will always advise you of the possibility of unforeseen events.

Disposition: How Your Case May End

Your case will conclude in one of the following ways:

  • Dismissal- of all or some charges
  • Amendment/Reduction- lowering in the severity of a defendants charges
  • Plea Bargain
  • Trial

Sentencing

If you are found guilty by a jury (or judge) or enter into a plea bargain with the prosecution, the judge will impose a sentence. The judge determines the length and type of punishment at a sentencing hearing. Witnesses are generally allowed to speak, requesting either a lighter or heavier sentence. The defendant may make a statement to the court. In some situations, the court may ask for a report from the probation department prior to sentencing the defendant.

It is also important to remember that you will be responsible for court costs and any fines. Failure to pay by the given date will result in the issuing of a warrant for your arrest and a warrant block on your license.

Appeals

After a defendant has been found guilty by way of trial, the defense attorney may request a higher court review specifically identified errors in procedure with the possibility of changing the lower court’s decision. It is important to recognize that the appeals process may only begin after the defendant has received the final verdict and sentence.

Once the trial has been completed, the facts have been decided. They cannot be changed by an appellate court. The appeals process reviews defects in procedure of the trial. If the defense attorney can identify substantial improper procedural issues, he may be able to win the appeal. Note that the timeline of the appeals process varies from case to case.

Other Post-Conviction Options

Some post conviction tactics to get relief for the defendant include:

  • Motion for Acquittal
  • Motion For New Trial
  • Motion For New Sentencing
  • Appeal To Appellate Court
  • Petition for Post-Conviction Relief

Your Rights:
It is important to remember that during this process you have rights you must exercise and decisions only you can make. While your attorney will advise you on the facts, law and anticipated outcomes, the decisions must ultimately come from you. These rights include:

  • Accept or Reject any proposed offer of dismissal, amendment/reduction or plea bargain
  • To take the stand at trial and testify on your own behalf
  • To allow the case to go to trial, or accept a plea offer.

I hope this information helps calm your fears about the process of the criminal justice system for misdemeanor cases. I know from decades of experience how difficult pending charges make many aspects of your life. We are here to help and are happy to answer any questions you have about the process.