What to know when you appear in Mayor's Court in Ohio

Mark Weaver

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Litigation Lawyer - Columbus, OH

Contributor Level 10

Posted about 5 years ago. Applies to Ohio, 4 helpful votes

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1

Showing Up For Court

The address of your Mayor's Court is typically written on the citation or complaint you received when you were charged. If you're unsure, call your local city hall. Get to court a few minutes before the time you were given. Sign in or inform the clerk that you are there. You will usually be given an opportunity to meet with the prosecutor. Take advantage of that opportunity.

2

Meeting With The Prosecutor

The prosecutor has the discretion to dismiss or amend the charges brought against you. Discuss this possibility with the prosecutor. Say something like "Would you be willing to reduce or dismiss the charges if I plead guilty?" More often that not, you'll be able to make such a "plea bargain."

3

Possible Pleas

Everyone comes into court "not guilty." That's the presumption of innocence built into America's judicial system. Ohio Mayor's Courts are no different. When you appear in front of the Magistrate (or the Mayor if the Mayor in that city chooses to preside) you'll have the opportunity to enter a plea. The three main pleas are "Not Guilty," "Guilty," and "No Contest." If you plead "Not Guilty," the Magistrate will set a date for a trial (see the next step). If you plead "Guilty" or "No Contest," the Magistrate will sentence you a few minutes later (see the "Sentencing" step). "Guilty" means you admit all the facts and admit you broke the law. "No Contest" means you do not challenge the facts in the citation or complaint. If the citation or complaint is properly drafted, a "No Contest" plea will result in a "Guilty" finding by the Magistrate.

4

The Trial

If you pled not guilty, you'll be required to come back to Mayor's Court on a different dat. You'll be permitted to bring an attorney with you (although an attorney is never required in Mayor's Court -- you can represent yourself). You will be able to bring witnesses and evidence to trial on that date as well. At trial, the prosecutor will call witnesses and present evidence to try and prove that you committed the offense. You'll be able to ask questions of the witnesses the prosecutor calls and the prosecutor will be able to ask questions of your witnesses. You may testify if you wish, but you cannot be required to testify. When the evidence has been submitted, the Magistrate will make a ruling. If you are found "Not Guilty," the case is over. Go home. You won. If you are found "Guilty," the Magistrate will enter a sentence.

5

Sentencing

Whether you were found "Guilty" because you pled "Guilty" or because you were determined to be "Guilty" after a trial, the "Guilty" finding means that you broke the law and must receive a sentence. You may address the Magistrate and offer reasons for why you think you ought to receive a light punishment. The prosecutor has right to offer his or her opinion, as well. After both sides have been heard, the Magistrate will issue a sentence. If you were convicted of a Minor Misdemeanor, the maximum penalty if a $150 fine. If you were convicted on a Fourth Degree Misdemeanor, the maximum penalty is 30 days in jail and a $250 fine. If you were convicted of a Third Degree Misdemeanor, the maximum penalty is 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. If you were convicted of a Second Degree Misdemeanor, the maximum penalty is 90 days in jail and a $750 fine. And if you were convicted of a First Degree Misdemeanor, the maximum penalty is 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

6

Appeal

If you do not like the result (either the finding of guilt or the sentence given you) you may appeal your Mayor's Court case to the Municipal Court. You must do this within ten days of your sentencing. Ask the clerk how to do this. The case will start all over again at Municipal Court and it will be as if the Mayor's Court case had never occurred. Be aware that if one or more of the charges was dropped at Mayor's Court, those charges will be brought against you again in Municipal Court.

Additional Resources

Here's an excellent resource from the Ohio State Bar Association.

Summary of Ohio Courts

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