Understanding the Criminal Law Process in Ohio

Facing criminal charges and getting on the wrong side of the law can have serious consequences on one’s life. A defined set rules and procedures is strictly followed by the police and the courts while handing a criminal case. However, most people accused of committing a crime are not aware of the process involved and their rights during the process. This article briefly outlines the general criminal law process in Ohio.

Complaint, Summons, and Arrest Warrant

Most criminal cases begin with the serving of a complaint. The complaint identifies and specifies the offense one is charged with. The complaint will either contain summons to appear in the court or an arrest warrant. The police can sometimes also arrest a person without a warrant if they believe that a crime has been committed by that person. Once under arrest, the police will take the accused person’s mug shot, fingerprints, and collect some biographical information.

Miranda Rights

The police officer making the arrest must read out the Miranda Rights to the person being arrested. This informs the arrested person about their right to remain silent and to get an attorney.


Also known as the “initial appearance”, arraignment is the first court appearance where the accused enters a plea. There are three types of pleas that the accused can enter: Guilty (admission of guilt), No Contest (admission of facts but denial of charges), and Not Guilty (denial of both facts and guilt). It is very important to consult a lawyer before entering into any plea. If the case remains unsolved at this stage, then it moves to a pre-hearing.


During the discovery process, the prosecution hands over the evidence, witness statements, investigative reports, police reports, victim statements, and other documents that may be used against the accused during the trial.


At a pre-trial hearing, the prosecutor must show to the judge that sufficient evidence exists to believe that the accused probably committed the crime. This is different from a trial as during a trial the guilt must be established beyond reasonable doubt. If the judge concludes that the evidence is not enough for the case to proceed, the accused may be released.

Suppression Hearing

A motion to suppress is a motion to exclude some evidence produced by the prosecutor from the case. It must be shown that the evidence was obtained in violation of the constitutional rights of the accused. If the chances of winning are low, a plea bargain can also be done after a suppression hearing.

Criminal Trial

The Ohio criminal law and federal criminal law require that the trial be completed within the prescribed time period. At the trial, the arguments and submissions made by both the sides are considered by the judge/ jury to arrive at a decision. It involves opening statements, presentation of the evidence, closing arguments, jury instructions/ deliberations, verdict, and sentence hearing.


If the defendant is not satisfied with the decision of the trial, he or she may make an appeal after satisfying certain legal requirements. If the appeal is successful, the case may go for a retrial.

Consulting an Ohio Criminal Law Attorney

Navigating the criminal law process in Ohio is difficult. The result of a criminal case can have a life-long impact on many important aspects of life. Therefore it is important to consult an attorney as soon as possible after being charged. Contact our law firm today to learn how an experienced Ohio criminal law attorney can help you with your case.