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What Do You Do if You Are On Trial For a Crime in Ohio?

In Ohio, a criminal trial is set up to resolve crime accusations against an individual. In this trial, a jury or judge decides a defendant's guilt or innocence "beyond a reasonable doubt," by examining the evidence provided by the prosecution. Individuals facing criminal charges are advised to employ competent criminal defense attorneys to help navigate through the legal process. In Ohio, however, most cases don't lead to trials because they are resolved with plea agreements.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

What Percentage of Criminal Cases go to Trial in Ohio?

All courts in Ohio are required under the Supreme Court's Rules of Superintendence to submit caseload statistics monthly with details of cases, trials, and terminations. The Supreme Court Case Management Section carries details of caseload statistical summary in Ohio from 1999 - 2018. The statistics show a consistent decline in criminal trials since 2009, with only about 5% of criminal cases ending with a trial. Most criminal cases are resolved or dismissed in the pre-trial phase of the criminal justice process, mostly due to conviction by plea negotiation, or dismissal for lack of evidence.

When does a Criminal Defendant Have the Right to a Trial? 

According to state laws, every individual charged with a felony or misdemeanor has certain rights to which they are entitled, and one of those is right to a trial by a jury. The accused individual has a right to a speedy trial within a specified period depending on the severity of the offense.

According to Ohio Revised Code Section 2945.17, the right to a trial by Jury is only extinguished when:

  • the offense is a minor misdemeanor, or the potential penalty does not include possible jail time, and the fine does not exceed one thousand dollars.

Ohio is one of the few states granting criminal defendants the right to choose if they want to be tried by a jury or by the Judge. Hence, trial by Jury is a constitutional right of the criminally accused. 

What are the Stages of a Criminal Trial in Ohio? 

In a criminal trial, the burden of proof lies on the prosecution, that is, the government. The prosecution has to prove to the court that the defendant is guilty of the charges "beyond reasonable doubt". 

The following are stages of a criminal trial in Ohio:

  • Opening statements
  • Presentation of the evidence
  • Closing arguments
  • Verdict
  • Sentencing hearing
  • Appeal (optional).

How Long Does it Take For a Case to Go to Trial in Ohio?

The state's constitution demands that a defendant's trial is held within a particular period after being formally charged.

In Ohio, the time-frame for a criminal trial depends on the seriousness of the offense. The general time frame for criminal trials in the state as provided by Chapter 2945, title 29 Crimes procedure is as follows;

  • 30 Days for trials in the mayor's courts or minor misdemeanors in any court in the state
  • 45 Days  for misdemeanors carrying a maximum of sixty days in jail
  • 15 Days for a preliminary hearing in felony cases, and
  • 270 Days for felony case trials.

What Happens When a Court Case Goes to Trial in Ohio?

In a criminal trial, the defense attorney has to demonstrate that the prosecution is unable to prove the defendant's guilt "beyond reasonable doubt" by discrediting witnesses and reinterpreting the prosecution's evidence. The following stages describe what happens in a criminal trial:

Opening Statement 

The opening statement is crucial to the rest of the case, especially for the defendant. This stage allows the defense attorney to gain the Jury's favor as a basis of criminal defense. The prosecution and defense frame the issues that will need to be decided in this stage.

Presentation of Evidence

At this stage, the defense and prosecution present acquired evidence according to Ohio's rules of evidence to support their arguments. The evidence may include witness testimonies and different exhibits.

The defense attorney may cross-examine every witness presented by the prosecution and challenge the evidence provided. The defense may also offer favorable exhibits and witness testimonies that will also be cross-examined by the prosecution.

The case facts provided at this stage of a trial may drag the trial duration for days and potentially months.

Closing Arguments

At this stage, the defense and prosecution present a summary of the evidence from the previous stage. This is the defense attorney's final opportunity to win over each juror or Judge and make a favorable impression for the defendant before deliberations are made. The attorney may draw attention to the weaknesses of the prosecution's case and the strength of the defense's.

The Jury Verdict

This is the final stage where the Jury decides based on the facts of the case. When a decision is made, and a verdict reached, the decision is then given to the bailiff.

If the defendant is found guilty, the Judge reads out the sentence or schedules a sentencing date. If the defense is innocent, their will be released.

Sentencing hearing

If a sentencing hearing is rescheduled, this may give the defense more time to help the defendant get a lenient sentence. The Judge usually listens to the recommendations presented by the prosecution and the arguments of the defense. Finally, the Judge decides.

APPEALS.

On rare occasions, after being sentenced, the defense may file an appeal. If this appeal is won, the defendant will be retried. Appeals usually consume resources, they add to the time and cost of a criminal trial, and the success rates are generally low. 

Can you be Put on Trial Twice for the Same Crime in Ohio?

No, State and Country laws do not allow an offender to be repeatedly put on trial for the crime; this is called Double Jeopardy. This is a defense that prevents an accused individual from being tried again after convection within the same jurisdiction

The United States' constitution provides double jeopardy protection with a clause of protection against the second prosecution for the same crime after acquittal or conviction. It also protects the accused against multiple punishments for the same crime.

Section 10 of the Ohio Constitution also maintains that "No offender shall be twice put in jeopardy for the same offense." Hence, an accused in the state of Ohio must not be put on trial for the same crime.

How Do I Lookup a Criminal Court Case in Ohio?

In Ohio, criminal records are not considered public records, and access to criminal history information is limited. However, because these records are primarily created, maintained, and disseminated by the individual courts where the cases were heard, inquirers may visit these courts to inspect these records. An inquirer may refer to the Ohio Judicial Website for location, contact, and website information of state and county courts across the state. The inquirer will be required to fill a request form and also pay a nominal fee for the copies of the records if requested.

Access to these records is not absolute; hence, records exempted or sealed by law will not be made available for inspection.

How to Access Electronic Court Records in Ohio

Many county courts and higher-level courts in Ohio have websites with online search features that help inquirers find criminal records with ease. The Ohio Supreme Court also provides an online database for court records in the state along with third-party aggregate sites such as CourtRecords.us that provide inquirers with alternatives for criminal records retrieval. The documents available on these sites are "open" records according to state laws. All records sealed and exempted by law are unavailable on these platforms.

Furthermore, inquirers may access criminal records in the state via the PACER (Public Access Court Electronic Records) and CM/ECF (Case Management/Electronic Case Files) systems. The CM/ECF systems database contains docket sheets for most criminal cases filed in Ohio Northern District since 1990. It also provides access to most criminal case documents filed since May 1, 2005. However, inquirers will be required to pay a sum of $10 and register online to use this service.

Finally, inquirers can request for criminal history reports through the Bureau of Criminal Investigation using the name or fingerprint search option. Due to the limited access to criminal records in the state, inquirers may only request personal records with ease. A legal reason will be required to request someone else's criminal history.

How Do I Remove Public Court Records in Ohio?

The process of legally removing public criminal court records from an individual's history in the state is called the Expungement or Sealing of Record of Conviction. Sealing records in the state simply mean that an individual's criminal court file will be sealed, and all public references to the prior criminal conviction will be cleared.

This implies that during routine background checks when the individual applies for jobs, licenses, loans, etc. there will be no reference to the sealed criminal history. 

The Ohio Expungement and sealing statute, Section 2958 of the Ohio Revised Code, controls the removal of public records in the state. This statute provides the following steps to follow to seal or expunge criminal records in the state;

1. The individual requesting for expungement must be eligible for the process. The statute provides that an "eligible offender" is a person who:

  • Had felony convictions that were non-violent, non-sexual, and did not involve minors.
  • Had only fourth or fifth-degree misdemeanor conviction(s)
  • Must have gone through "the required waiting period." 
  • Was charged with a crime but never convicted.
  • Is be eligible for expungement according to the state statutes because not all crimes can be expunged in the state.

NB: Individuals convicted of first, second, or third-degree felonies are not eligible for record sealing or expungement.

2. If the individual is eligible to have records expunged, their will need to obtain a copy of the final order for the conviction that requires expungement.  A certified copy of the Judgement Order can be obtained from the office of the Clerk of Court's criminal division, where the case was filed.

2. The individual is also required to fill out a form of Application for Sealing of a criminal recordand a form of Judgement Entry for Sealing. After these forms are purchased and completed, the individual should attach the Judgement Order of conviction to the Application for Sealing of a criminal recordand make enough copies as directed by the court clerk for submission.

When this is done, the court mails a notice to the individual for a court date.

4. The state codes mandate that every application for sealing or expungement requires a hearing. The individual is advised to prepare for the hearing to convince the presiding Judge of contrition and unwillingness to re-offend.

In this hearing, the individual should state clearly, the intention for expungement and the exact records to be erased, with proof of meeting all the requirements. When the verdict is given, the process of expungement begins.

 

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