It is this court's firm belief that the interests of justice are best served when all parties to a proceeding are fully informed. It has been this court's experience that many defendants who appear for trial in traffic court feel unprepared for the formality of the proceedings.
The following information was created to help defendants who appear for trial better understand trial procedure. This information is not meant to constitute legal advice. It has been prepared to clear up the most commonly held misconceptions about trial procedure and answer some of the most frequently asked questions.
Judge A. Deane Buchanan
A trial is a proceeding in which the Prosecutor for the City of Cleveland Heights and/or the State of Ohio will try to convince the court that you have committed the traffic violation with which you have been charged. The prosecutor is required to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Trial Day Procedure
On you scheduled trial date arrive one half hour before scheduled time. You must check-in at 1:30 p.m. if you are scheduled for the afternoon docket. If you fail to appear promptly for check-in your case may not be heard that day and you will have to return on another date.
You should check-in with the bailiff in the court room when you first arrive. He will place your case on the list of those that are to proceed that day. For the most part, cases are tried in the order that the litigants appear, except that the court does rearrange its cases to some extent so that the shorter cases are tried first.
Please be prepared to spend several hours at court on the day that you appear. While the court makes every effort to move its docket expeditiously, it has no way to accurately predict the length of each individual trial.
Trial Process (Evidence)
Even though traffic trials are somewhat informal, the court must comply with all established trial procedures. There are very 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 which may assist you:
- 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.
- You may, but are not required to, take the stand and testify on your own behalf. If you do so without a lawyer you do not have to ask yourself questions but may testify in narrative form.
- You cannot read from a prepared statement on the stand.
- If you want to use a photograph or other physical evidence (such as a document) you must fully identify the object introduced and tell the court how and when you obtained it. You must supply the court with enough information for it to determine whether that evidence is what it purports to be and if it accurately represents what it claims to depict.
- The court may refuse to hear certain testimony or review certain physical evidence based upon the 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 Trial
Both the prosecution and the defendant will have an opportunity to present their case to the court. The prosecution presents its case first. Normally, it will call at least one witness. That witness is usually the officer who gave the citation. You will be given an opportunity to ask the prosecution’s witnesses questions once the prosecutor has finished questioning that witness.
After the prosecution rests its case the defendant is given an opportunity to put his or her case on. Normally, the defendant testifies on his or her own behalf. On occasion, defendants have other witnesses as well. Remember, this will be your only opportunity to present your side of the story so you must bring all of the witnesses or other evidence you want to show to the court on the day of trial.
Once you or any of your witnesses have completed their testimony the prosecutor will cross examine that individual. After you have finished presenting your case the court will render a judgment.
See Schedule for Court Costs for all criminal and traffic cases (including charges that can be waived). These costs CANNOT be waived if a person is found guilty, unless the court makes a determination that the person is indigent.
If you go to trail there may be additional costs incurred for subpoenas; witness fees; etc. These fees are in addition to the minimum $95.00 costs.