Canton Municipal Court Criminal Division
The Criminal/Traffic Division of the Clerk's office handles cases ranging from minor misdemeanor speeding tickets to captial murder. Canton Municipal Court has jurisdiction for sentencing on misdemeanor cases while Stark County Common Pleas Court has jurisdiction over felony case dispositions. An average of 1,300 felony complaints are filed per year in the Criminal/Traffic Division, since most felony cases begin at the Municipal level.
For example, when a defendant charged with felony murder is arrested, and charges are filed with the Canton Municipal Court, the defendant is transported from the Stark County Jail to the Court for arraignment. The Judge will set bond and a date for a preliminary hearing. The preliminary hearing must be set within ten to fifteen days. Within that period, the Grand Jury may directly indict the defendant, and the case then becomes the jurisdiction of the Common Pleas Court, dismissed at the Municipal level. If the defendant is not directly indicted, the Municipal Court holds a preliminary hearing.
At that hearing the Canton City Prosecutors represent the State of Ohio, and the defendant is represented by private counsel or the public defender's office. The Judge hears evidence from both sides and determines if there is probable cause that a felony has been committed. If so, the case is ordered bound over to the Common Pleas Court. If probable cause is found that a misdemeanor was committed, the case is retained in the Municipal Court for adjudication and assigned to a Judge.
Misdemeanor cases account for the majority of work in the Canton Municipal Court. There is an average of 4,700 misdemeanor criminal cases and 12,500 court appearance required traffic cases filed anually in the Criminal/Traffic Division. Some of the most common filed are Domestic Violence (1,200/year), Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol (1,100/year) and Driving Under a Suspended License (3,000/year). All carry potential jail time and some of these cases result in jury trials that may last one or two days.
Misdemeanor cases tend to last far longer at the municipal level, largely because many sentences include: jail, fines, community service, house arrest, probation or some form of a counseling program. Cases often last about one to two years before they are totally disposed of at the municipal level with many resulting in bench warrants for non-compliance with the Court's sentence.
All of the aforementioned cases are filed in the Clerk's office, along with the associated filings. Some of the most common filings are: motions, journal entries, search warrants, bail bonds and various documents related to driving privileges, automobile immoblizations and forfeitures. The clerk's staff also prepares many filings for cases such as: commitments to jail, release from jail and Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicle forms. In total, there are over a half million papers filed during an average year in the Criminal/Traffic Division of the Clerk's office.
Other duties performed by the Criminal/Traffic Division of the Clerk's office include: statistical reporting of cases to the Supreme Court, reporting criminal case dispositions to the Bureau of Criminal Intelligence, reporting traffic case dispositions to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and preparing a daily court schedule, tracking all defendants' commitments and releases to the Stark County Jail. In addition, one of the most important responsibilities is financial. All monies paid to the Court, such as court costs, fines, restitution and bail bonds, are collected, receipted, applied to the appropriate case and disbursed by the Clerk's office. This totals over two million dollars per year handled by the Criminal/Traffic Division alone.