Your Rights In Court

 

Under the Constitutions of the United States and of the State of Ohio, you are guaranteed certain rights. If you do not understand your rights, or how to exercise them in regard to your case, you should consult an attorney.

The Right To Make the State Prove You Guilty of Each and Every Element of the Offense Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

You are presumed to be innocent of the crime with which you have been charged. It is the job of the prosecuting attorney, who represents the state of Ohio, to prove in a trial before a jury or a judge that you are guilty of each and every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. The elements of each offense, considered to be a crime in Ohio, are listed in the Ohio Revised Code. You are not required to present a defense, but it is sometimes advisable. An attorney can advise you.

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The Right To Remain Silent

 

You may exercise your right to remain silent in two ways. First, you may exercise your right if you are taken into custody and questioned by the police regarding your commission of a crime. Law enforcement officers are required to notify any person taken into custody in regard to a jailable offense that he or she has this right. Statements made to the police, while a Defendant is in custody and being questioned, can be used by the State to prove its case. Second, your may exercise your right to remain silent during your trial. This right applies in both a jury trial and a bench trial. If you exercise your right to remain silent, you, in effect, refuse to testify at your trial. If you choose to testify at trial, you are giving up your right to remain silent and the prosecuting attorney may ask you questions after you have testified on your behalf.

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The Right To a Public Trial By an Impartial Jury

You have a constitutional right to a public trial and to have your case decided by an impartial jury, if you are charged with a jailable offense. You may waive your right to a trial before a jury and have a judge decide your case. When a judge decides your case, it is commonly referred to as a "bench trial." Because a jury does not have to be selected, a bench trial may take less time.

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The Right To A Speedy Trial And The Right to Counsel

You have the right to hire an attorney to represent you. Ohio law provides that criminal cases must be brought to trial within certain specified time limits. You may waive, in writing, this right and have your case continued so that you have the time to hire an attorney. If the Court determines that you do not have the resources to pay for an attorney, the Court may appoint an attorney to represent you.

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The Right To Have Witnesses Testify On Your Behalf

You have the right to bring witnesses on your behalf into Court to testify. You have this right in both a jury trial and a bench trial. You, or the attorney representing you, must provide to the Court the name and address of each witness you want to appear in Court. The Court will issue an order that each witness appear on the date of your trial. This order is a "subpoena" and it is mailed or delivered to each witness. Witnesses may also appear willingly in Court. The Court may impose penalties on witnesses who fail to appear in Court as required.

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The Right to Confront The State's Witnesses

In both a jury and a bench trial, you have a right to make the state of Ohio bring the witnesses they have against you into court and testify. You have the right to question and cross-examine the State's witnesses.

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Pleas

Once you know the nature of the charges brought against you and your rights, you have to decide how to plead. You may enter one of three pleas listed below:

Guilty: A guilty plea means that you admit you violated the statute, ordinance or summons. After you enter your plea, the Court will proceed with sentencing and there is no trial. If you enter a guilty plea it can be used against you in a later civil suit.

Not Guilty: A not guilty plea means that you dispute the facts as stated by the State and you want the matter to go to trial at a future date. During the trial, the Court will hear testimony from witnesses for the State and the defense, if it chooses to call any witnesses.

No Contest: A plea of no contest means that you are not disputing the allegation as stated by the State. However, the Court may accept the State's version of the facts as true. There is no trial. You will have an opportunity to explain your version of the facts, and then the Court will proceed with sentencing.

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Criminal

 

Felony Preliminary Hearings

Every defendant who is charged with having committed a felony is entitled to a preliminary hearing, unless he or she waives that right in writing or unless the grand jury issues a direct indictment. Prior to the preliminary hearing, the defendant will be arraigned (i.e. given the opportunity to submit a plea to the court). If the defendant waives his or her right to a preliminary hearing, the judge or magistrate will order the defendant bound over to the Court of Common Pleas. If the defendant chooses to have a preliminary hearing, the judge or magistrate will schedule the hearing within a reasonable period of time, but no later than 10 consecutive days following the arrest or service of summons, if the defendant is in custody, and not later than 15 consecutive days following the arrest or service or summons, if the defendant is not in custody. Following the preliminary hearing, the defendant may be bound over to the Court of Common Pleas, the case may be dismissed, or the charge may be reduced to a misdemeanor.

Criminal Misdemeanors

Section 1907.02(A)(1) of the Ohio Revised Code provides that county courts have territorial jurisdiction over all misdemeanor cases allegedly committed within the court's geographic territory. For more information on the Butler County Area Courts' territorial jurisdiction or subject matter jurisdiction, see the jurisdictional maps on this website.

Domestic Violence

If you are the victim in a domestic violence case, the Area Courts have Victim Advocates available through the Butler County Sheriff's Office, www.butlersheriff.org 

The Butler County Sheriff's Office Victim Assistance Program Advocates can be reached at 513.887.3430.

Please be advised:

It is not up to you to "drop the charges".  The charges were filed by law enforcement and now belong to the State of Ohio.

It is not up to you to "drop the temporary protection order", (TPO). Each case will be reviewed by the Judge and protection orders will be issued upon the decision of the Judge.  Just because a victim does not request or desire a protection order doesn't mean that one will not be issued.  Once a temporary protection order is issued the Judge may or may not consider recalling the order.  The victim and the defendant must be present in court to make the request and this can only be done on the defendants'scheduled court dates.

Court Procedure:

Persons charged with committing an offense pursuant to O.R.C. 2919.25, Domestic Violence, may consent to having the charge heard before a Magistrate. These cases are heard, beginning at 8:00 A.M., on the first and second Thursday of the month at Area I Court in Oxford, on the third and fourth Thursday of the month at Area II Court in Hamilton (Historic Courthouse), and at 8:00 A.M. every Tuesday in Area III Court in West Chester.   Defendants choosing not to consent to appear before a Magistrate will have their cases heard before a Judge.  

 

Progression of Abuse: 

Domestic violence usually starts small and becomes more severe and frequent over time. Many times it progresses though the following stages:

1. Pre-battering violence- Hitting or breaking objects, threats of violence, verbal abuse.
2. Beginning level violence- Pushing, restraining, blocking doorways, holding down, shaking.
3. Moderate level violence- Slapping, punching, pulling hair, spanking.
4. Severe level violence- Choking, beating with objects, use/threat of weapons, sexual abuse.

Warning Signs:

1. Was or is abused by parent.
2. Grew up in a home where he/she witnessed domestic violence.
3. Gets very serious with partner very quickly saying, “I love you” early in the relationship, wanting to move in together or get engaged after only a few months, or pressuring partner for a serious commitment.
4. Comes on very strong, is extremely charming and an overly smooth talker.
5. Is extremely jealous.
6. Isolates partner from support systems & wants partner all to themselves, keeping them from family, friends, and outside activities.
7. Attempts to control what partner wears, what he/she does, or who he/she is.
8. Is abusive towards other people, especially mother or sisters.
9. Blames others for one’s own misbehavior or failures.
10. Has unrealistic expectations, like expecting partner to meet all of one’s needs and be the perfect partner.
11. Is overly sensitive & acts “hurt” when not getting one’s way, takes offense when others disagree with an opinion, gets very upset at small inconveniences that are just a normal part of life.
12. Has ever been cruel to animals.
13. Has ever abused children.
14. Has ever hit partner in past.
15. Has ever threatened violence.
16. Calls partner names, puts partner down, curses at partner.
17. Is extremely moody, and switches quickly from being very nice to exploding in anger.
18. If male, believes women are inferior to men and should obey them.
19. Is intimidating, for example using threatening eye contact/body language, punching walls or breaking objects.
20. Holds partner against their will to keep them from walking away or leaving room.

Have you hurt someone in your family?

Accept the fact that your violent behavior will destroy your family. Be aware that you break the law when you physically hurt someone or even threaten to hurt someone. Take responsibility for your actions and get help!

The High Cost of Domestic Violence:

Your children may learn to model the same destructive violent behavior. Also, jobs may be lost due to injuries, arrests, or harassment. When you feel tension building, get away! Work off the energy through a walk, a project or a sport. Call the Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 779-SAFE and ask about counseling and support groups for people who batter.

Alleged victims of domestic violence have the right to attend all court hearings. A victim’s advocate will attempt to contact you prior to a defendant’s bond hearing. If you have injuries, visit a hospital or doctor, and take pictures of injuries. Be sure to plan ahead, know what to do if you are abused. Set aside money, important papers, etc.
The victim assistance program advocates will be able to assist you with court advocacy and court escort throughout the court process, temporary protection orders/civil protection orders, shelter referral, registering with V.I.N.E., safety planning, crisis intervention, restitution, and referrals to other Butler County victim service providers and community resources.

Important Numbers:
Domestic Violence Hotline

(800) 799-SAFE, This nationwide, toll-free hotline will provide immediate crisis intervention, counseling/referrals to emergency shelters and services.
National Resource Center on Domestic Violence  (800) 537-2238

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Traffic Violations

In some cases, a person charged with an offense may waive his or her right to contest the citation in a trial, plead guilty to the offense as charged, and dispose of the case by paying court costs and the amount listed in the Traffic Division Waiver Schedule or the Criminal Division Waiver Schedule. Waiver information may be found on the back, and at the bottom, of all blue criminal or traffic tickets. If "Court" is listed on the Schedule, it indicates that a court appearance is mandatory and waiver is not permitted. The fine and costs must be paid in full at the time of the waiver. Payments may be made in person by Visa and MasterCard, on the courts website by E-payment, left in the overnight drop box in Area I and Area III or mailed to the appropriate court. The Butler County Area Courts also accept cash, personal checks drawn on an Ohio bank and money orders. Do not send cash through the mail.

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Bail Bonds

For some offenses, a defendant may be discharged from arrest by giving a bond (i.e., posting bail). Bail is posted in one of the three Butler County Area Courts, depending on where the offense took place. The amount of bond required for different classes of offenses is listed in the schedule below. For all murder offenses, the judge will set the bond in an arraignment hearing held 24 - 48 hours after arrest.

All bond amounts listed below may either be paid in cash, in full, or through a bonding company approved by the court. After a defendant has made all court appearances, the bond is returned. However, bonding companies typically charge a fee of 10 - 15% of the bond set and this fee is not refundable. In some cases, Butler County residents, may be released from arrest on a recognizance bond which only requires that the person charged with the offense sign bond papers in the court's clerk's office. Failure to appear for all future court dates under a recognizance bond is a felony.

Once the bail bond is posted, the court clerk's office sends the jail a release form. The physical release of the prisoner is then the responsibility of the Butler County Sheriff's Department which can be contacted at (513) 887-3640.


Bond Schedule 

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Victim's Assistance Program

Contact Information:
Butler County Sheriff's Office
705 Hanover Street
Hamilton, OH 45011

Dispatch: (513) 785.1300
V.I.N.E. Victim Information & Notification Everyday 1.800.770.0192
(Allows crime victims to register to receive automatic telephone notification if the offender is released, transferred, or escapes).

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Community Service

Employer Information:
Verification Information
Community Service Work Form

The judges of the Butler County Area Courts may, at their discretion, suspend a defendant's jail sentence and order that the person convicted of a misdemeanor offense perform community service. The courts maintain a listing of non-profit and charitable organizations, as well as political subdivisions, at which community service work can be performed. Butler County residents may perform their court-ordered hours of work at any court-approved agency anywhere in Butler County, unless the offense was committed in West Chester. Those found guilty of committing an offense in West Chester, must complete their community service in West Chester.


If approved by a Judge, community service work may be performed at an organization other than one identified by the court if the work is not: 1.) affiliated with any political party; 2.) related to work being done for a course at a college or university; 3.) done for a family business or for a for-profit business; 4.) done for a fraternity or sorority; 5.) done at a place where the person currently works and receives pay; or 6.) done for a non-profit or charitable organization the person is associated with or of which he or she is a member.


Persons failing to perform the number of hours of community service work ordered by the court may be subject to arrest and incarceration.

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Civil

 

Small Claims

Proceedings
Each Butler County Area Court has established a small claims division. Proceedings in the small claims division are conducted by a magistrate appointed by the court. Decisions of the magistrate may be appealed to the judge. The appearance of an attorney at law on behalf of any party is permitted but not required.

Jurisdiction
The small claims division has jurisdiction in civil actions for the recovery of taxes and money only, for amounts not exceeding $3,000 * effective 9/28/2016 $6,000*, exclusive of interest and costs. The following types of cases cannot be brought in small claims court: 1.) libel, slander, replevin, malicious prosecution and abuse of process actions; 2.) actions on any claim brought by an assignee or agent, except a claim to recover taxes that is filed by any authorized officer or employee of the state; 3.) actions for the recovery of punitive or exemplary damages. These types of cases must be brought in the civil division.

Commencement Of An Action
An action is commenced in the small claims division when the plaintiff, or the plaintiff's attorney, states the amount and nature of the plaintiff's claim and files it with the court. The commencement constitutes a waiver of any right of the plaintiff to trial by jury upon such action.

The plaintiff, or the plaintiff's attorney, shall state to the clerk of courts, the plaintiff's and the defendant's place of residence, military status of the defendant, and the nature and amount of the plaintiff's claim. The claim shall be reduced to writing in a concise, non-technical form. The writing shall be signed by the plaintiff or the plaintiff's attorney, under oath. Filing a claim is relatively easy and the clerk's office can supply the form that is to be completed.

A memorandum of the time and place set for trial shall be given to the person signing the writing. The time set for trial shall not be less than 15 or more than 40 days after commencement of the action.

Corporations

A corporation, which is a real party in interest in any action in a small claims division, may commence such an action and appear through an attorney at law. A corporation, through an officer or any salaried employee, may file and present its claim or defense in any action in a small claims division arising from a claim based on a contract to which the corporation is an original party, or any other claim to which the corporation is an original claimant, provided that the corporation does not, in the absence or representation by an attorney, engage in cross-examination, argument or other acts of advocacy.

Fees

At the time of commencement of the action the plaintiff, or the plaintiff's attorney, shall pay the filing fee determined by the court. Pursuant to R.C. §1907.24, the court shall collect, in its small claims division, eleven dollars ($11.00) as an additional filing fee in each new civil action or proceeding for the charitable public purpose of providing financial assistance to legal aid societies within the state of Ohio.

Notice

Notice of the filing shall be served on the defendant as provided by the Rules of Civil Procedure. If the notice is returned undelivered or if in any other way it appears that the notice has not been received by the defendant, at the request of the plaintiff, or his attorney, a further notice shall be issued, setting the trial for a subsequent date, to be served in the same manner as a summons is served in an ordinary civil action. The court may charge an additional fee if further notices are issued.

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Forcible Entry and Detainer

A Forcible Entry and Detainer (FED) complaint is usually filed by a landlord to evict a tenant and recover possession of the rental property. "Forcible entry and detainer" are legal terms that mean that someone has wrongfully entered upon (i.e., forcible entry) and/or is withholding real property from the rightful owner (i.e. detained). A FED complaint may be filed in situations other than landlord / tenant and any time someone is wrongfully withholding real property from the rightful owner.

A landlord must follow a four-step process before a court will order a tenant to vacate the premises:

1.) Lease terminated. The lease must be terminated by a proper termination notice or by a breach by the tenant (i.e. nonpayment of rent). For information see R.C. §§5321.05, 5321.17.
2.) Notice to tenant. The landlord must notify the tenant to leave the property in writing and at least three days prior to filing the FED complaint in court. For information see R.C. §1923.04.
3.) Complaint Filed. The landlord must file a FED complaint with the court. For information see R.C. §1923.05
4.) Trial. The court will schedule a trial no sooner than 7 days from the filing of the complaint and the service of the summons. For information see R.C. §1923.06 A notice to vacate the premises must be presented, in writing, to a person to be evicted at least three days before the FED complaint is filed with the court. The notice may be sent to the tenant by certified mail, delivered personally, or it may be left at the tenant's place of residence.

A landlord / plaintiff may only file an FED complaint in the Butler County Area Courts if the property that is the subject of the complaint is located in Butler County and within the jurisdiction of the Area Courts.  The landlord may also file a second cause of action seeking money damages for unpaid rent or alleged damage to the property. FED actions are designed to proceed quickly and return property to its rightful owner, if appropriate. The second cause of action may proceed as a regular civil case separately from the FED action and be heard on a different day.

After the complaint has been filed, the clerk of courts will serve the complaint and summons to the defendant at least seven days before the day set for trial. The complaint and summons may be sent to the tenant by certified mail, personally delivered to the tenant or another person of suitable age and discretion found at the premises, or conspicuously posted on the premises. For more information, see R.C. §1923.06.

If a landlord files an eviction complaint for a drug-related eviction, the clerk of courts is required to serve and return the summons within three days, if possible, and set the action for trial on the 30th day after the date of service of summons. Continuances are prohibited. R.C. §1923.05(A)(1) & (2).

Either party to an eviction proceeding may request a jury trial. If a jury demand is not filed by the return day of the summons, the case may be heard by a judge or magistrate (i.e., a bench trial). For more information see R.C. §1923.09. If the tenant does not appear, the court will proceed in the tenant's absence and try the case.

If the court finds for the tenant / defendant, the court will dismiss the FED complaint and that is the end of the case. If the court finds for the landlord / plaintiff, the court may issue a writ of restitution, which instructs the sheriff to enforce the judgment and remove the tenant's person and property from the premises.

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Garnishment

Garnishment is a legal proceeding whereby a creditor seeks to satisfy a debt by claiming money owned by a debtor. The money is usually in the possession of the debtor's employer (i.e. wages), but a creditor may request that property other than personal earnings be the subject of garnishment. Attachment of personal earnings, or property other than personal earnings, can occur only after judgment has been obtained and only in accordance with R.C. §2716. Pursuant to R.C. §2329.07, a judgment becomes dormant 5 years after the date of last execution, or the issuance and filing of the last certificate of judgment, whichever is later. The judgment creditor should file a judgment lien, as provided in R.C. §2329.02. This lien does not apply to real estate acquired after the filing. If a debtor subsequently acquires real estate, the judgment lien should be refiled.

Garnishment of Personal Earnings
At least 15 days, but not more than 45 days, before an order garnisheeing personal earnings is sought, a "Notice of Court Proceeding to Collect Debt", as provided for in R.C. §2716.02, must be made by the creditor. Next, an "Affidavit, Order and Notice of Garnishment and Answer of Garnishee" must be filed with the court, in writing, and meet the requirements of R.C. §2716.03. At the request of the defendant, the court then sets the matter for a hearing and sends notice to the garnishee (the employer of the debtor) and the defendant / debtor of the date of the garnishment hearing. At the hearing, the defendant / debtor has an opportunity to dispute the garnishment.

Garnishment of Property Other Than Personal Earnings
The action is initiated by the filing an "Affidavit, Order and Notice of Garnishment of Property Other Than Personal Earnings and Answer of Garnishee" meeting the requirements of R.C. §2716.11. A copy of the Affidavit, Order and Notice is sent to the defendant / debtor, as well as, instructions.

If your wages or other personal property may be subject to garnishment, or if you have any questions regarding garnishment, consult an attorney.

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Civil Law Suits

Pursuant to R. C. 1907.031 each Butler County Area Court has original jurisdiction within its district in all of the following actions or proceedings and to perform all of the following functions:

  1. in an action or proceedings at law for the recovery of money, up to $15,000, or personal property of which the court of common pleas has jurisdiction;
  2. in an action at law based on contract, to determine, preserve, and enforce all legal and equitable rights involved in the contract, to decree an accounting, reformation, or cancellation of the contract, and to hear and determine all legal and equitable remedies necessary or proper for a complete determination of the rights of the parties to the contract;
  3. in an action or proceeding for the sale of personal property under chattel mortgage, lien, encumbrance, or other charge, for the foreclosure and marshalling of liens on the personal property, and for the rendering of personal judgment in the action or proceeding;
  4. in an action or proceeding to enforce the collection of its own judgments and to subject the interest of a judgment debtor in personal property to satisfy judgments enforceable by the county court;
  5. in an action or proceeding in the nature of interpleader;
  6. in an action of forcible entry and detainer;
  7. in a proceeding brought pursuant to section 955.222 of the Revised Code by the owner of a dog that has been designated as a nuisance dog, dangerous dog, or vicious dog,
  8. in all civil actions pursuant to R.C. §3736.41(B)(1) that relate to public nuisance.

 

Rent Escrow

If a landlord fails to fulfill obligations imposed by state law, or the rental agreement, the tenant can deposit rent into escrow, with the clerk of the court, to enforce the landlord's obligations. see Ohio Revised Code Section 5321.07.  The clerk may require the tenant to sign an affidavit swearing that certain conditions required under the law have been met. A tenant will not be required to pay a fee prior to depositing rent. The clerk of courts is required to notify the landlord of the deposit.

The landlord may apply for a release of the rent if the tenant failed to comply with the statutory requirements or if the conditions have been remedied. The tenant may file an answer or counterclaim to the landlord's request. The landlord may also apply for a partial release of rent to meet certain operating expenses.

Tenants considering whether or not to escrow rent with the court may wish to consult with an attorney.

 

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