We Know You Have Questions

At the Cleveland criminal defense law firm of Marein and Bradley we find that educating our clients is critical. We know that if you are charged with a crime you may have some questions regarding criminal defense. We have put together a list of the most commonly asked questions to help inform you of the basics. If you have any additional questions, please contact us at 216-781-0722.

Most people have very little experience with the criminal justice system in Cleveland and beyond. It’s natural to feel overwhelmed and scared should you find yourself on the wrong side of the law. Below is a very basic outline of the government’s process for controlling crime and imposing penalties on those who break the law. Of course, this system is very complex and varies considerably based on the severity of the offense, whether the accused is a juvenile or an adult, and what state you reside in. Every case is unique; only an experienced Ohio criminal defense attorney can advise and guide you through the legal process to ensure the best outcome.

Entry into the System

  • Report: Law enforcement officers receive report of a crime.
  • Investigation: Law enforcement officers investigate the crime, identify a suspect, and collect evidence against the suspect.
  • Arrest or citation: If law enforcement has enough evidence to implicate someone, they may arrest the suspect or issue a citation to appear in court later.


  • Charges: A prosecutor considers the evidence collected by law enforcement and decides whether to file written charges or release the accused without prosecution.
  • First court appearance: If charges are filed, the accused appears in court to be informed of the charges against him. A judge decides whether there is enough evidence to hold the accused or release him. If the accused does not already have a defense attorney, the court may appoint one.
  • Bail or bond: At the first court appearance, the judge may decide to hold the accused in jail or release him on bail, bond, or on his own recognizance.
  • Grand Jury: In Ohio, an accused has the right to have a felony case be considered by a grand jury. The grand jury hears evidence presented by the prosecution without the defense present or participating. The grand jurors thereafter vote as to whether a true bill indictment should be returned thereby formally charging someone with a felony offense.
  • Arraignment: The defendant is brought before a judge to be informed of charges against him and his rights. The defendant can plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest (i.e., accepting the penalty for a crime without admitting guilt). If the defendant pleads guilty or no contest, or if a plea agreement has been negotiated, no trial is held and the defendant is sentenced. If the defendant pleads not guilty, a date for the trial is set.

Trials are held before a judge (called a “bench trial”) or a judge and jury (a “jury trial”), depending on the seriousness of the crime. Prosecutors and defense attorneys present evidence and question witnesses. The judge or jury finds the defendant either guilty or not guilty. If the defendant is found not guilty, the defendant is released; if he is found guilty, the judge sets a later date for sentencing.


  • Sentencing: At a hearing, a judge decides the offender’s sentence, which could include restitution (i.e., paying the victim); paying court fines; probation; or jail or prison.
  • Appeals: After conviction by a jury, an individual can pursue an appeals process that can involve seeking a new trial or petitioning to overturn a sentence.

Police and other law enforcement officers respond to and take reports on crimes that are committed within their jurisdiction. Officers investigate crimes, gather and protect evidence, arrest offenders, and testify for the prosecution in court.

Prosecutors are lawyers who represent the state or federal government in court. Prosecutors review evidence given to them by law enforcement and decide whether there is enough cause to file criminal charges against someone or drop the case. Prosecutors present evidence in court, question witnesses, and decide whether or not to negotiate plea deals with defendants.

Defense attorneys defend the accused against the government’s case, standing between their clients and law enforcement officers, the prosecution, and the court. They are hired by defendants, or by the court if a defendant cannot afford one (this is called a “public defender”). A good defense attorney ensures that his client is afforded all the protections provided by the U.S. Constitution and laws.

Courts are run by judges whose job it is to uphold the law. They have the power to decide whether to release someone before a trial, accept or reject a plea agreement, oversee trials, and sentence offenders if they are convicted.

The U.S. Constitution guarantees certain rights if you are arrested, called your “Miranda rights” or the “Miranda warning.” Before law enforcement officers arrest and question you, they must tell you that:

  • You have the right to remain silent
  • Anything you say may be used against you
  • You have a right to have a lawyer present while you are questioned
  • If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for you by the court

You can be questioned by the police without a defense attorney present only if you voluntarily and knowingly give up your rights. If you agree to be questioned alone and then change your mind, the questioning must stop as soon as you request a lawyer.

If you feel that your civil rights were violated during arrest or questioning, a criminal defense attorney can fight to have any statements you made to the police thrown out.

When you are charged with a crime, it makes a considerable difference whether you are facing a misdemeanor or a felony charge. Whether a crime is classified as a misdemeanor or felony and what degree it is depends on the severity of the offense and other extenuating factors. In Ohio, felony charges carry a minimum sentence of one year in prison along with steep fines; however, the most serious misdemeanors carry a maximum sentence of only one year in jail rather than prison.

A jail is a short-term facility operated by local governments that hold defendants as they await trial or offenders who have been convicted of misdemeanors. In contrast, prisons are run by the state or federal government and are designed for long-term confinement of offenders who have been convicted of felonies.

A plea agreement is when a defendant agrees to plead guilty to one or more charges in exchange for one of the following:

  • The dismissal of one or more charges
  • A lesser degree of the charged offense
  • A recommendation for a lenient sentence
  • Avoiding a trial

Probation and parole are both alternatives to incarceration; however, probation occurs prior to or in lieu of jail or prison time, whereas parole is an early release from prison. Both probation and parole require court supervision and strict adherence to certain conditions. If you break the terms of your probation or parole, you can be incarcerated.

Laws vary significantly from state to state. The current Ohio Revised Code can be accessed online at http://codes.ohio.gov/. Given the complex nature of Ohio’s laws, it is highly recommended that you seek the advice of a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney should you find yourself under arrest.

As soon as possible! You should always seek the counsel of an experienced defense attorney when facing criminal charges, and the sooner the better. Even if you have not yet been arrested for a crime, it is in your best interests to have an attorney at your side while you are questioned by the police. A seasoned attorney can inform you of your rights and keep you from accidentally incriminating yourself or someone you care about. Should you face charges, a lawyer is also needed to advise you on the confusing bail process and start building a strong defense right away.

“Attorney-client privilege” means that your defense attorney cannot tell anyone else what you have told him or her. This means that anything you discuss with your lawyer is completely private and cannot be used against you. You can be completely candid with your attorney as you seek legal advice and assistance.

If you are looking for a defense attorney for the first time in your life, you might feel overwhelmed by the number of firms in Cleveland and wonder which is right for you. The ideal criminal defense lawyer should have the following qualities:

  • Experience— a firm that has won many cases similar to your own and is an expert in Ohio and federal law thanks to years of dedicated legal service
  • Trustworthiness— someone who is honest and candid with you about what you are facing and the best strategies to protect you
  • Excellence— a practice that has been recognized by their peers and past clients for meeting the highest professional standards
  • Passion—an attorney with a passion for protecting each and every client’s rights
  • Integrity—a lawyer who is devoted to integrity in both the professional and personal spheres
  • Resourcefulness—a firm that has the time, manpower, and drive to fully devote to your defense
  • Innovation—a team that thinks outside the box when formulating your defense, conducting their own thorough research and calling on the expertise of consultants outside the firm
  • Compassion­­—an attorney who understands the difficult emotions that go along with a criminal charge, guides you through the justice system with sensitivity, and keeps you and your family informed every step of the way

Founding partners Mark Marein and Steve Bradley have had long careers helping the accused in Cleveland and Northeast Ohio seek justice. As such, they are widely regarded as the best litigators in Cleveland. The firm has won a wide variety of cases, from drug crimes and theft to assault and even homicide.

At Marein & Bradley, we pride ourselves on giving 100% effort to each and every client. As our Testimonials page will attest, we fight for the very best outcomes with passion and honesty. We are known throughout Ohio and the nation for criminal defense excellence. Everyone we defend benefits from state-of-the-art strategies and collaborations with nationally-renowned consultants. We guarantee that our clients have every advantage before stepping into the courtroom.

For more information on our unique criminal defense model, visit the Our Firm page or contact us today. We look forward to showing you what we have to offer.

If you have been charged with a minor offense or plan on pleading guilty, you may question whether you need to hire an attorney at all. The truth is you are legally allowed to defend yourself; however, in practice this is never a good idea! Law enforcement, prosecuting attorneys, and the court will use all of their considerable resources against you. This can easily lead to a violation of your rights, sentencing that is overly harsh, and a criminal record that can have a lasting impact on your life. A defense attorney is well worth his or her cost when taking into consideration what a harsh sentence can do to your quality of life and future earnings potential. To learn more about how a defense attorney can help you, contact us for a free consultation.

Was something overlooked in your original trial?  Were you the victim of ineffective counsel? Marein & Bradley can help you! Our experienced Cleveland defense attorneys have given hope to countless individuals and their families by pursuing appeals and post-conviction relief. We will meticulously examine the facts of your original case, conduct a thorough investigation to find new evidence that may exonerate you, and file any applicable petitions to the court. We can also help you erase your criminal record, also known as an “expungement.” Contact us for free legal advice even if you think you have exhausted every option.

You probably have many more questions. We are always happy to offer free in-person advice on the particulars of your case and come up with a plan of action. Visit our contact page to schedule a consultation today.