Your Dayton Criminal Case: The Basics

Dayton's police department has one of the largest and most efficient forces in the country. This is a good thing for most Dayton residents -- except the ones that end up on the wrong side of a jail cell door. If you've been arrested in Dayton on criminal charges, you may be frustrated and confused, and you're probably wondering what's going to happen next. This article walks you through the steps of a typical criminal case in Dayton so that you can be better prepared for whatever lies ahead.

Arrest, Booking, and Bail

Your arrest will likely occur after a run-in with a Dayton police officer, a Montgomery County sheriff, or an Ohio State highway patrolman. In order for an officer to arrest you in Dayton, he must either have a warrant for your arrest, have witnessed you committing a crime, or have probable cause to believe you've committed a crime. After an officer arrests you, he will inform you of your Miranda rights. If he fails to inform you of your rights, takes you into custody, and interrogates you, it's possible that things you say to that officer won't be allowed to be used against you in court later.

You'll be transported to a police station, sheriff's office, or the Montgomery County Jail for booking after your arrest. There, someone will take your biographical information, fingerprints and photograph. If you're charged with a minor crime, you may be released after booking in exchange for a promise to appear in court. However, for more serious criminal charges, bail is often required for release. You will be held in the Montgomery County Jail until you can post bail.

Criminal Charges

The steps of your case will vary depending on the type of criminal charges you're facing. Ohio classifies crimes as felonies or misdemeanors depending on the maximum penalty that may be imposed for the crime. Misdemeanor crimes carry a maximum penalty of one year's imprisonment, while felony crimes carry a maximum penalty of imprisonment of more than a year. Under Ohio law, there are several degrees of both felonies and misdemeanors.

Arraignment

The arraignment is your first appearance in court. Regardless of whether you've been charged with a felony or misdemeanor, if you were arrested in Dayton, your arraignment will take place at the Dayton Municipal Court. The judge will inform you of the charges against you, your right to be represented by an attorney, and the maximum penalty you could receive. If you've been charged with a felony, the judge will also explain that you have the right to a preliminary hearing in which the judge examines the evidence against you and decides whether or not there is enough evidence to support the charge.

After you've been asked if you understand the charges against you, the judge will ask you to plead "guilty" or "not guilty." For misdemeanors, you may also choose a third plea of "no contest." A no contest plea functions like a guilty plea in the criminal courts, but if someone sues you in civil court, the plea can't be used against you in the civil trial.

If you're represented by an attorney and you plan to plead "not guilty", your attorney may file a written appearance and a plea of "not guilty" for you so that you don't need to attend the arraignment. If you plead "guilty" at your arraignment, the judge will then schedule a sentencing hearing.

Pre-Trial Conference and Motions

After your arraignment, your attorney will gather all of the evidence against you and consider how to proceed with your case. He or she may make pre-trial motions to compel the prosecution to share evidence or even to have the case against you dismissed.

At the pre-trial conference between your attorney and the prosecutor, your attorney may negotiate a plea bargain to get the prosecution to reduce the charges against you in exchange for a guilty plea. The majority of criminal cases are resolved through plea bargains.

Trial

If your criminal case is one of the few cases to make it to the trial stage, your trial will have several phases. The prosecution and your defense attorney will make opening statements, call and cross-examine witnesses, present evidence, and make closing statements. The judge will give jury instructions regarding the issues the jury must decide in your case. The jury will exit the courtroom to deliberate in secret and will return to the courtroom to announce its verdict.

If the verdict is not guilty, you'll be free to go. If the verdict is guilty, the judge will schedule a sentencing hearing, which may take place immediately after your trial. In Ohio, sentencing laws are complex. Sentences vary depending on the conviction and the facts of each case. Penalties commonly include imprisonment, fines, probation, community service, and attendance at programs aimed at rehabilitation and education.

Now that you've learned a bit more about your Dayton criminal case, check out FindLaw's Criminal Law section for more general information about criminal law and procedure.

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