The Ohio felony system is old and archaic, dating back over 200 years to the old English common law concepts. The felony criminal procedure in Ohio is an illogical patchwork of laws, making it difficult to understand.
It is essential to hire a felony defense lawyer at the earliest stage of your case.
Many people try to get through the initial stages of a felony case on their own. Alternately, they have a court-appointed lawyer who often doesn’t have the time it takes to explain the process or the legal ramifications of the law. This results in the loss of your only opportunity to resolve the case without felony indictment.
Most, but not all, felony cases are initially filed in the municipal court system. The primary purpose of filing felony charges at the municipal court level is to sort out which cases should be pursued as felonies. Once the accused person is charged and arraigned in municipal court, the case is scheduled for a Preliminary Hearing, usually within ten days or less.
Sometimes, in more serious felony cases such as murder, rape, and higher-level felonies, the prosecuting attorney will elect to skip this preliminary stage and take the felony to the grand jury for direct indictment. This is to avoid exposing their witnesses to intense cross-examination at such an early stage.
Felony charges in Portage County, Ohio, are filed initially in Ravenna Municipal Court or Kent Municipal Court. If the felonies are not resolved at the preliminary hearing in municipal court, they eventually end up in Portage County Common Pleas Court in Ravenna. Felony charges in Summit County, Ohio, are filed in Akron Municipal Court, Stow Municipal Court, or Barberton Municipal Court. If the felonies are not resolved at one of those municipal courts, the case will end up in the Summit County Court of Common Pleas in Akron.
Your best opportunity to avoid an indictment is usually at the municipal court level. At that sage where a skilled criminal defense attorney may be able to resolve the felony charges, so they are not presented to the Grand Jury for Criminal Indictment.
Once a felony case proceeds past the preliminary hearing stage and into Common Pleas court, this becomes far more difficult. At the common pleas court level, you will often encounter young, ambitious assistant prosecutors. A lot of times, they are more interested in racking up convictions to advance their careers than in seeking justice. If the prosecuting attorney assigned to your case senses that you have a weak lawyer unwilling to take the case to trial, then you are in serious trouble. This makes it even more difficult to resolve your felony case.
It is also advantageous to be represented by a criminal defense lawyer who knows the ins and outs of the local court system where your felony case is filed. Such an attorney can better assist you in navigating through all the legal pitfalls and hazards associated with particular prosecutors, judges, and courts. Knowing your opponent and what you are up against gives you a decided advantage, especially in a felony case.
Felonies involve the most serious categories of crime and carry the most extreme penalties. Choosing the right attorney is critical and can make a world of difference. You certainly don’t want an inexperienced lawyer or one who only handles criminal law on a part-time basis. You need to be well informed so that you can make the best decisions at every juncture of your case. There is no substitute for straightforward, candid advice from a highly qualified criminal defense lawyer.
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– Jenna Fox
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