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Court Appearances for DUI/OVI Cases in Ohio

For a person charged with DUI (called ‘OVI’ in Ohio), going to court can be the source of anxiety.  Most people have never appeared in court and do not know what to expect.  Television and movies generally focus on trials, but there are other stages to the court process.  This article explains what to expect at each stage.


The OVI Arraignment in Ohio
For an OVI case in Ohio, the first court appearance is typically an arraignment.  At an arraignment, the judge will notify the defendant of the charge(s) against them and outline the possible sentences for the charge(s).  The judge will also explain the defendant’s rights.

After those explanations, the judge will ask the defendant to enter a plea.  The ordinary pleas in an OVI case are Guilty, No Contest, and Not Guilty.  If the defendant pleads Guilty or No Contest, the judge will impose the sentence, and the case is usually finished that day.  If the defendant pleads Not Guilty, the case is not finished that day and is instead scheduled for a pretrial.

The OVI Discovery Process in Ohio
Discovery is the exchange of evidence between the prosecution and defense.  In Ohio, the defendant files a ‘Demand for Discovery’ to receive the prosecution’s evidence.  That ordinarily includes police reports, witness statements, photographs, audio recordings, and video recordings, and any evidence favorable to the defendant.  When a defendant receives discovery from the prosecution, the defendant has an obligation to provide reciprocal discovery to the prosecution.  The discovery process typically takes place between the arraignment and the pretrial.

The OVI Pretrial in Ohio
The pretrial is an opportunity for the parties to discuss the case and negotiate an agreed resolution (a plea agreement).  For the discussion and negotiations to be meaningful, the parties should exchange discovery before the pretrial.  At the end of the negotiations, the prosecution makes an offer for a plea agreement.  For example, the prosecutor may offer to make a sentence recommendation on the charge of OVI, or the prosecutor may offer to reduce the OVI to a lesser charge.

If the defendant accepts the prosecutor’s offer, the judge holds a plea hearing and sentence hearing.  If the defendant does not accept the prosecutor’s offer, the case is scheduled for another court appearance.

The OVI Motion Hearing in Ohio
If the parties do not reach a plea agreement at the pretrial and the defendant has filed a Motion to Suppress Evidence, the next court appearance is a motion hearing.  At the motion hearing, witnesses testify regarding the issues raised in the Motion to Suppress Evidence.  Each side questions the witnesses and may present other evidence, such as documents, photographs, and video recordings.  Each side then presents an argument to the judge regarding what conclusions the judge should reach on the issues raised in the Motion to Suppress.

The judge then issues a ruling on the motion.  The ruling may be issued immediately, or the judge may issue a written ruling at a later time.  At the motion hearing stage, the parties may also engage in further negotiations toward an agreed resolution.

The OVI Trial in Ohio
If there is no agreed resolution, a trial is held.  The trial may be a bench trial, in which the judge decides whether guilt is proven, or a jury trial, in which a jury decides whether guilt is proven.  In Ohio, if the charge is punishable by incarceration, the defendant has the right to a jury trial.

A trial begins with jury selection, unless the defendant chooses to have a bench trial.  Each side then gives opening statements.  Following opening statements, the prosecution calls its witnesses to testify.  The defendant can, but is not required to, call defense witnesses to testify.  The defendant can also testify but cannot be required to testify.  The prosecution may then call rebuttal witnesses.

After witness testimony has concluded, each side makes closing arguments.  The jury or judge then renders a verdict of Guilty or Not Guilty.  For the verdict to be guilty, the prosecution must prove each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.

The OVI Sentence Hearing in Ohio
If a defendant pleads guilty, or if a defendant is found guilty in a trial, the judge holds a sentence hearing.  The sentence hearing may be held on the same day as one of the other court appearances or may be scheduled for a separate day.  At the sentence hearing, the judge hears arguments from both sides regarding what sentence should be imposed.  The judge then imposes the sentence.

Assistance with the OVI Court Process
With its formalities, protocol, and legalese, a courtroom can feel like being in a foreign country.  Hiring a lawyer for an OVI case, at a minimum, is like hiring a guide in a foreign country.  A lawyer can at least guide a client through unfamiliar territory.  Hopefully, a lawyer can also assist the client in obtaining a more favorable case outcome.

About the Author:  Shawn Dominy is a leading OVI lawyer in Ohio and the founder of the Dominy Law Firm in Columbus, Ohio.  He can be reached through his law firm’s website:  Dominy Law Firm.

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Shawn Dominy

Shawn Dominy

Shawn Dominy is a DUI/OVI lawyer in Columbus, Ohio. He is the former President of the Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the state delegate to the National College for DUI Defense and a long-time member of the National Association for Criminal Defense Lawyers. Shawn Dominy authored the books 'Ohio DUI/OVI Guide', 'Ohio Vehicular Homicide Guide', and 'Ohio Vehicular Assault Guide' (Rivers Edge Publishing) and wrote a chapter in the book 'Defending Vehicular Homicide Cases' (Aspatore Publishing, 2012). He has several other published articles, and he speaks regularly at seminars teaching other lawyers about DUI/OVI. Shawn was named by SuperLawyers® as one of the top 50 lawyers in Columbus, Ohio, and he is listed as one of the 'Best Lawyers in America'® for DUI Defense. Shawn is a lifelong resident of central Ohio: he graduated from Olentangy High School and earned his bachelor’s degree and juris doctor from The Ohio State University. His office is in Columbus, and he lives in Powell with his wife and daughter. He serves with local community organizations, volunteers regularly at his church, and plays regularly with his German Shepherd. For more information, Shawn’s website is www.dominylaw.com, his blog is www.columbusoviattorneyblog.com,

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