FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
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 some type of 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 the “traffic clerk”.
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 Court will address 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 look for the “Docket Board”. Under each courtroom will be a printed list of all cases scheduled to be heard in that courtroom. Check for your name on the docket to determine which room you will be in. Keep in mind that each docket can have more than one page. 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 immoblizations, ALS suspension issues, etc., when determining to submit a written NG 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 citation cases. A criminal pre-trial is the opportunity for your case to be discussed with a Magistrate and the prosecutor representing the community which is pursuing the case against you. Typically pre-trials will be requested by your criminal defense attorney. Bedford Municipal Court has a policy of “open discovery”, which means that the prosecutor will allow you at pre-trial to view the contents of their 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 criminal 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 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, and serve any jail time on that day.
In a civil case, the pre-trial is the opportunity to discuss your case with opposing counsel and a Judge or Magistrate to determine the status of your case. The Court will determine the status of pending discovery, motions, and whether or not the case can be resolved through settlement. If the case cannot be resolved through settlement, the Court will typically schedule the case for trial.
Can I get a payment plan?
Typically the Bedford Municipal Court does not allow payment plans. If you find yourself unable to pay fines and costs, you should let the Court know immediately so alternate arrangements can be discussed.
How can I find out what my court costs will be?
The cashiers department can calculate court costs for you when you are at court. However, if you want to find out before going to court, you can go the ______ page of this website for court costs to date. Understand that in many cases this amount may only be an approximation until the case is actually concluded, so the amount you are told when you are paying fines and costs may be higher than the amount listed in the computer.
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. For a sample Motion to Continue, go to the FORMS section of this website.
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 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, you should call him or her immediately to discuss what can be done. If you are not represented by counsel, you can do one of a couple of things. You can go to the police station of the community that charged you, and turn yourself in. Be prepared that you may be required to post a new bond.
Alternatively, if you have a really good reason for missing your court date, you can send in a letter to the Judge, explaining your circumstances in writing and asking that the warrant be recalled. The final decision is up to the Judge, and the warrant will remain outstanding until it is either recalled by the Judge, or you are picked up by the police.
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 what happened in Court. You can file an objection to the Magistrate’s decision, indicating why you failed to appear, and ask the Judge to reinstate your case. However, be advised that there are time constraints for filing objections, and 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?
No. Unless you are sending in payment for a waiverable offense, you must come in to Court on your scheduled hearing date to pay fines and costs.
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 still open a file, assign it a case number and process the citation accordingly. 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 criminal case has been initiated, the Court will accept a fax pleading. If the pleading is one that requires payment of court costs, you should hand deliver or mail your pleading in with the correct court costs. Once you fax in a pleading, you should not file the original by mail.
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 a lawyer. For example, property managers for corporate rental properties cannot file an eviction or any other proceedings 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 charged with 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. 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 contact an attorney.
If you have been charged with a crime for which the possible penalties include jail time, and you cannot afford an attorney, you may be eligible for a court appointed attorney. Bedford Municipal Court does not have public defenders, however, there are several private attorneys who have agreed to represent defendants who do not have the financial resourced to hire a private attorney. If you need a court appointed attorney, you should make this request to the Judge or Magistrate 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 related offences. If you wish to do community service, you should make your request known before you are sentenced. If you are allowed to do community service, you will be required to pay a program fee.
My mother, brother, sister, friend was driving my car, and now my car has been immobilized. What should I do?
If your vehicle has been immobilized 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 immobilization 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 stopped. 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.
My son 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 his scheduled court appearances. If your son fails to make his court appearances, you may not get the bond money back…so be sure to think about whether or not the person you are posting bond for is likely to come to court when he is supposed to.
Having said that, 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, you will get your money back at the absolute end of the case, if your son made all court appearances. You will need to present your receipt to the cashier after your son is sentenced. Then you will get your bond money back.
I just had a trial on my speeding ticket, small claims case, etc., and the Court took the pictures I presented into evidence in the case. Can I get those pictures back?
Yes. But evidence contained in the file can only be returned to you after all appropriate appeal periods have run. That is why it is a good idea to bring your originals and a good copy (or a duplicate) with you to court. The Court could look at your originals, determine that the copy is accurate, and then keep the copy and give you back your originals.
My witness cannot appear on the date of trial. Can I just bring in a written statement from him/her?
You can bring in a written statement, but it is not likely to be considered by the Court. One of the reasons to have witnesses come and testify is to allow the other side the opportunity to cross-exam that person. A written statement does not allow cross-examination. So if you bring in a written statement or affidavit from your witness, you are probably going to be frustrated when the Court indicates that it has no evidentiary value. If your witness has a scheduling conflict, you may want to consider asking for a continuance.
I won my Small Claims case. When will the Defendant send me my money?
Winning your judgment does not automatically mean the Defendant will pay the judgment off. You may be forced to “execute” on your judgment, which means attempt to collect. You must decide how to accomplish that. The Court only processes the forms you file. You an obtain copies of forms for wage garnishments, bank attachments, debtor’s examinations, etc. from the Court. You should be prepared that most “executions” require you to pay certain costs 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.