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What happens at a criminal pretrial?

Whether you are accused with a felony or a misdemeanor, and regardless of whether you are charged in municipal court, common pleas court, or federal court, the first court appearance should be an arraignment and your second appearance will likely be a Pre-Trial Hearing.

Generally, the pre-trial is an opportunity for the judge, prosecutor, and defense counsel to talk about the procedural aspects of the case.

  • Has the accused been compliant with bond conditions or does bond need reviewed?

  • Has the accused been provided a copy of discovery from the prosecutor (discovery is the evidence and witnesses believed to support the case)?

  • Are there any problems with the discovery received from the government (i.e. missing items, or corrupt files)?

  • Has Defense Counsel reciprocated discovery to the prosecutor?

  • Are there any pre-trial motions that can be resolved or need to be filed?

  • Where is the matter at in view of the Accused's right to a speedy trial?

  • Where is the matter at in view of the Ohio Supreme Court's expected timeline?

  • Have any offers been made for resolution? Are those being accepted / considered?

  • Does either counsel expect a jury trial, and if so, how many days should it take?

  • Is a jury view going to be required?

Some courts hold these pre-trial meetings outside the presence of the Accused, and some hold them in open court. Many times defense counsel will speak with the prosecutor (and sometimes the Judge) prior to going into the courtroom.

Unfortunately, there is not always enough time to convey everything that happened in the Judge's chambers or in the prosecutor's office prior to going on the record. It's important for this reason that you trust your counsel.

Always remember to dress appropriately for court. We have a separate article on this issue, if you are not sure what to wear.

The pre-trial is often not an opportunity to discuss or argue the facts of your case. Do not be surprised if this doesn't happen, as the facts are often not discussed in the presence of the judge who may ultimately be hearing the matter.

You want this to be an uneventful and unmemorable proceeding for you, the court, and the prosecution. Although, if the accused has not been released on bond, yet, the facts will have to be argued to some degree. It's critical that the accused and his/her counsel not close doors as to possible defenses.

Pre-Trials without Counsel.

When the Judge walks in the room, always remember to stand up, whether you hear someone announce "all rise" or not.

If you are attending your pre-trial without counsel, then we suggest you only state the following, exactly as it reads. Leave the rest up to the Court:

  • I am aware of the charges.

  • I am retaining counsel. OR, I intend to represent myself.

  • I demand a copy of discovery be sent to me, pursuant to Criminal Rule 16.

  • I am not prepared to enter any change of my Not Guilty plea at this time.

The Court may ask you if you want to set another pre-trial. You probably do. This will give you time to review the discovery, gather witnesses, identify them to the government, and reconsider your decision to go to trial without counsel.

Pre-Trial Scheduling.

Pre-Trials are often scheduled between four (4) to eight (8) weeks apart. The number of pre-trials is usually determined by whether speedy trial is running, whether there are motions pending to be ruled upon, whether a trial date has been set and other guidelines such as the supreme courts guidelines for resolving the matter.



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