One of your most basic rights is THE RIGHT TO BE REPRESENTED BY LEGAL COUNSEL during most any legal proceeding.
In criminal or traffic cases (The State of Ohio vs. You) there are a number of things an attorney can do for you which most citizens either can't do or don't know how to do. These include:
- Negotiate your criminal or traffic case with the Prosecutor.
- Contest your case on a technical or administrative basis, according to the law.
If you are the defendant in a criminal or traffic case (The State of Ohio vs. You) charged with a misdemeanor of the 4th degree or higher offense, where the possibility that jail time may be one element of your sentence and you can't afford to hire an attorney, the Judge has the power to appoint an attorney to represent you if he finds you meet the Court's requirements for indigency. Your financial status will be investigated and if the Judge declares you qualified, a public defender will be appointed to represent you. This insures that everyone who comes into the Court charged with a crime against the State has legal representation if they want it. Persons charged with minor misdemeanor offenses where jail time can not be an element of the sentence are not eligible to apply for court appointed counsel.
An attorney can also represent you in a civil case (Another Individual vs. You). Your attorney not only protects your legal rights; he or she can also be your chief negotiator. Often in this type of case, a negotiated settlement is the best solution for everyone involved. If you can not afford counsel for your civil case, you may qualify to be represented by an attorney from the Legal Aide Society. You must contact the legal aide office in your county for further information. Attorneys for civil cases are not appointed by the Court.
The next time you are scheduled to appear in court, consider what type of case you are appearing for (criminal, traffic) or and what the consequences or costs of a decision against you might mean. Answering these questions should help you decide if you need an attorney or not.
If you want to hire or talk to an attorney about your case, there are two references you might consult to find a local attorney:
The yellow pages of most phone books contain lawyers under the heading ATTORNEY.
Warren County Bar Association attorney referral service: http://www.warrenbar.org/memberlist.aspx