What To Expect
What is the fee for a consultation?
We provide a free consultation with no obligation to hire our office. Your initial appointment is an opportunity for our attorneys to gather information about your situation and answer your questions. This consultation also provides you an opportunity to meet the lawyers in person. It is important that you are comfortable with your Ohio criminal defense attorneys and the office in general. At this consultation, we can help analyze your problem, discuss your options, and discuss legal fees.
How much will it cost for you to handle my case?
We typically assess legal fees on a flat rate basis. The amount of the flat rate depends on many factors, such as type of charge, jurisdiction, and prior criminal record. Sometimes the fee will be graduated. In this situation, there will be minimum fee, with additional fees in the event of motion hearings or trials.
In certain circumstances we bill on an hourly basis. Hourly billing is common for white collar defense. We also engage in hourly billing in situations where the status of the case is uncertain. This is common where there is a police investigation but no charges pending.
We usually request advance payment of fees. Client funds are placed in a trust account, where they are held until dispersed under the fee agreement.
Where appropriate, we sometimes accept partial payment of fees and discuss a payment plan for the balance.
We accept all forms of payment cash, check, money order, and most major credit cards.
Fees are discussed in detail during your initial consultation. It is helpful for everyone to understand the payment arrangements before representation begins.
What is going to happen in court?
Traffic and misdemeanor offenses
Your first court appearance is generally an arraignment. If the case cannot be resolved at the arraignment stage, we will likely enter a plea of not guilty. The case will then be assigned to a judge for further proceedings.
Many courts schedule various pre-trial hearings. Pre-trial hearings are often informal conferences between your attorney, the prosecuting attorney, and the judge. These hearings provide and opportunity for plea negotiations, discovery conferences, and possible resolution. You should assume that you must attend all court hearings, including pre-trial hearings.
Some cases, typically require motions hearings. These are more formal hearings that may require testimony from police and witnesses. In rare situations, the defendant may be called to testify at a motion hearing. Prior to any testimony, we will spend time preparing you and reviewing the required testimony.
When required by the facts and circumstances of the case, you may consider a trial. Minor misdemeanor violations are tried to the court (judge). All other misdemeanors provide the right to a jury trial. Given the option, we almost always choose to have a jury trial. Sometimes, depending on circumstances, we may suggest that you waive your right to a jury trial and instead try your case to the judge. Trials are complicated matters that involve testimony, exhibits, and legal arguments.
Trials are generally considered only as a last resort. At all stages of the process, cases can be resolved by plea negotiations. We will spend a significant amount of time discussing your options as the case progresses. We believe that our clients should participate in the decision-making process. In some situations, trials are necessary. In others, they should be avoided. We will help you make these complicated decisions.
Felony offenses in Ohio are handled in county courts of common pleas. But they often start in city municipal courts upon the filing of a criminal complaint. When a police agency files a felony complaint in a city court, the case is scheduled first for an initial appearance before a judge or magistrate. This is not an arraignment and we do not enter a formal plea at this stage. The purpose of an initial appearance is to address bond. Depending on the nature of the case, bond types and amounts may vary. Many defendants are released on their own promise to appear at later proceedings (on their own recognizance). Others are released on the condition that they post money to secure their appearance. But sometimes in the most severe cases, courts will hold a defendant without bond.
Once the judge or magistrate sets a bond, the case is typically scheduled for a preliminary hearing before a judge or magistrate in the city municipal court. This is sometimes referred to as a probable cause hearing. The purpose of this hearing is to determine whether the state or prosecution has sufficient evidence to charge and hold a defendant on a felony offense.
There are few, if any, preliminary hearings in our court system. Prosecutors typically do not want to conduct these hearings, as they require a showing of evidence at an early stage in the process. To avoid having a preliminary hearing, prosecutors have two options. First, they can simply dismiss the case in municipal court with plans to present the case to a grand jury for indictment in the future. We often hear the term dismissed for future indictment. Second, prosecutors have the option to present the case to a grand jury prior to the preliminary hearing. If the grand jury returns an indictment, then the preliminary hearing becomes irrelevant, as the case is already initiated in the county common pleas court. The municipal case is then dismissed for a direct indictment.
Once a felony case commences in the county common pleas court, it follows a path similar to misdemeanor cases. There is first an arraignment, followed by pre-trial and motion hearings. If the case cannot be resolved, it may be proceed to trial before a judge or a jury. A client’s appearance is required at all scheduled court proceedings.
What is “bond“ and how does it work?
Courts always require some form of “bond” to secure a defendant’s appearance. Many defendants are not even aware that they are on bond, as most cases do not require any formal payment or signatures. We commonly see three general bond types throughout Ohio courts. While the types of bond are fairly consistent, courts sometimes use differently terminology to describe the bond. Read more
What time period does the government have to file an indictment?
Different offenses carry different statutes of limitations. There are sometimes long delays when felony cases are dismissed in the city municipal courts for a potential future indictment. If the delay exceeds the statute of limitations, there may be a defense. We can discuss the relevant time periods with you as the case progresses.
What kind of timetable can I expect for my case to be resolved?
The type of charge will determine the amount of time necessary for resolution. Minor traffic tickets can generally be handled with minimal court appearances. Misdemeanors may require several court dates in order to obtain the result in your best interest. Despite our best efforts to avoid unnecessary delays, you should expect continuances during the course of your case.
Will I be required to attend all court proceedings?
Your appearance is required at all court appearances unless someone from our office specifically advises you otherwise. We appreciate your busy schedule and personal obligations. But all efforts should be made to attend all court proceedings. If you are aware of a scheduling conflict, please give us advance notice, and we will do our best to reschedule the matter. Courts frown upon a defendant’s failure to appear at a scheduled court hearing. Despite our efforts, courts often issue warrants to arrest for failure to appear.
What can I expect on the day of court?”
Courts often schedule multiple cases at the same time and date. Depending on the jurisdiction, your case may not be heard exactly at the time scheduled and delays are inevitable. You will nonetheless need to be present at your scheduled time. Upon arrival, you should check in with court personnel and advise that you are represented by Yavitch & Palmer. They will likely instruct you to wait inside or outside the courtroom. Do not worry if you do not see us right away. We often check in with the court prior to your scheduled time and begin working on your case before your arrival. We will make contact with you as soon as possible and provide updates and discuss the situation.
If I only have a speeding ticket, do I need to appear in court?
Depending upon your driving record, we may be able to handle your hearing without your presence if you complete an absentia form we provide. The form must be notarized and returned to us before your court date.
Can an old charge be removed from my record?
Under Ohio law, records from certain conviction may be sealed and treated as if it never happened. When we help people clean their records, we start with some basic questions. The first is whether the particular offense is eligible to be sealed. Unfortunately, fewer and fewer offenses qualify under the law. For instance, any offenses of violence and most sex offenses (as defined by the Revised Code) cannot be sealed. And Ohio law does not permit traffic offenses (including OVI’s) to be sealed. Assuming the offense is eligible, the next question pertains to the prior and subsequent criminal record. Under the law, only first time offenders qualify. Other convictions on unrelated matters may render the person ineligible. Further, anyOVI conviction (even though a traffic offense) precludes sealing of any other convictions.
Once we determine that the statutory criteria are met, we prepare a motion and application to have the record sealed. Depending on the circumstances, the prosecutor’s office may object to the application. The case will be scheduled before a judge, who will make the final determination. Once successfully sealed, the records of the conviction will be closed and cannot be accessed except in very limited situations.
How can I see my driving record?”
The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles allows online access to a driver’s record (called an “abstract”). This is technically an unofficial record. But it can be very helpful in determining driver’s license status. Go to Ohio’s BMV website and click on “BMV driving records”. Then click “Certified 3-Year Driving Record” A $5.00 fee applies per the request. You will also need to know your driver’s license number and the last four digits of your social security number.