Frequently Asked Questions
- How do I get a public defender assigned to my case?
- Are public defenders real lawyers?
- When will I get to speak with my attorney?
- Is there anything I can do to help my attorney with my case?
- What is an arraignment?
- What does it mean to have conditions to bond?
- What is a pre-trial?
- What is discovery?
- What is a plea bargain?
- What is a trial?
How do I get a public defender assigned to my case?
The Geauga County Public Defender Office represents indigent people charged with crimes or acts of delinquency. Indigency is based upon the U.S. poverty guidelines. Everyone represented by the Public Defender Office must complete a financial disclosure form.
If you are an adult appearing in the Geauga County Common Pleas Court or the Chardon Municipal Court, you need to complete the financial disclosure form either at the Geauga County Public Defender Office or the court. You will be asked to provide verification of your income and expenses. In the Common Pleas Court, a public defender will be present at your initial appearance and/or arraignment and will have the form available for you.
Do not wait until the last minute to request a lawyer. Lawyers will not represent you without adequate time to prepare and will not request a continuance for you.
If you are a minor child appearing the Geauga County Juvenile Court, the judge will appoint the Public Defender Office to represent you if you are charged with a felony or violent crime. If you are charged with a misdemeanor offense, tell the judge that you want to be represented. You will have to complete the financial disclosure form at the Juvenile Court and submit it to the clerk. The judge will then appoint the Public Defender Office.
Parents: If your child is represented by the Public Defender Office, please be advised that the public defender represents your child, not you. Your child is entitled to a confidential meeting with his/her attorney. The public defender is happy to speak with you but will not disclose anything protected by attorney-client privilege.
Are public defenders real lawyers?
Yes, public defenders are lawyers. All lawyers licensed in the State of Ohio met academic and continuing legal education requirements and have passed a state bar examination. Attorneys working at the Geauga County Public Defender Office have the necessary experience and skills to handle your case.
When will I get to speak with my attorney?
Clients of the Geauga County Public Defender Office are encouraged to schedule appointments with their attorneys. You will receive written notification of the name of your attorney. You should call and schedule an appointment. If you have not received written notification within one week of your application for appointed counsel, you should contact the Public Defender Office.
If you are in jail, your attorney will come to see you, time permitting.
The attorneys in Geauga County Public Defender Office are often in court throughout the day. If your lawyer is unavailable when you call, the staff may be able to help you so please address your question or concern with staff. This communication is protected by attorney client privilege. Messages are also confidential.
Is there anything I can do to help my attorney with my case?
Yes. Be on time for appointments and court appearances. If you are late for an appointment, your attorney may not be able to accommodate you. If you fail to appear for a court hearing, the judge will issue a warrant for your arrest. Cases will not be continued at the last minute. If you do not drive and need transportation to court, it is your responsibility to make arrangements in advance of your court date.
Cooperate with your attorney. If you know of potential witnesses, give your attorney their names, addresses, and telephone numbers. Do so in a timely manner as witnesses must be contacted and interviewed before testifying.
Always keep the Geauga County Public Defender Office informed of any change in address and telephone number. The Public Defender Office must know how to contact you. If you do not appear for court because you moved and did not receive a hearing notice, the court will issue a warrant for your arrest.
Do not discuss your case with anyone, including police officers and prosecutors. If you are in jail, do not discuss your case with other inmates or anyone whom you call on the telephone. It is not unusual for the police and prosecution to use informants who could end up testifying against you. Do not send letters to judges. It is best to allow any communication regarding your case come through your attorney.
In felony and misdemeanor cases, the court will explain the charges against you and the potential penalties. Either you, or the court on your behalf, will enter a not guilty plea.
In felony cases, your case will be assigned to a judge. This means that all of the proceedings in your case will be before the assigned judge. There are two common pleas judges in Geauga County.
The court will set a bond for you. The bond is designed to insure that you show up for court when required. In the event that you fail to appear in court, the judge will issue a warrant, called a capias, for your arrest. The bond amount set by the judge takes into consideration the seriousness of the charges against you, the extent of your criminal record, and whether you are a flight risk.
What does it mean to have conditions to bond?
Conditions are requirements that you must meet while you are on bond. Typical conditions include reporting to a pre-trial officer, refraining from illegal substance use and random testing, and restricting contact with alleged victims.
For misdemeanor cases in the Chardon Municipal Court, it is not unusual for defendants to be asked to submit to a urine screen randomly.
A pre-trial is a meeting between the defense attorney and prosecutor to discuss your case. If there are legal problems with your case, your attorney will file any necessary pre-trial motions. The court may schedule these motions for hearings.
Discovery is the process whereby the state is required to produce the evidence against you, as well as any exculpatory evidence. Your attorney will review the discovery with you when you schedule an appointment. You should not expect your attorney to have the time to review the discovery with you at your pre-trial.
A plea bargain is an offer from the prosecutor to reduce charges, dismiss some charges, or make a favorable sentencing recommendation in exchange for your guilty plea, or in juvenile court, a true plea. Your attorney is required to tell you about any offer the prosecutor makes, even if you have expressed your desire to go to trial.
A trial is the determination of whether an accused is proven guilty or not guilty.
In juvenile court, a trial is called an adjudicatory hearing. A judge will determine whether the case is true or not true.