Your Rights in Court

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Your Rights in Court

If you appear in court for your criminal or traffic case, the first proceeding is an arraignment. This is largely a procedural hearing, but certain important information is reviewed, including the nature of the charge, the maximum and minimum penalties, what your rights are, the bond in your case and your plea to the charge. Keep in mind that the arraignment is not a trial, and explanations as to the facts are generally not received by the court unless there is a plea of no contest or guilty. At the start of the arraignment, the Judge will give an explanation of your rights. 

The court will state as follows:

"You are here today for your initial court appearance, which occurs after a charge or complaint has been filed against you. If you are charged with a misdemeanor, your arraignment will also be conducted at the same time. When your name is called, please come forward and stand at the podium in front of the bench. At that time, the charge of complaint that has been filed against you will be explained, and the person signing such charge or complaint will be identified. You should have already have in your possession a copy of the complaint or charge. Please advise the court if you have not received a copy of the complaint or charge and a copy will be provided to you. At your request, the complaint filed against you or the statute or ordinance you are charged with violating will be read and explained. You will also be informed of the maximum penalty allowed by law for the charges brought against you.

Right to an Attorney
You have the right to be represented by an attorney. If you wish to employ counsel, the court will continue your case so that you will have an opportunity to obtain one. When your name is called, please inform the court that you would like a continuance to obtain counsel, and you will receive a new date to return.

If the possible penalty for the offense you are charged with includes imprisonment, and you are unable to afford counsel, and you request court appointed counsel, you must contact the Erie County Public Defender's Office located at 247 Columbus Ave, Sandusky, Ohio 44870, telephone number 419-627-6620. You have the right to have counsel representing you at every stage of the proceedings unless, after being fully advised of your right to counsel, you knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waive your right. If counsel is waived, you are still subject to imposition of a jail sentence if the charge against you includes possible jail time.

If bail has not been set in your case, you have the right to have the court set it today.

If a continuance is not granted, the next stage of these proceedings will be for you to enter a plea to the charges filed against you. There are three pleas you may enter: Guilty, Not Guilty, or No Contest. The plea of no contest cannot be used against you in a subsequent civil proceeding. The plea of guilty is a complete admission of guilt. If you plead guilty or no contest, the only function of the court will be to determine that you understand your rights, and then impose whatever penalty is just under the circumstances. The Court will consider report from the arresting officer and, if you request it, the report will be read to you. You will then be given an opportunity to make a statement to the Court.

Trial by Jury
For any charge which has a possible jail sentence, you are entitled to a trial by jury. If, however, the maximum jail sentence the court could impose is six (6) months or less, for you to exercise your right to a jury trial, you must file a written demand for jury trial with the court no less than ten (10) days prior to the date set for trial, or on or before the third day following your receipt of the notice of the trial date, whichever date is later in time.

Statements in Court
You need not make a statement in court, and no inference of guilt will be drawn from your remaining silent. However, any statement you do make may be used in evidence against you.

Traffic Charges
If the charges brought before this court involve a traffic violation and you are found guilty, a full report of these proceedings will be sent to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and will remain a permanent part of your driving record. If you fail to pay the fines and costs within the time allowed by the court, your driver's license will be cancelled.

If you have any questions regarding any part of the proceedings or these instructions, please ask when your case is called. "

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Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know when my arraignment is?
At the bottom of your ticket you will find the date, time and location of your arraignment. Complaints will have similar information on them when you are served.

Am I required to appear at the arraignment?
Not always. Certain offences are waiverable – meaning you may pay an amount set by the court in order to avoid having to appear. Most minor misdemeanor traffic and criminal offenses may be waived, while higher degree offenses are not. If you are unsure, you may call the clerk's office at 419-499-4689 to see if your case is a waiverable offense and to make arrangements to pay it.

What happens if I don't show up for my arraignment?
If you fail to appear for your scheduled arraignment, it is likely that the court will issue a warrant for your arrest. This is an instruction to every law enforcement agency in the state that you have failed to appear for court and are to be arrested if encountered by them. If bond was posted in your case, it is typically forfeited and a new cash bond is set in its place. In traffic cases, the court may also suspend your driver's license due to your failure to appear.

I went to my arraignment and heard the explanation of my rights, but I'm still not sure what to do. Can I have additional time to think about how to plead and/or talk to my attorney?
Yes. The Judge routinely gives parties an additional week to think about how to plead, talk to an attorney for advice, or to speak with family members or employers as to what to do. Typically your case will be set on the same day in the following week. Longer continuances are generally not given due to the speedy trial requirements placed on cases by Ohio law.

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