A court trial in Dublin Mayor’s Court is a formal hearing where all the facts of a case are heard and a magistrate makes the final decision. This hearing usually occurs after a defendant has pled not guilty and was unsuccessful at resolving the case during pretrial. The magistrate will examine the evidence and information presented by both the defense and prosecution during this hearing. The burden of proving the defendant’s guilt is on the prosecution and they must establish that fact beyond a reasonable doubt. There are no jury trials in Mayor’s Court. Court trials are held on Tuesday evenings at 4:30 pm.
There are specific rules about the kinds of evidence the court may consider and the manner in which the court can receive that evidence. They are contained in the Ohio Rules of Evidence. These rules can be complicated. The following, however, are some very basic parameters:
- Generally a person may testify to facts about which she or he has firsthand knowledge. In other words, they can testify about things they actually saw or heard.
- A defendant may take the stand to testify on his or her own behalf. A defendant who is not represented by an attorney may testify in narrative form rather than asking themselves questions. If a defendant chooses to take the stand, the prosecutor will be allowed to ask the him/her questions regarding their testimony.
- Photographs or other physical evidence (such as documents) may be presented to the court but they must be introduced and identified. How and when the evidence was obtained must be explained to the court. The court must also be provided with enough information to determine whether that evidence is what it purports to be and that it accurately represents what it claims to depict.
- The court may refuse to hear certain testimony or review certain physical evidence based upon the Ohio Rules of Evidence. While the court will generally explain the reason for its refusal, it will be impossible for the court to fully apprise you of the sum and substance of the evidentiary rules at trial.
Sequence of Events at Trial
The prosecution and the defense will both have an opportunity to present their case to the court. They can each make an opening statement, but are not required to do so.
The prosecutor presents his/her case first and will normally call at least one witness. That witness is usually the police officer who issued the citation. After the prosecutor finishes questioning his/her witnesses, the defendant/defense attorney is given the opportunity to ask them any questions. After the prosecutor finishes presenting his/her case, the defendant/defense attorney is given an opportunity to present his/her case.
The defendant may testify on his or her own behalf, but is not required to do so. On occasion, the defendant may have other witnesses as well. This is the only opportunity a defendant has to present his/her side of the story. It is important to bring any witnesses or evidence to court on the day of trial. The court will not consider affidavits or other written statements in lieu of a witness’ appearance at trial. If the defense wants a witness to come to court and they will not come willingly, a request may be made for a subpoena. It must be made in writing at least three weeks prior to the trial and there is a fee for each subpoena issued. Once the defendant/defense attorney finishes questioning his/her witnesses, the prosecutor is given the opportunity to ask them any questions.
After the prosecution and the defense have presented their case, they will both have an opportunity to make a closing statement, but are not required to do so. The magistrate will then make a finding of guilty or not guilty. If the defendant is found guilty, the magistrate will determine the sentence. This may include a fine and court costs, community service, jail time, and/or probation.
Court costs cannot be waived if a person is found guilty, unless the court determines the person is indigent. There may be additional costs incurred for subpoena fees, continuance fees, etc. These fees are in addition to standard costs.
Within 10 days from the date of the court trial, the defense may appeal the magistrate’s decision by filing a written request for a trial de novo with the Division of Court Services. The case is then transferred to the appropriate municipal court.