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 Printed on 6/22/2024 at 10:51:32 AM 



        Do I need to talk to the Civil Division or the Criminal Division?


         This depends on whether the case you are calling about. The Civil Division of the Court deals with cases where lawsuits have been filed for money damages and eviction cases.  If you have a question about a case involving a lawsuit for money, garnishment proceedings (or other types of collection efforts) or an eviction, you need to speak with a clerk in the Civil Division. 


The Criminal Division handles cases where a person has been charged with a crime, including traffic-related offenses such as DUI or DUS (driving under suspension). 


If you are calling with a question about a traffic citation, you will need to speak with a clerk in the Traffic Department.


Remember!  The Deputy Clerks you will be speaking with are not authorized to continue cases or adjust findings.  Also, they are not attorneys and are not allowed to give you legal advice.


        I’ve been scheduled for an arraignment.  What does that mean?


        An arraignment is typically your first appearance in Court, and your first opportunity to speak with either a Judge or a Magistrate.  At your arraignment, you will be advised of the nature of the charges against you, the possible penalties if you are found guilty of the crime, the issue of bond, if bond has not already been set, and the case will be scheduled for further proceedings, if appropriate.


        Where do I go once I get to Court?


        Once at Court you should locate the posted docket.  Check for your name on the docket to verify that you are scheduled.  If you cannot find your name on any of the dockets, go to the Clerk of Court’s Office and ask for assistance.


        Do I need to appear at the arraignment?


        Attorneys can avoid the need to appear at arraignment by sending in a written “Not Guilty” plea to the Court, either via fax or regular mail in misdemeanor cases.  Counsel should remember to indicate in this communication if they are waiving speedy trial and requesting a pre-trial conference.


          Counsel should also pay attention to additional “first appearance” issues, such as vehicle immobilizations, ALS suspension issues, etc., when determining to submit a written not guilty letter.


        I’m scheduled to appear for a pre-trial.  What does that mean?


        Pre-trials can be scheduled in criminal cases and in civil cases, but not typically in traffic cases.  A criminal pre-trial is the opportunity for your case to be discussed with a Magistrate or the Judge and the prosecutor representing the community that is pursuing the case against you.  Typically pre-trials will be requested by your attorney.  Berea Municipal Court has a policy of “open discovery”, which means that the prosecutor will allow you at pre-trial to view the contents of your file without the necessity of filing a formal motion for discovery.  In the event that you require additional information, a formal motion will be reviewed after the pre-trial has been completed.

If the case can be resolved by means of a plea-bargain, the case could be concluded at the pre-trial conference.  If an acceptable plea-bargain can be negotiated, or the case cannot otherwise be resolved, the case will be scheduled for trial.


        What if my case is resolved at pre-trial, but I don’t have the money to pay my fines and court costs on that day?


        Typically, if your case is resolved, but you need additional time to come up with the money for fines and costs, you can ask that your case be scheduled for a change of plea hearing.


          At a pretrial or change of plea hearing, you and your lawyer will be called up in front of the Judge, you will formally change your plea to either Guilty or No Contest, and the Judge will formally read the sentence into the record.  You will be expected to pay for fines and costs in full on that day.


Can I get a payment plan?


        The Berea Municipal Court does not normally allow payment plans. The Court accepts cash, check, money orders, MasterCard and Visa for your convenience in addition to online payment for waiverable offenses.  If you find yourself unable to pay fines and costs, you should let the Court know immediately so your situation can be reviewed. 


        I’m supposed to be in Court, but my car broke down, I’m going on vacation, I’m going to be out of town for work, etc. What do I do?


        The Court will typically grant a first request for a continuance if the request is filed in writing with the Court as soon as possible, and if the request is for a good reason.  Mail, fax or bring your written request in to the Court as soon as possible and it will be given to a Judge for a ruling.  Be aware that if the Court denies your request for a continuance, or if you have not been notified that your request has been granted, you are expected to appear on the scheduled date.   


My request for a continuance was denied, but I really can’t come to Court.  What is going to happen when I don’t show up?


        If your Motion to Continue was denied, the end result will depend on what type of case you have.  If you are the Plaintiff in a civil case, failure to appear at hearing could result in a dismissal of your case. If you are the Defendant in a civil case, failure to appear at hearing could result in a judgment being rendered against you for the amount of money requested by the Plaintiff.


          If you are the Defendant in a traffic or criminal case, failure to appear could result in a warrant for your arrest and a forfeiture of any posted bond.  If your bond is forfeited, you could be forced to post a higher bond and any cash bond you had previously posted could be turned over to the Court and you would not get it back.


          If you are a subpoenaed witness, and you fail to appear at the scheduled date and time, a warrant could be issued for your arrest.


        I missed my court date and now there’s a warrant out for me. What do I do?


        If you are represented by an attorney, he or she should be contacted immediately to discuss your options.  If you are not represented by counsel, you should report to the Court immediately. 


        I missed my civil trial.  Now what do I do?


        If you are the Plaintiff, and you failed to appear at a scheduled trial date, most likely your case has been dismissed. If you are the Defendant, and you failed to appear at a scheduled trial date, most likely a judgment was rendered against you.


 If your case was a small claims case, you will be receiving a Magistrate’s Decision which indicates the outcome of the case.  You can file an objection to the Magistrate’s decision, within 14 days of receipt, indicating why you failed to appear, and request that the Judge reinstate your case.  However, be advised that because of the time constraints for filing objections, your objections may be overruled if they are not timely filed.


If your case was on the regular civil docket, you may file a request for reconsideration with the Judge, explaining the circumstances surrounding your failure to appear.  However, filing this does not extend the time to file an appeal.  If you are uncertain about what to do, you should contact an attorney immediately to discuss your rights.


        Can I mail in my fines and costs?


        If you have a waiverable offense you are permitted to mail your fines and costs provided they arrive prior to your scheduled court date.  You must come to the Court on your scheduled hearing for non-wariverable offenses.


        My ticket says that it is waiverable. How can I find out the amount necessary to pay the waiver?


        Waiverable citation amounts are listed on the website under the “Waiverable Offenses” section.  The amount listed will include the fine and applicable court costs. Failure to include the appropriate amount may result in your appearance being required at the scheduled court date.


        Why do I have to pay court costs on a waiverable offense when no appearance is necessary?


        Many court costs have been established by the State Legislature, and must be collected in every case.  Even though you may be waiving the offense, the Court must process your case for reporting purposes.  Therefore, in addition to statutory fees, there are internal court costs incurred as the result of waiverable offense for which you are responsible.


        Can I fax my pleading to the Court?


        Once a case has been initiated, i.e., the civil complaint has already been filed, or the traffic/criminal case has been initiated, the Court will accept a fax pleading.  If the pleading is one that requires payment of court costs, you must hand deliver or mail your pleading in with the appropriate court costs.  You must follow up any fax pleadings by filing the corresponding original signed pleading at the Court in person as soon as possible.


        Do I have to have a lawyer?


        You are constitutionally guaranteed the right to represent yourself in Court.  You cannot, however, represent another person or business entity, unless you are an attorney.   For example, property managers for corporate rental properties cannot file an eviction or appear on behalf of their corporate client.  To do so is engaging in the unauthorized practice of law, which can have serious ramifications.


          Be advised that if you choose to represent yourself, you are responsible for the full knowledge of the law and will be expected to present yourself and your case within the Rules established by the Court and the law.  Staff in the Clerk’s Office cannot give you legal advice, and the Judges and Magistrates cannot give you legal advice.  If you have questions, you should consult an attorney.


        If you have been charged with a crime for which the possible penalties include jail, and you cannot afford an attorney, you may be eligible for a court appointed attorney.  Berea Municipal Court does not have public defenders, however, there are several attorneys who have agreed to represent defendants who do not have the financial resources to retain an attorney.  If you need a court appointed attorney, you should make this request to the Bailiff immediately upon your first court appearance.


          If you are a party in a civil case, and desire an attorney but cannot afford one, you should contact the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland by calling their number at (216) 687-1900 to see if you are eligible.


        Can I do community service instead of jail time?


        Typically the Court does not allow community service for traffic/criminal related offences.  If you wish to do community service, you should make your request known before you are sentenced. 


        My mother, brother, sister, friend was driving my car, and now my car has been seized.  What should I do?


        If your vehicle has been seized due to the driver being stopped for DUI or DUS (driving under suspension), you should plan to appear at Court on the driver’s first scheduled hearing date.  If you are seeking the release of your vehicle, you should be prepared to show the Court your 1) proof of vehicle ownership and 2) proof of insurance.  You must also be prepared to show the Court your valid operator’s license, or have two licensed drivers with you at the time (one to drive you to the vehicle, one to drive your car).  Failure to have any one of these three things could prevent the Court from issuing a release for you to pick up your vehicle.  In the event that there have been costs or fees incurred with the seizure of your vehicle, it is your responsibility to address these issues with the tow lot.


        I did not have my proof of insurance with me when I was cited. What should I do?


        If you have been scheduled for a hearing, bring proof of insurance covering the time period during which you received the citation with you to Court.


        If you are waiving the ticket, make sure you include a copy (not your original) of proof of insurance covering the time period during which you received the citation along with your check.  


          If our records do not reflect proof of insurance when the case is completed, the BMV may treat as an FRA suspension.


        My relative was arrested and I posted a bond for his release.  When will I get my money back?


         First, you should be aware that the purpose of any bond is to guarantee that the defendant will make all scheduled court appearances.  If the defendant fails to appear at court appearances, you may not get the bond money back.  This is known as a bond forfeiture.


          The return of your bond money depends on what type of bond you posted, and when the case is concluded. If you posted a cash/surety bond by using a bail bondsman, you will not get that money back.  If you posted a cash bond with the Court, your money will be returned at the absolute end of the case, if the defendant made all court appearances.  You will need to present your receipt to the cashier after the defendant is sentenced and any other outstanding costs have been paid.  


        I won my Small Claims case.  When will the Defendant send me my money?


        Winning your judgment does not automatically mean the Defendant pay you.  You may be forced to “execute” on your judgment, which means attempt to collect.  You must decide how to accomplish that as the Court only processes the forms you file.  You can obtain copies of forms for wage garnishments, bank attachments, debtor’s examinations, etc. from the Court. You should be prepared, most “executions” require you to pay filing fees to file them, and failure to pay those costs may result in your documents being returned to you.   For more information on small claims judgments, refer to the “Small Claims Procedures” section of this website.  For more information on Court Costs, see the “Court Costs” section of this website.


        Why can’t the Court make the Defendant pay? Isn’t that what I went to Court for?


        No. The role of the Court is to determine whether or not you are entitled to the money for which you have sued.  Then, if the Defendant doesn’t pay a judgment, the Court will process the paperwork, which you file in an attempt to collect on your judgment.


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