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Criminal Law

White Law Office, Co. > Criminal Law

What is a Grand Jury?

In Ohio, juries are generally one of two types: Grand or Petit (from the French for small or short) Juries. Grand juries have longer terms of service and consider many cases. Petit juries all called to try only one case.  In this article, we look at the history and function of the Grand Jury. In English legal history, each county had a Grand Jury serving for a term of court (in Ohio a term of court is for 4 months). The King's Judges rode circuits throughout the counties trying to have court in each county at least once per term. Without resident judges, accused persons would often languish in jail for months. The purpose of the Grand Jury was to review the evidence against the accused to see if there was good cause to hold him (the English term is "bind him over to the Sheriff") until the Judge arrived for his trial. The trial would be conducted on the charges or Bill of Indictment issued (the English term is "handed down") by the Grand Jury. The purpose of the Grand Jury was not only to bring indictments against those who probably committed serious crimes but to protect the accused from unfounded or unjust accusations. When a Grand Jury refused to indict a person, they returned "No Bill" and the charges were dropped. The United States adopted the requirement for the Grand Jury in the 5th Amendment to the Constitution, which states: "No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous...

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What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?

Criminal charges in Ohio generally fit into two categories: felonies and misdemeanors. So what is the difference between the two? Traditionally, a felony charge carries a potential prison sentence or the death penalty. Whether or not prison or death is imposed may be up to the jury or judge.  Two major changes have happened to change the general definition of felonies. The first is "mandatory sentences." Mandatory sentences are imposed for crimes involving among other things: sex, drug, and firearms offenses. If a person is convicted of this kind of crime, they must be sentenced to prison. The second is "non-prison" felonies. These offenses are largely lower-level drug possession offenses.  Even though these offenses are not felonies if convicted a person may not be sent to prison. Non-prison felonies permit legislators to claim that they are tough on crime while not having to provide more money for prisons. Felonies are tried in the General Division of the Court of Common Pleas after an indictment is returned by the Grand Jury. Misdemeanors are generally offenses which may be punished by county jail sentences and fines. These are viewed as relatively minor offenses as opposed to felonies. Misdemeanors are tried in Municipal or County Courts. Similar activity may be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. Good representation is essential is dealing with the prosecution to seek a desirable outcome. Please contact the White Law Office, Co. to discuss your case. Thomas D. White ...

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The Basics of Bail: Part 2

In my last article, I explained the different kinds of bail bonds that permit an accused to be released from jail pending trial. The most important aspect of bail is how the court is supposed to set the type and amount of bond to assure the accused’s appearance in court. Ohio law provides that a judge must consider the following factors in setting bail bond: 1. Nature and circumstances of the crime charged, and specifically whether the defendant used or had access to a weapon; 2.Weight of the evidence against the defendant; 3.Confirmation of the defendant’s identity; 4.Defendant’s family ties, financial resources, character, mental condition, length of residence in the community, jurisdiction of residence, record of convictions, record of court appearance or flight; and 5.Whether the defendant is on probation, a community-control sanction, parole, post-release control, parole, post-release control, bail, or under a court protection order. When reviewing these factors, it is sometimes difficult to believe that the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Factor 2 provides that the judge may consider the amount of evidence against an accused even before a trial! But factor 2 is not the primary factor in determining bail bond, the primary factor is number 1: the more serious the crime, the higher the bail bond. The public expects high bonds for serious crimes because the public believes that the accused is guilty or they wouldn’t have been arrested in the first place. Since judges are elected, they must pay attention to public perception. So a process that is supposed to determine how best...

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The Basics of Bail: Part 1

An initial hurdle to cross in criminal defense is how to obtain an accused person’s release from jail pending trial. The accused must “post bail.” The image from movies is a bail bondsman, with a neon-lighted office near the jail taking money from the accused’s family and warning the accused that Dog the Bounty Hunter will be looking for him if he “skips bail.” The reality is different, and a bit more complicated. First, what is the purpose of bail? Simply, bail assures the accused’s appearance as required in court. There are three general types of bail: recognizance, “10%,” and surety. Recognizance bail often referred to as release on your “own recognizance” or “O.R.” or “personal recognizance” or “P.R.” is where the accused promises to appear for court without giving any money to guarantee the appearance. The accused agrees to be liable for an amount of money if they fail to appear for court. Recognizance bail is a real benefit to an accused who can be released from custody without depositing or posting money with the court clerk. However, there is a stiff penalty for failing to appear when you are released on recognizance: if the underlying charge is a felony, failure to appear on recognizance bond is a separate felony in itself! And this is a felony that is easy for the prosecutor to prove: the case was called for hearing and the accused was not there. “10% bail” acknowledges that most bail bondsmen charge a 10% non-refundable premium to deposit bail for an accused....

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What to Expect in a Criminal Investigation

A criminal investigation can be a very stressful and confusing time for you. Below are frequently asked questions and answers to guide you, or a loved one, when facing a criminal investigation: Q: Do I need an attorney during a criminal investigation? A:  Not always- but it is highly recommended. An attorney will be able to ensure that law enforcement officials are properly, ethically, and legally conducting said investigation. The U.S. Constitution and Ohio Constitution provide an abundance of protections to those who are under criminal investigation. As such, an attorney will ensure that your rights are protected.   Q: I cannot afford an attorney during a criminal investigation, what do I do? A:  One way to ensure that your rights during an investigation are protected is to consult with an attorney, rather than hiring an attorney, during a criminal investigation. An attorney will be able to advise you of your rights and how to protect yourself, as well as a loved one, from improper or even illegal investigation tactics. It is highly recommended that you consult with an attorney if you cannot afford one to ensure you are aware of your rights. Q: A Detective or law enforcement officer wants to talk to me, what do I do? A:  Many people are overwhelmed during a criminal investigation. Though the need to vocalize your innocence may seem important to you, it is recommended that you allow an attorney to assist you through this process. Any information that you or a loved one may provide to law enforcement may be used against you one in a court of law. Remember that you are afforded the right to...

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What is the difference between a warrant and a summons?

In criminal law, there are two basic ways that a person is informed of the charges against him or her and are brought to court to answer those charges. The first way is one is familiar to anyone who has received a traffic ticket. Few people receiving a minor traffic ticket are physically arrested. Instead of arrest, the police officer issues a ticket or citation that informs the person what they are charged with and when they must appear in court to answer the charge. The portion of the ticket, usually at the bottom, is called a summons. The summons gives the name and address of the court and the initial hearing date and time for appearance. If the offense is subject to waiver, the person may plead guilty and pay the fine prior to the hearing in the summons. If the offense is not waivable, then a personal appearance in court is required. If you receive a summons and do not appear in court, you will become familiar with the second way people are bought to court on criminal charges: a warrant will be issued for your arrest. An arrest warrant is a court order for law enforcement to arrest a person and bring them before the court to answer the charge. If there is time before the court hearing, the person arrested may post a bond to ensure their appearance. For minor offenses, the amount of the bond may be set by a court-approved schedule or the court may set the...

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It is Time to Expunge Your Criminal Record!

One of the hardest things to do after a criminal conviction is to move on with your life. Often, individuals who have a criminal conviction(s) are prevented from attaining gainful employment, receiving promotions, or pursuing higher education. The State of Ohio recognizes the difficulties that one may face when they have a criminal conviction(s) and as such, has set up an opportunity under statutory law to help. To remove barriers that youthful or adult offenders may experience when having a criminal conviction(s) on their record, the State of Ohio, through statutory law, has put in place tools for one to seal, or expunge, their criminal conviction(s). The controlling authority in sealing one’s criminal records can be found in Ohio Revised Code Chapter 2953. To “seal” or “expunge” one’s record means that said criminal conviction(s) is not available for public review. However, keep in mind that the records of conviction(s) are not terminated or destroyed. Not everyone who has a criminal conviction(s) is eligible to have their records sealed. However, you may be eligible to have your criminal conviction(s) sealed if: Your criminal conviction(s) that you are trying to expunge is not prohibited by law from expungement; or, You were found not guilty, or your case was dismissed; or, You have the following criminal convictions: One Felony Conviction (one must wait a period of three (3) years from the completion of the sentence (which includes completing probation)); Two Felony Convictions (after waiting a period of four (4) years from the completion of sentence); Three, Four, or Five Felony Convictions (after waiting a period of five (5) years from the...

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