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 because you have been charged with a criminal or traffic violation in violation of either the Ohio Revised Code or the code of ordinances of one of the various villages located in Erie County. This proceeding is known as your arraignment. In a few minutes your name will be called, you will be provided a brief description of the offense for which you have been charged, and you will be told the maximum penalty for each offense. You will then be asked a series of questions and will finish by asking you how you wish to proceed. Before we do that, a short explanation of the available pleas that you may enter must be understood.
You may plead not guilty, which is a complete denial of the charge.
You may plead guilty, which is a complete admission of the charge.
You may plead no contest, which is not an admission of guilt, but is an admission of the truth of the facts alleged in the complaint. A plea of no contest cannot be used against you in any other civil or criminal proceeding.
If you plead guilty or no contest, your case may be disposed of immediately. If you are not a citizen of the United States, you are hereby advised that a conviction of the offense to which you are pleading guilty or no contest may have the consequences of deportation, exclusion from admission to the United States, or denial of naturalization pursuant to the laws of the United States.
If you plead not guilty, your case will be scheduled for trial at a later date.
Before you enter a plea, you must further understand that:
You have the right to hire an attorney, even if you intend to plead guilty at a later time, and you have the right to a reasonable continuance of this arraignment in order to hire an attorney;
In any case for which you could be imprisoned, you have the right to have an attorney assigned to represent you if you cannot afford to hire one;
You have the right to bail;
You have the right to remain silent at any point in this proceeding and any statement you make can and may be used against you;
You have the right to a trial by jury, except in minor misdemeanor cases, but you must file with the court a written demand for a jury within the proper time limit;
Finally, if you are convicted of a traffic violation, you should be made aware that a record of that conviction will be sent to the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles and will become a part of your permanent driving record."
- 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.