Frequently Asked Questions
Ohio Criminal & DUI Defense
To the average person, the inner workings of the criminal justice system are foreign. Should you or a loved one find themselves in legal difficulty, it is of vital importance that you seek expert professional assistance. Help is just a phone call away. A fifteen year veteran of the practice, and a former assistant prosecutor with Hamilton County, Ohio, Criminal Defense Attorney Scott A. Rubenstein provides solutions to legal problems of all varieties. Please do not hesitate to contact Mr. Rubenstein at his office (513) 241-7460 or on his mobile phone (513) 260-2099. Every case is unique. The specific facts and circumstances of any case, are important to determining the best strategy to address an investigation, an arrest, and/or the filing of criminal charges. Initial confutations are always free of charge.
1. What happens after someone is arrested?
In Ohio, criminal cases can initiate in a number of ways. Whether there is some type of citizen complaint, an alarm drop, or whether the police officer happens upon a crime in progress, all prosecutions initiate with a police contact. Generally speaking, the responding officers secure the scene and begin the evidence collection process. In simple cases, this involves obtaining witness statements, collecting physical evidence, and writing reports. In more serious matters, criminalists and/or specialists from the investigative unit will follow up and conduct a more extensive inquiry. Notwithstanding the ongoing investigation, this can be the most beneficial time for a Criminal Defense Lawyer to make a dramatic impact in a pre-filing intervention, as the police and grand jury prosecutor usually know very little about the person arrested. Charges will initiate one of two ways. The officers could make an arrest immediately and refer the case for misdemeanor arraignment, or in the case of a felony, a grand jury report date. In the alternate, the investigating agency may present their case directly to the prosecutor’s office for a grand jury investigation. Either way, a grand jury prosecutor reviews the evidence to determine whether criminal charges – a misdemeanor or a felony – are warranted. While the grand jury process is not adversarial in nature, this is the first opportunity that defense counsel will have to get involved by providing mitigating information and/or evidence in defense of the arrested. The grand jury prosecutor, taking everything into consideration, has the option of recommending that the case be rejected for criminal prosecution, indicted as a misdemeanor, or indicted as a serious felony charge. If criminal charges are initiated, the matter will proceed to arraignment, and it will be assigned to a judge.
2. How do I “bail” someone out of jail? What do I risk, and can I get the bail money returned when the case is over?
Bail is financial assurance that a defendant will return to court after being released from custody. The bond set by the judge is not supposed to be punitive, it is intended to insure that the accused appears at all stages of the criminal proceedings. There are several different types of bonds in Ohio. There are bonds that can be posted anyway (at ten percent, by posting property within the county, and by professional surety or bail bondsman), there are straight bonds (bonds where the entire amount must be posted or where a professional surety or bail bondsman is needed), and there are own recognizance bonds (where a defendant is released on his or her signature and promise to return).
For most misdemeanor cases, there are standard bonds set by the municipal court. The bond amount depends on the level of offense and where the defendant resides. Bonds are set higher for out of county and out of state residents. Defendants who do not have a fixed, permanent address are considered out of state residents. Please note that no one will be released on charges of Domestic Violence, Menacing by Stalking or Violation of a Temporary Protection Order, or for violation of Bond conditions of Electronic Monitoring /Juris Monitor, pending review for bond setting by a Judge of The Hamilton County Municipal Court. There is a special technique to be employed by counsel to get a bond set in situations such as these.
Click HERE for a Municipal Court Bond Schedule.
Most of the time in DUI offenses or traffic offenses, the arresting officer will chose to cite the Defendant to Court. Ohio law requires that a DUI suspect be arraigned within five days of the day of arrest. It is of vital importance for a DUI suspect to obtain counsel immediately.
Every felony bond requires judicial review. Getting a criminal defense attorney involved immediately upon arrest can dramatically effect the bond set. Mr. Rubenstein has extensive experience representing Defendants at bond hearings. Mr. Rubenstein can sometimes get a bond set on serious misdemeanors and felonies prior to the defendant being surrendered to police custody. This streamlines the process, and avoids the defendant having to spend a protracted period of time in lockup.
Will the person who posts bond get the bond money back? Yes, after the case has been completely resolved. If the charges are dismissed or if the defendant is acquitted, all of the bond money is returned. If the charges result in a conviction, the person who posts bond will receive the bond money less a small fee imposed by the state. When a bondsman is used, a defendant pays about 10% of the entire amount to a bail company, which puts up the entire bail amount through a bond. Money paid to a bail bondsman is not refundable. It constitutes the fee that you are paying for the bail bond services.
3. Do I need a criminal defense lawyer if I have been falsely accused?
Just because allegations are levied, does not mean that charges will be formally filed. Often times officers exercise discretion at the scene, or upon a closer review of the evidence, the grand jury chooses not to indict. It is important to remember, however, that your innocence does not protect you. When innocent people are confronted with untrue, false, and/or absurd allegations, they frequently assume that this is a simple misunderstanding and that it will be cleared up quickly. The common assumption is that people will not be accused of doing things that they did not do, and that the legal system guarantees that citizens will not be falsely convicted. Unfortunately, false accusations are more common than we would like to think. For example, when DNA testing became a valid means of collecting criminal evidence, it was discovered that hundreds of people waiting on death row did not commit the crimes for which they were falsely convicted.
Our criminal justice system is not perfect. Police Officers do make mistakes and grand juries do indict bad cases. When honest police officers are doing their best to objectively investigate crime, they can not prevent bad actors from levying false accusations for some ulterior motive. People have been falsely accused of rape, domestic violence, theft/ property crimes, and even murder.
Being falsely accused of a crime does not alter the way the criminal prosecution should be approached. The accused should never believe that because he or she is innocent and has nothing to hide, that there is no need for legal representation. In fact, there is perhaps an even greater need for legal advocacy in the case of an individual who did not do what he or she is charged with doing.
If you have been falsely accused, you may wonder: How serious are the charges? What am I supposed to do? How can I prove that I am innocent? What are my rights and legal options? It is crucial to secure the services of a qualified and experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as you are falsely charged with a criminal offense. It is important to find an attorney with experience representing those who have been accused of a similar criminal offense. Criminal defense attorney Scott A. Rubenstein will be able to evaluate your case to determine the very best way to protect your legal interests.
4. The person that called the police does not want to prosecute, does that mean that no charges will be filed and that I will be released from custody?
Not necessarily. A call to the police has consequences; it puts a whole range of actions in motion. When a criminal investigation is initiated, the authorities (public interest) have a steak in the outcome. The case will be captioned: “State of Ohio v. Defendant”–not “Complaining Witness v. Defendant.” That being said, in many instances, the State cannot proceed without the cooperation of the prosecuting witness.
Prosecutors are aware of the reasons why a complaining witness may have a change of heart. The accusations could be false. Charges can be levied out of spite or to harass. A mistake could have been made, revealing that the allegations are without merit. Sometimes a relationship exists that causes the prosecuting witness to reconsider involving the criminal justice system. Sometimes the complainant decides that he or she no longer wants to prosecute. Fear and/or coercion can effect a complainant’s desire to proceed. The prosecution must consider all of these contingencies when contemplating moving forward. The prosecutor will try to determine the reason for the change in the accuser’s disposition. Taking all things into account, the prosecutor may elect to proceed without the victim or without the victim’s blessing.
5. Does Mr. Rubenstein need the entire legal fee immediately?
In most cases a payment plan can be worked out. Mr. Rubenstein accepts credit cards, and has written retainer agreements.
6. What happens at the first court hearing after charges are filed? What is an arraignment?
Simply put, an arraignment is the formal notification that charges have been filed. An individual accused of a crime and taken into custody, must be brought before a judge within forty-eight (48) hours of his or her arrest. If the person is cited to court (issued a summons), the arraignment is typically scheduled within a week of the arrest. At the arraignment, the judge will address the custodial status of the defendant. In other words, the terms and conditions of bond will be set. In felony cases, it is important to get a skilled criminal defense attorney involved in order to advocate for reasonable conditions for bail. In DUI cases, a skilled attorney will preserve potential issues in the case and will seek driving privileges. In most misdemeanor offenses, a defendant’s presence can be waived by counsel–thereby avoiding any inconvenience caused by an otherwise mandatory court appearance. With very few exceptions, a “not guilty” plea will be tendered at the arraignment, and the matter will be continued to the trial court for disposition.
7. What is a misdemeanor?
Misdemeanors are less serious charges than felonies. Many criminal offenses and almost all traffic offenses are classified as misdemeanors under Ohio law. Misdemeanors are categorized by degree, with a first degree misdemeanor being most serious and a minor misdemeanors being the least. The maximum penalty for a misdemeanor offense is one hundred eighty days in jail and/or up to a one thousand dollar ($1,000.00) fine. In spite of the fact that these charges are considered less serious, they still can carry severe penalties and grave collateral consequences. A skilled and aggressive criminal defense strategy can limit the impact of a misdemeanor arrest on an individual’s job and life. Counsel can help avoid incarceration, and aid in the shaping of the terms and conditions of probation. Examples of misdemeanors are OVI/ DUI, driving under suspension, hit and run, domestic violence, simple assault, petty theft, criminal damaging, and disorderly conduct.
8. What is a felony?
A felony is a criminal offense that is punishable by at lease six months in the Ohio Department of Corrections–prison. Felonies are serious criminal offenses and are considered more severe than misdemeanors. Felonies are also classified by degree, with a first degree felony being the most serious and a fifth degree felony being the least. Murder cases and some variations or rape are considered Special Felonies–they carry the potential for life imprisonment. Examples of felonies include Murder, Vehicular Homicide, Aggravated Vehicular Assault (DUI causing serious injury), Sex Crimes, Child Molestation, Arson, Grand Theft, Embezzlement, and Rape. These offenses carry substantial prison time under the Ohio Revised Code.
9. In a DUI/ OVI case, should I go and plead guilty without a lawyer?
The answer to this question is a resounding NO. While every citizen has an absolute right to represent themselves, known as acting “pro-se,” it is not advisable. A “pro se” litigant is held to the same standards as an experienced and trained trial attorney. DUI/ OVI cases are highly technical. Attorneys that are skilled in DUI/ OVI defense can identify issues in a case that can be used as leverage in plea negotiations and/or potentially used in a successful trial strategy. Mr. Rubenstein’s courtroom and Appellate experience has shown that “pro-se” litigant cannot do nearly as good of a job defending themselves as an experienced criminal defense attorney can—even if the litigant is a civil attorney who does not have a criminal defense or prosecution background. As a former Assistant Hamilton County Prosecutor, Mr. Rubenstein has dealt with many “pro-se” litigants in court and has seen numerous errors committed by people representing themselves.
DUI/ OVI charges carry mandatory jail time and a mandatory license suspension. A DUI/ OVI conviction is non-expugnable and can have significant collateral consequences. Aggressive representation can limit a litigant’s suspension and sometimes secure occupational, school, and hardship driving privileges. Representation can also aid in commuting a mandatory jail sentence to participation in a driver’s intervention program–thereby avoiding the need to sit in a county jail cell for multiple days. This area of the law is in constant flux. A Skilled criminal defense attorney keeps abreast of new developments in the law. In order to achieve the best possible result, a person charged with DUI/OVI needs competent, expert counsel.
10. If I was arrested for a felony, does that mean I will face felony charges in court?
A Grand Jury Prosecutor makes an independent decision on what charges to indict, irrespective of what the arrest was for. Sometimes when police agencies charge individuals with felony offenses, a review at the Grand Jury level can result in the charges either being ignored entirely, or indicted as misdemeanors. Immediate pre-indictment intervention by Mr. Rubenstein can make a difference.
11. What if I feel that the police violated my constitutional rights?
Both the Federal and State Constitutions endow every citizen with fundamental rights. These include the right to be free from illegal search and seizure, the right against self-incrimination, and the right to the assistance of counsel. A criminal defense attorney is charged with the duty of protecting the rights of his or her clients. When evidence is taken in violation of an individual’s rights, be it as a result of an illegal search or unlawful interrogation, a skilled criminal defense attorney can seek to exclude the evidence from the government’s case. Any time a traffic stop yields to a search of a vehicle, a search is conducted at an individuals home or place of work, or a suspect is interrogated, the potential for abuse exists. A skilled attorney not only defends his client, the attorney defends the Constitutional protections that we all enjoy. Police misconduct is unacceptable, and it must be guarded against at every turn. Mr. Rubenstein’s uses his skill as an accomplished trial and appellate attorney to ferret out potential constitutional violations. By successfully raising these issues in Court, Mr. Rubenstein can substantially limit the government’s ability to proceed with prosecution. This can result in either a favorable plea deal or the dismissal of the charges all together.
12. I have been charged with a crime in Ohio, should I hire a criminal defense attorney?
If you are charged with a criminal offense in the State of Ohio, it is vital that you consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney. In choosing a lawyer, you need to confer with an attorney that specializes in criminal defense work. You need an attorney that has experience handling the same type of offense(s) that you have been charged with. Just as important, the attorney needs to be well acquainted with the court and the prosecutor’s office for the jurisdiction in which you are charged. Hiring a skilled and accomplished attorney is the best decision you can make. The right lawyer will protect your rights, help you navigate through a complex legal system, and ensure that you achieve the best possible result. Zealous advocacy on behalf of the accused is absolutely necessary for the proper functioning of our criminal justice system. If you or a loved one has been accused of a crime, you need to hire the best attorney possible.
13. Do you present evidence of mitigation in a courtroom on behalf of clients?
The goal of mitigation is to blunt or soften the results of a criminal conviction. In most scenarios, an individual’s contact with the criminal justice system is not their finest hour. Good people are certainly capable of making poor decisions or making mistakes. It is important for the Judge and prosecutor to know the true character of the accused, and/or to understand the extenuating circumstances that surround an individual’s contact with the criminal justice system. Mr. Rubenstein is skilled in providing the court with the full picture. Mr. Rubenstein employs a cadre of forensic experts that can identify and diagnose substance abuse issues and/or mental health concerns that sometime contribute to criminal contacts. When a problem is identified, an effective treatment regimen can be put in place. These experts can help convey that the criminal offense is aberrant behavior, and not indicative of the accused’s typical disposition. Even if these issues are not present, it is important to highlighting the positive attributes and contributions of clients. A complete and thorough investigation of a clients circumstances is imperative to successfully advocated in that client’s behalf. This is just the type of approach that can favorably change the outcome.
14. If the defendant is not a U.S. citizen, how will the immigration status be affected by an arrest?
Criminal arrests, and more to the point, criminal convictions can have grievous implications for an individual’s immigration status. In today’s climate, the federal Immigration and Nationalization Service (“INS”) has been vigilant regarding enforcement. Often times an “immigration hold” will be placed on an inmate, subjecting him or her to deportation proceedings. As the INS guidelines are often very complex, Mr. Rubenstein frequently confers with immigration law specialists to properly advise clients. Dealing with potential immigration issues is an important component of a competent and complete criminal defense. Cognizant of this issue, Mr. Rubenstein always confers with clients about their residency status and any potential immigration problems. When ever necessary, Mr. Rubenstein employs the help of an expert immigration lawyer to help navigate the impact that any criminal charges may have on his clients. Deportation may be preventable. Mr. Rubenstein has long standing relationships with a select group of experienced and competent immigration attorneys. These associations have proven to be a critical component to Mr. Rubenstein’s ability to aggressively and effectively defend the rights of his clients.
15. State v. Federal Court: What is the difference in criminal defense issues?
In Southwest Ohio, both the State and Federal courts have jurisdiction over potential criminal prosecutions. Federal court cases are typically investigated by federal agencies, including the FBI, DEA, Customs, Treasury, and other federal agencies. Recently, numerous task forces have been formed between local state and federal agencies in Southern Ohio to funnel more cases (typically guns and drugs) into the federal system–where the penalties can be much more severe. Sometimes state and local agencies file charges in federal court if the offenses involve major quantity of drugs, weapons or other contraband. This, however, is rare.
The federal government focuses its resources on a fewer number of cases. These cases, however, typically constitute larger conspiracies, spanning multiple jurisdictions. Complex white collar cases are also typically the province of federal court. For the most part, it is definitely in a criminal defendant’s interest to be prosecuted in state, rather than federal court. The state of Ohio’s sentencing system has more flexibility in terms of alternative sentencing options than the United States Sentencing Guidelines.
16. Drug Addiction – How is this issue addressed within the court system, and within Mr. Rubenstein’s criminal defense practice?
Drug addiction is often times the precursor or the root cause of criminal behavior. Whether it is a DUI/OVI arrest, or the arrest for a theft or property crime related to fueling an addiction, drug addiction is the most common driver for criminal activity. There are numerous drug programs in Hamilton County, in-patient and out-patient, available to treat drug and alcohol addiction. Additionally, Hamilton County has a Drug Court Diversion Program. Drug Court Diversion is also known as intervention in lieu of conviction. This technique can be employed to avoid a criminal conviction by participating in and successfully completing the appropriate drug treatment regiment. Mr. Rubenstein has effectively utilized this program for scores of clients. Reducing the risk of relapse and/or recidivism is key to the successful handling of an addiction related offense. For that reasons, Mr. Rubenstein encourages clients to seek the help of professional clinicians. Mr. Rubenstein has the expertise to connect his clients with the appropriate counseling/ services. With this type of comprehensive approach to an addiction related offense, Mr. Rubenstein ensures the best possibility of a favorable result.
17. Failing to Appear in Court.
If you or a loved one fails to appear in court, typically a capias warrant is issued. Depending upon the nature and severity of the charges, such a warrant can be withdrawn upon the motion of an attorney. Under these circumstances, a court date can be reset, and the case can be put back on track. There are a lot of variables involved in these situations, and they turn on their unique and individual facts. Mr. Rubenstein has been very effective in resolving these issues favorably. If you or a loved one has a capias warrant, it is of vital importance to contact a criminal defense lawyer immediately.
18. How can I clear up an arrest warrant?
In order to “clear up” an arrest warrant, a defendant must appear in front of the appropriate court. An experienced and skilled defense attorney can make arrangements to ease the surrender process. This can often facilitate getting a bond set and avoiding any unnecessary detention. An individual should seek to address an open warrant as soon as they are made aware of it. Being proactive in this regard will make addressing the issue of bond easier. If you find that you have an open warrant, please contact Attorney Scott A. Rubenstein immediately.
19. Why should I hire Scott A. Rubenstein?
Mr. Rubenstein is a skilled an reputable criminal defense attorney in Southwest Ohio. Having practiced in the State and Federal Courts of Ohio for the last fifteen years, Mr. Rubenstein has the experience and the know-how to see his clients through their most difficult times. As a former Assistant Prosecutor for Hamilton County, Mr. Rubenstein utilizes his unique perspective and training to marshal his clients through the criminal justice system. A hard working and dedicated attorney, Mr. Rubenstein will ensure that he gives your case the time, the resources, and the effort necessary to achieve the best possible result. Mr. Rubenstein is known for his zealous advocacy. Please call Mr. Rubenstein to discuss your case: office (513) 241-7460, mobile (513) 260-2099.
20. What types of cases does Scott A. Rubenstein handle?
Mr. Rubenstein handles all misdemeanor and felony cases involving: DUI, Sex Crimes, White Collar Crimes, Drug Crimes, Violent Crimes, Federal Crimes, Domestic Violence, Juvenile Crimes, and Theft Crimes. Mr. Rubenstein also represent clients who have been charged with property crimes, Internet crimes, leaving the scene of an accident, and probation violation. Additionally, Mr. Rubenstein is able to help clients with their warrant, BMV suspension, expungement, and appellate matters.