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Court Proceedings

Arraignment:

An arraignment hearing is an initial court appearance by the defendant.  It is held to formally notify the defendant of pending charges, inform him of his/her right to legal representation, determine whether or not to issue a temporary protection order, and set the bond.

  • If the case is a misdemeanor, the defendant enters a plea at the arraignment.
  • If the defendant pleads “guilty” to the charge, he could be either sentenced right then in court, or the judge could order him to undergo a pre-sentence investigation. The defendant would then return for sentencing in about 6 weeks.
  • If the defendant pleads “no contest” to the charge, he will most likely be found guilty right then, and either sentenced in court or ordered to undergo the pre-sentencing investigation, coming back for sentencing in about 6 weeks.
  • If the defendant pleads “not guilty” to the charge, the case will be set for a Pre-Trial Conference.  Pre-Trials are set usually a month or so after the arraignment, depending on the court.

Temporary Protection Orders:  

The temporary protection order (TPO) is attached to a criminal charge of domestic violence, or several other related charges.  It will contain terms to ensure the safety and protection of the victim (s) during the pendency of the criminal case. Each community is different with regard to the process of obtaining a TPO.

  • Because each community is different with regard to obtaining a TPO, Genesis House Legal Advocates can help with the process.
  • If you are granted a TPO, you will receive a certified copy. Keep the certified copy with you at all times. Provide a copy to your workplace, your children’s school or daycare, the police department of any city you reside or work in.
  • Violation of a TPO can result in a new criminal charge equal to the domestic violence charge.
  • Call the police immediately if your abuser violates the terms of the protection order.
  • The TPO is valid in every state.

Pre-Trial Conference:

The Pre-Trial Conference is a meeting for the prosecutors and defense attorneys to discuss the case and see if they can come to an agreement on a resolution to the case. There are often several pre-trials before the case is actually set for trial.

  • The prosecutor will subpoena the victim to at least the first pre-trial so they can ask the victim any questions they might have regarding the course of events on the day in question,  to ask about medical records, witnesses, etc. and what the victim would like to see happen with the case.
  • Often, the prosecutor doesn’t subpoena the victim to future pre-trials.  Some courts try not to subpoena the victim for every pre-trial so as not to put an unnecessary burden on the victim in the case to keep missing work and coming into court.  At the pre-trial, the victim will most often talk to the Genesis House Legal Advocate, and may be able to wait in her office rather than the hallway, where the defendant will be.
  • The victim does not have to testify at the pre-trial conference.  They are only requested to come to court for those clarifying questions.

Preliminary Hearing:

If the case is a felony: Municipal courts don’t have jurisdiction over felonies so at the arraignment of felony crimes, the municipal judges  set the bond amount, determine whether to issue a temporary protection order,  and set a date for a preliminary hearing.

The preliminary hearing is something municipal courts do when the charge is a felony.

  • The purpose of the preliminary hearing is for the court to determine if there is “probable cause” for the charge.  Once the municipal court determines “probable cause”, they then transfer the felony case to the Grand Jury for their consideration.  If the court determines that there isn’t “probable cause” for the charge, they may dismiss the case entirely.
  • Victims are always subpoenaed to the preliminary hearing.  So are often other witnesses, and the officers who originated the criminal charge.
  • The preliminary hearing is not to determine guilt or innocence, but if the facts of the case support a felony charge.

Grand Jury:

If Probable Cause has been established, the case is sent to the Grand Jury for their consideration.

  • The victim is usually subpoenaed to the Grand Jury 6-8 weeks after the preliminary hearing.
  • When the victim is subpoenaed, the officer who responded to the call may be there, and any other witnesses.
  • The defendant will NOT be at the Grand Jury when the victim testifies there.  The defendant will not even know when the victim is scheduled to go to the Grand Jury.
  • The Grand Jury just wants to hear the sequence of events in order to determine if the facts support the felony charge.  They might  ask some clarifying questions about what happened, such as: who called the police, or how did you get away.

If the Grand Jury issues an indictment, or the charges they’ve decided on,  the felony case begins again with an arraignment at the Common Pleas Court.

When a criminal case goes to trial, the victim will be asked to testify.  It could take 6 months to a year for the case to come to trial.

When a defendant is being held in an institution that is at the county level or higher, the victim can register for the VINE program.  The VINE program is an automated notification system that will tell the victim when the defendant is being transferred or released from whatever facility he’s being held at.  The toll free number to register with VINE is 1-800-770-0192.

These are the Lorain County municipal courts and the jurisdictions they cover:

Lorain Municipal Court handles cases originating from:

        Sheffield Lake

        The city of Lorain

        Sheffield Township

Oberlin Municipal Court handles cases originating from:

        The city of Wellington

        The city of Amherst

        The city of Oberlin

        Pittsfield

        Amherst Township

        Russia Township

Elyria Municipal Court handles cases originating from:

        The Village of LaGrange

        The city of Grafton

        The city of Elyria

        Elyria Township

        The city of North Ridgeville

        Columbia Station

        Eaton Township

Avon Lake Municipal Court handles cases originating from:

        Avon Lake

        The city of Avon

        Sheffield Village

 

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