Frequently Asked Questions

Traffic FAQ

After a defendant has been arrested or summoned on a traffic or criminal complaint, an arraignment hearing is set. At arraignment, the defendant is advised of his or her rights. In a misdemeanor case the defendant enters a plea to the alleged offense. The pleas are:

  • Guilty: This is a complete admission of guilt.
  • No Contest: This is not an admission of guilt, but is an admission of the truth of the facts alleged in the complaint. The plea of no contest shall not be used against you in any later civil or criminal proceeding.
  • Not Guilty: This is a denial of the charge and puts in issue all of the essential elements of the offense.
  • Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity

Pleas of guilty or no contest are usually disposed of the same day at arraignment with the Judge or Magistrate sentencing the defendant.

In a felony case, a plea does not need to be entered at arraignment and the case is scheduled for a preliminary hearing before the court to determine if enough evidence exists in the case to bind the case over for consideration by the grand jury in Ottawa County Common Pleas Court.

See the waiver schedule. If you still have questions, call the Traffic Division at (419) 734-4143.

If the court appearance box is checked on your ticket indicating a non-waiverable offense or if this is your third moving violation in the past twelve (12) months, then you must appear in court. If you have a waiverable offense, you can admit guilt and pay fines and court costs by mail or in person without having to appear before the judge or magistrate.

If jail is a possible sentence, it may be wise to consult with an attorney, but you are not required to have attorney representation. If you are unable to afford an attorney the Court will hold a hearing to determine if you qualify for a court appointed attorney, at which point one will be appointed for you. If you ask for a court appointed attorney, you will be required to pay a $25.00 fee that day.

The Traffic Division may grant one extension of your original arraignment date for up to seven days. Contact the court at (419) 734-4143 prior to the appearance date on your ticket to request a continuance. Only one (1) continuance will be granted.

Yes, If you have a waiverable citation, you can mail or bring in a copy of your insurance card. The proof of your insurance must show your name, the vehicle you were driving at the time the citation was issued and that the policy was in effect at the time the citation was issued. This must be presented to the Clerk at the time you waiver your citation.

Yes, Your license will be suspended for 90 days by the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles on a first offense.

Contact the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles at (614) 752-7600.

The judge or magistrate determines the fine amount depending on the nature of the offense and any prior record. The judge or magistrate reviews the records, listens to your comments, listens to the arresting agency, and bases his decision on all the information given.

If you plead not guilty, go to trial, and are found guilty, there may be additional costs incurred for subpoenas, witness fees, etc. These fees are in addition to the minimum $68.00 costs.

Failure to appear in court will result in a warrant for your arrest and/or forfeiture of your diver's license to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. You will be required to post a bond if you are subsequently arrested.

The court will notify the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles of your failure to appear. The BMV will withhold the issuance or renewal of your driver's license and registration and suspend your driving privileges.

Criminal FAQ

After a defendant has been arrested or summoned on a traffic or criminal complaint, an arraignment hearing is set. At arraignment, the defendant is advised of his or her rights. In a misdemeanor case the defendant enters a plea to the alleged offense. The pleas are:

  • Guilty: This is a complete admission of guilt.
  • No Contest: This is not an admission of guilt, but is an admission of the truth of the facts alleged in the complaint. The plea of no contest shall not be used against you in any later civil or criminal proceeding.
  • Not Guilty: This is a denial of the charge and puts in issue all of the essential elements of the offense.
  • Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity

Pleas of guilty or no contest are usually disposed of the same day at arraignment with the Judge or Magistrate sentencing the defendant.

In a felony case, a plea does not need to be entered at arraignment and the case is scheduled for a preliminary hearing before the court to determine if enough evidence exists in the case to bind the case over for consideration by the grand jury in Ottawa County Common Pleas Court.

If you are charged with a jailable offense, it may be wise to consult with an attorney. You have the right to have a lawyer represent with you at all stages of the proceedings. A lawyer can help you understand the charges against you and the defenses you can raise. You may ask for a continuance in your case to retain counsel.

If you are not able to employ counsel, you may qualify for a court appointed attorney at no cost to you. Court appointed attorneys must be requested from the Judge or Magistrate, and you may be asked for information regarding your income or required to fill out paperwork justifying your request. You will be assessed a $25.00 fee that is due on the day of the hearing in which you are requesting court appointed counsel.

If you do not qualify for a court appointed attorney and need information about hiring an attorney, you may contact the Ottawa County Bar Association or check the yellow pages.

Yes. Witnesses play an integral role in the criminal justice system and are needed to corroborate testimony or to give testimony as to acts that occurred in their presence. Witnesses are usually issued a subpoena to appear in court on a case. A subpoena compels the witness to appear in court and give testimony. Failure to honor a subpoena (appear in court) may result in the court issuing a contempt warrant for the arrest of the witness.

When arriving at the court, please check in with the clerk's office. If you have special concerns as a witness, please bring these to the bailiff's attention and he will attempt to assist you. After the case is heard the court will excuse you.

With a plea of not guilty in a misdemeanor case, the case is scheduled for trial. The trial is either a bench trial or a jury trial. In a bench trial the case is tried and presented to the Judge or Magistrate to determine guilt or innocence. In a Jury Trial the case is tried and presented to a jury of peers from the community to determine guilt or innocence. Trials proceed in the following manner:

  • Opening Statements: Both sides of the case may give statements as to the evidence and testimony they will be presenting during the trial. Opening statements are not evidence.
  • Prosecutor's Case-in-Chief: The prosecutor will call witnesses and present evidence in the case. The prosecutor will ask questions of the witness and the court will then allow the defense to cross-examine the witness. The defense may question the witness and enter evidence as to this witness' testimony. The prosecutor may then ask follow-up questions in redirect examination of the witness. When the prosecutor is finished with this process for all witnesses, the prosecutor rests its case.
  • Defense Case-in-Chief: The defendant presents their case in the same manner as the prosecutor did above or the defendant may choose not to present a case or testify. The defendant would then rest.
  • Prosecutor's Rebuttal: As the prosecution has the burden of proof at trial, the prosecutor has one final opportunity to present any final evidence.
  • Closing Arguments: Both parties may give brief closing statements designed to help the court make its decision in the case.

If the defendant is found guilty in a case, the Judge or Magistrate then decides what sentence is appropriate. This may include time in jail, fines, probation or other sanctions.

Civil FAQ

Yes. In Ohio, a landlord of residential premises cannot physically remove the tenant from the premises, terminate utilities, or change the locks to encourage a tenant to move from the premises. This is called "self-help", and is illegal in Ohio. A landlord must file a complaint against the tenant, go to court, be granted a judgment, and follow the court-instituted eviction procedure to remove the tenant from the premises.

No. In Ohio, a tenant whose landlord refuses or fails to make repairs cannot withhold their rent. However, the tenant may deliver to the landlord written notice of the defective conditions or repairs requested. Then, if the landlord does not make the repairs in a reasonable amount of time, the tenant may deposit the rent with the court. You should consult with an attorney to get more information about rent escrow.

Small Claims FAQ

No. Small claims court may only award a judgment for money. The small claims court cannot order the return of property.

The Ottawa County Municipal Court offers court-based mediation designed to help parties arrive at their own compromise settlement with the help of a neutral third party. Mediation works best where the parties have an interest in staying on good terms, as is generally the case with neighbors, family members or small business people who have done business together for many years. This type of dispute resolution has been remarkably successful.

Attorneys are allowed, but not required. One objective of small claims is to make it possible for individuals to argue their case without the added expense of hiring a lawyer. For this reason, small claims rules and procedures are not as strict as those in the regular court. However, certain rules do apply and if you proceed on your own behalf, you are held to the same standard as if you are an attorney.

Not necessarily. The court may decide in your favor but cannot force the defendant to pay you. The role of the court is to determine whether or not you are entitled to the money for which you sued. If the defendant does not pay the judgment, the court will give you information about your options on how to collect your money. There are additional fees for each type of collection. The extra costs are added to the judgment. The small claims clerk can provide you with information regarding ways to collect on your judgment but may not provide you with legal advice.