If you are being investigated for a crime or have been charged with a criminal offense in Ohio, you might be understandably scared and confused, especially if it is your first encounter with the criminal judicial system. You are probably worried about what potential consequences lay ahead, what to expect during the process, and if there is a way you can get yourself out of this predicament.
The first important thing to keep in mind is that getting a criminal charge isn’t the same as getting a criminal conviction. The prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the crime.
Secondly, there are certain key rights that come into play when you’ve been arrested and charged with a crime. And thirdly, regardless of your situation or the type of criminal charge you are facing, your best and most important decision is hiring an experienced Cleveland criminal defense attorney.
At Patituce & Associates, we have more than 70 years of combined experience defending clients against all kinds of criminal charges. We are committed to building the best defense possible for each case we take on. We have a reputation for delivering the best outcome for our clients. Get in touch with us today at 440-471-7784 to safeguard your rights, freedom, and future.
What Are Your Rights as a Criminal Defendant in Ohio?
Once you’ve been formally accused of committing a crime, you become a criminal defendant. But this doesn’t mean that it’s the end for you. The U.S. Constitution has put in place measures to ensure that you are treated fairly and have the chance to defend yourself. Here are your rights as a criminal defendant in Ohio.
Fourth Amendment Rights
The right to protection against unwarranted searches & seizures. The law requires that probable cause be established before any searches or seizures are conducted on a U.S. citizen. Also, law enforcement officers need to obtain a valid search warrant before conducting a search or seizure, unless under legally exempt circumstances.
The law also dictates that any evidence collected against you in an illegal manner isn’t admissible in court.
Fifth Amendment Rights
Right to remain silent. The Fifth Amendment seeks to protect criminal defendants against self-incrimination. It guarantees your right to remain silent when under police custody when being questioned by the prosecutor and during your trial. You are under no obligation to give statements or answer questions regarding the crime you are being accused of.
Right to protection against double jeopardy. The Fifth Amendment also protects you against being tried more than once for the same crime. This means that if your case is dismissed by the court, the prosecution cannot retry you to get a different outcome.
Sixth Amendment Rights
Right to professional legal representation. The Sixth Amendment guarantees your right to a lawyer. The court is obligated to appoint one for you if you can’t afford to hire your own. However, the Sixth Amendment also guarantees your right to refuse legal representation and represent yourself.
Right to a speedy trial. According to the Sixth Amendment, criminal defendants have a right to a speedy trial without unnecessary delay.
Right to a public trial. You also have the right to a public trial by an impartial jury selected from the community.
Right to confront witnesses. The Sixth Amendment also gives you the right to know who your accusers are and the nature of the charges and evidence against you. It also gives you the right to confront or cross-examine witnesses.
Eighth Amendment Rights
Right to reasonable bail. If bail is granted in your case (not all cases are eligible for trial), the Eighth Amendment protects you from an unreasonable bail amount. The court should set a reasonable bail amount based on the severity of the offense and the level of your flight risk.
Protection against cruel and unusual punishment. If you are convicted of a crime, the Eight Amendment protects you against cruel or unusual punishment. The prison sentence, fines, and other legal penalties (if applied) should fit the crime.
Part of the defense process includes determining whether due process was followed and whether your rights were adhered to. If your attorney is able to prove that a significant violation of your rights happened, it can lead to your case being dismissed.
What Is a Misdemeanor vs a Felony in Ohio?
Criminal offenses in the state of Ohio are generally classified into two categories: misdemeanors and felonies. A felony is a more serious crime than a misdemeanor and carries more severe penalties including a more damaging loss of civil rights.
In Ohio, misdemeanors are classified into five levels: minor, fourth-degree, third-degree, second-degree, and first-degree misdemeanors.
A minor misdemeanor is the least serious type of misdemeanor (and crimes in general). This carries no jail time and a maximum fine of $150. First-degree misdemeanors are the most serious type of misdemeanor crimes and carry a maximum of 6 months in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000.
In Ohio, felonies are classified into five degrees:
- Felony of the fifth degree
- Felony of the fourth degree
- Felony of the third degree
- Felony of the second degree
- Felony of the first degree
Felony of the fifth degree is the least serious type of felony and carries a prison sentence of 6-12 months and a fine not exceeding $2,500 whereas felony of the first degree is the most serious type of felony and carries a minimum prison sentence of three years and a maximum fine of $20,000.
Should I Consult a Lawyer Before Speaking to the Police?
Yes! We strongly advise that you talk to an experienced criminal defense before making any statements to the police. Remember, anything that you say can and will be used against you, even if you don’t think it is incriminating. An attorney will guide you on what to say and what not to say.
The Fifth Amendment guarantees your right to remain silent and you should exercise it.
What Is the Habitual Offender Law?
The habitual offender law is a special law that gives the judge the discretion to apply stricter penalties based on the presence and number of previous convictions. For instance, penalties for a DUI conviction increase in severity with every subsequent conviction.
While a first offense carries a jail term of 3 days to 6 months and a fine ranging from $375 to $1,075, a fourth conviction within 10 years carries a fine ranging from $1,350 to $10,500 and a jail term of 60 days to one year. A fifth DUI conviction within 20 years leads to you being added to the Habitual Offender Registry.
How Can a Lawyer Help Me?
Hiring an experienced Cleveland criminal defense attorney gives you the best chance of having your case dismissed and keeping your record clean. In the worst-case scenario, an attorney will help to reduce the severity of your charges and even help you avoid potential jail time. All in all, with an experienced attorney on your side, you are assured of the best possible outcome in your case.
A successful defense is based on proper and thorough preparation. This is why it is crucial that you get an attorney involved as soon as possible. Your attorney will need to assess many aspects of your case and areas of evidence to investigate. The more relevant information and evidence your attorney has to work with the stronger your defense will be.
Besides collecting evidence such as witness statements and working with expert witnesses, your attorney will also pay attention to any loopholes and inconsistencies in the prosecutor’s case. They will also seek to determine if there are any rights violations that can be used to have your case dismissed.
Depending on the circumstances surrounding your case, entering a plea bargain may or may not be the best option. If there is substantial evidence against you, your attorney will help work out the most favorable deal for you. The goal here is to reduce the severity or number of the charges against you and ensure a much less severe punishment.
Ability to Gauge Case Outcomes
An experienced criminal defense attorney draws on their in-depth knowledge of the law as well as practice experience to determine the most probable outcome for your case. This will help them to determine the best course of action, whether it is to go for a plea bargain or fight their case in court.
Knowledge of Law & Court Rules
Your criminal defense attorney has an in-depth understanding of the laws surrounding criminal cases in addition to your rights as a criminal defendant. This allows them to easily identify any loopholes or violations that can be exploited to have your case dismissed. Your attorney is also likely to be familiar with the prosecutor and the judge and knows how they operate. This can give you an advantage in your case.
A good criminal defense attorney should be able to present facts and arguments in a clear and convincing manner that sways the judge’s/jury’s decision in your favor. A great one is also able to appeal to their sense of compassion to achieve the lowest level of punishment for convicted clients.
Our attorneys have a proven track record of helping clients successfully fight cases in court and secure their freedom and future. We can do the same for you.
What Is the Cost of Legal Representation?
How much it will cost you to hire your own attorney will vary depending on a range of factors including the type and severity of your charge, the experience of the attorney, and whether or not your case goes to trial. But regardless of the cost, nothing beats quality legal representation. At the end of the day, it is your reputation, freedom, and future that are on the line.
Is There a Benefit to Having a Private Attorney vs. a Court-Appointed Attorney?
Yes! In fact, there are many benefits that come with hiring your own attorney vs a public defender. To begin with, court-appointed attorneys are often overworked and underpaid. Sadly, what this means is that they have very limited time and resources to dedicate to your case. Additionally, they don’t have much incentive to fight hard and ensure the best possible outcome for you.
Working with a private attorney, on the other hand, ensures that you get the quality and personalized representation that you need. A private attorney is able to dedicate more time and attention to your case.
Additionally, they have access to more resources and more connections, which means that they are able to work with the best experts in relevant industries to support your case. They have much more incentive to fight hard for you until the end.
Can You Represent Yourself?
Yes, the fifth amendment guarantees your right to represent yourself in a court of law. However, this is the worst decision that you can possibly make. The chances of a conviction are almost always 100% and you are likely to be hit with more severe consequences than you would with an attorney.
Should I Accept a Plea Bargain?
This all depends on the specific circumstances surrounding your case and the nature of the plea offer presented by the prosecutor. An attorney will be able to help you determine whether entering a plea bargain is the best option for you.
Appealing a Conviction in Ohio
Getting a guilty verdict doesn’t have to mean the end of the line for you. Every conviction comes with an automatic right to appeal. To initiate the process, you will need to file a Notice of Appeal with the court within 30 days of the trial court filing its sentencing entry.
It is important to note that appealing a conviction doesn’t mean holding a new trial, rather it means that you are asking a higher court to determine whether the process and subsequent conviction were fair. The main point here is to identify any legal errors that were made during the trial level.
If the Court of Appeals chooses to reverse the conviction, the case will be sent back to the trial court and the prosecutor will need to decide whether to try the case afresh, however, this rarely happens, and may just choose to dismiss.
Get the Legal Assistance You Need Today From Our Cleveland Criminal Defense Attorneys!
The consequences of a criminal conviction, even for a misdemeanor, can be too much to bear for any defendant. Besides serving time in jail, incurring hefty fines, and the risk of losing important civil rights, having a criminal record can negatively affect your reputation, and future employment, education, and housing opportunities. It also affects your ability to be approved for certain loans.
With everything that is potentially at stake, getting expert legal assistance is paramount. And this is what you get with Patituce & Associates. We have a team of highly skilled and experienced Cleveland criminal defense attorneys who are prepared to do what it takes to protect your rights, reputation, freedom, and future.
Call us today at 440-471-7784 to get started.