Ohio's Judicial System:
What you should know
What Do County Prosecuting Attorneys Do?
Ohio’s county prosecuting attorneys are primarily
ministers of justice and the voice for victims. As
ministers of justice, prosecuting attorneys play an integral
role in our public safety. They prosecute adults accused of
felony crimes and juveniles accused of delinquent acts.
Some Ohio county prosecuting attorneys prosecute adult
misdemeanor offenses, as well. At the same time, prosecuting
attorneys are the courtroom advocates for victims of crime
and their families.
Within each of Ohio’s 88 counties, the office of prosecuting
attorney will differ somewhat in size and scope, according to
the available needs and resources. However, all prosecuting
attorneys work closely with law enforcement to pursue
convictions for those guilty of crime and to stand up for the
rights of victims. In addition, prosecuting attorneys and their
staff are responsible for the legal needs of all county and
township officials, and serve as counsel for those offices.
County prosecuting attorneys begin criminal casework once
they have determined that law enforcement officers have
collected enough evidence to suggest a felony offense has
been committed. If arrested, the accused appears before a
municipal court judge who will hold a preliminary hearing
to determine whether there is “probable cause” that the
individual committed the alleged offense. If probable cause exists, the case is bound over to the court of common pleas.
A case cannot proceed to trial in the court of common pleas
unless it first goes through a grand jury.
The prosecuting attorney presents the case to the grand jury
on behalf of the State of Ohio. In this proceeding, only the
prosecuting attorney, the grand jury members, and witnesses
are authorized to attend. When a grand jury finds probable
cause that a person committed the alleged offense, it votes to
indict that person (now called a defendant), and the case is
then set for trial in the county's court of common pleas.
At this point, the prosecuting attorney presents the case against the defendant. Cases can be resolved in one of several
ways – by a plea agreement reached between the prosecutor’s office and the defendant’s attorney before the case goes to
trial, by jury verdict at the end of a trial, or by the decision of
the judge alone when the defendant decides not to have a jury
hear the evidence. The latter is referred to as a bench trial.
Throughout this process, prosecuting attorneys balance their
duties as ministers of justice and as advocates for the victims
of crime, with their ethical duty to pursue evidence that either
may exonerate a person accused of a crime, or mitigate
punishment. Prosecuting attorneys make sure victims are
aware of court dates, the status of pending court cases and the
availability of appropriate community resources and services.
Prosecuting attorneys also invite the input of crime victims
and take their feelings and wishes into account during the
prosecution and resolution of the case against the defendant.
Prosecuting attorneys also recognize the importance of
educating the general public, news media, local office holders,
and other constituencies on the roles and responsibilities of
their office. In addition, they are proactive supporters of
community safety initiatives, especially for seniors, children
Ohio’s County Prosecuting Attorneys:
|• Work with law enforcement agencies to pursue
convictions for people guilty of crimes.
• Serve as legal counsel for all county and township
• Advocate for crime victims and their families.
• Pursue evidence that may exonerate an innocently
accused person or mitigate punishment.
• Support and promote community safety initiatives.
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