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Examining Ohio's Criminal Law: The Rights of the Accused

In Ohio, individuals who have been charged with a crime have the benefit of certain statutory and constitutional rights designed to protect their interests. To determine what your rights are following an arrest on criminal charges, you must first determine what type of crime you've been charged with.

Criminal offenses in Ohio are categorized into two categories, misdemeanors and felonies based on the maximum potential punishment you can recieve. The maximum penalty for a misdemeanor in Ohio is 6 months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. Felonies, however, have the potential for far greater penalties severe and can result in years of imprisonment, thousands of dollars in fines, and, in the most extreme cases, the death penalty.

Regardless of which type of crime you've been charged with, Ohio recognizes certain rights to which the accused is entitled. The following is a brief overview of those rights.

Right to a Speedy Trial

Every individual is entitled to a trial by jury within a certain period of time after their arrest. How long that period is determined by the type of crime with which you are charged.

The chart below shows how long after a person's arrest the State has to bring them to trial on the charges:

Minor Misdemeanor

30 Days

3rd/4th Degree Misdemeanor

45 Days

1st/2nd Degree Misdemeanor

90 Days

Felony – your speedy trial right is 270 days

270 Days

The manner in which days are calculated for the purposes of speedy trial rights changes depending on whether a person is incarcerated while awaiting trial. When calculating the number of days for the purposes of speedy trial, days spent in jail count as 3 days toward the speedy trial deadline.

Right to Jury Trial

Every individual charged with either a felony or misdemeanor is entitled to a trial by a jury of his or her peers. Those individuals charged with a misdemeanor must immediately request a trial by jury in order or it is considered to have been waived.

Further, Ohio Revised Code Section 2945.17 has extinguished an accused's right to a jury trial if either: (1) the offense is a minor misdemeanor; or the offense is one for which the potential penalty does not include the possibility of a prison or jail term and for which the possible fine does not exceed one thousand dollars.

Right to Legal Counsel

Likely the most important of any rights a defendant can take advantage of, the right to legal counsel is guaranteed to all individuals accused of a crime. The United States Supreme Court held in Brewer v. Williams, 430 U.S. 387 that the Sixth Amendment right to counsel "mean at least that a person is entitled to the help of a lawyer at or after the time that judicial proceedings have been initiated against him, whether by formal charge, preliminary hearing, indictment, information, or arraignment." Brewer further holds that, once adversary proceedings have begun against a defendant, he has a right to legal representation when the government interrogates him. Many people think that, because the Sixth Amendment guarantees them the right to counsel, the government is required to appoint them an attorney to represent them if they can not afford one. However, this is only true when the accused faces a "lost of liberty", i.e. jail or prison time.

The attorneys of DiCaudo, Pitchford & Yoder have extensive experience protecting the constitutional rights of the accused. If you have been charged with a crime in Ohio or have questions regarding your rights, contact an experienced Criminal Attorney from DiCaudo, Pitchford & Yoder today.