Thursday, April 9, 2009

Felony Arraignments & Criminal Law in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas in Cleveland, Ohio

If you or someone you know are facing felony charges under Ohio Law in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, you may have questions concerning the arraignment process. This Blog is intended to provide a general overview of the felony arraignment procedures at the Justice Center in Cleveland, Ohio. As always, this information is simply a general overview. As every case presents unique circumstances, it is important to contact a Criminal Defense Attorney in order to discuss the particular circumstances you or someone you know may be faced with.
In general, felony arraignments are held at the Justice Center in Cleveland, Ohio. The arraignment room is located on floor twelve (12). It is a large courtroom as many people are arraigned during a single session. Due to the large amounts of citizens being arraigned, the room is closed by security and, in general, family members and spectators are not allowed within the room (exceptions are made for the media to be present).
If the accused is not in jail, he or she will arrive as commanded. Typically, the accused receives a summons to appear. Security will instruct the defendants as to the process for checking in at that time.
Ohio Law requires the presence of the defendant. However, there are exceptions to this rule and the presence can be waived in some instances. For instance, some defendants are arraigned by way of video. For example, if a person is in jail, rather than transporting the person to the Justice Center in Cuyahoga County, the court will utilize video conferencing in order to communicate with the incarcerated defendant.
After everyone is checked-in, the arraignment room judge will take the bench and court will commence. In general, the judge will begin by reading everyone their rights. In the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, these rights are often recited once to the entire group of defendants that are to be arraigned. Thereafter, the judge will call upon each individual, one at a time, to be arraigned in open court. Ohio Law requires that arraignments be conducted in open court. During the arraignment, the judge will read the indictment, information, or complaint to the accused, or state the general substance of the charges. In Cuyahoga County, the reading of the Indictment is often waived by the accused or the attorney for the accused. This right is waived for many reasons. Often, the courtroom is crowded and the accused does not want the specific charges to be recited by the judge for all of the other people to hear. Further, the criminal defendant and the defense attorney are entitled to a copy of the charges.
Prior to entering a plea, the defendant will be asked by the court if he or she has received a copy of the Indictment. Although the law requires that the accused be in receipt of the Indictment twenty-four (24) hours prior to entering the plea, this right can be waived and oftentimes is waived. For instance, in the Common Pleas Court of Cuyahoga County, Ohio it is common for the lawyers and the accused to retrieve a copy of the Indictment moments before the Arraignment process commences. Often, the lawyer will already know the charges prior to that moment and will simply waive the twenty-four (24) hour requirement. This is done unless there is a compelling reason to continue the matter to a later date. These decisions need to be made on a case by case basis.
When the accused is represented by a criminal defense attorney, the attorney will typically address the court and enter the plea on behalf of the defendant. The type of pleas that are available to a criminal defendant are provided for within Rule 11 of the Ohio Rules of Criminal Procedure. In a future Blog, I will discuss the types of pleas that are available and the effect each plea may have.
After the plea is entered, the court will address the issue of bail and bond. The criminal defense attorney will be granted an opportunity to argue for a low bail bond and the prosecutor will be granted an opportunity to present arguments as well. The court will consider arguments from both sides and will also consider the recommendation from the Cuyahoga County Bond Commissioner. A criminal defense attorney can learn of the recommendation prior to the arraignment. Generally, the court follows the recommendation of the Bond Commissioner and in general, arguments are not presented regarding bond unless circumstances dictate otherwise. However, it is imperative that the attorney be prepared to address the issue should it be raised.
After the arraignment is concluded, the accused is taken into custody for processing. The accused will be held until the processing is concluded and the conditions of the bail are met. As such, it is important to consult with a criminal defense lawyer prior to the arraignment in order to address any questions or concerns one might have concerning the arraignment procedures. A consultation can help ensure that the process is facilitated as much as possible and that everyone is prepared for the process that will unfold.
There is much more that can be said concerning this process. If you have questions or concerns pertaining to a Felony Arraignment in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas in Cleveland, Ohio, please call Criminal Defense Lawyer Ron Frey for a free consultation at (440) 537-0299 or visit