I promised to tell you more about the Ottawa County Court of Common Pleas on a regular basis. Our last article gave an overview of what we do, now perhaps I’ll delve into the specifics of how criminal cases come to us.
Unlike the Municipal or Juvenile Courts, police officers are not permitted to file their cases directly with this Court. Criminal cases come to this court either having been reviewed by the Municipal Court Judge in a Preliminary Hearing, or by being reviewed by the Grand Jury to determine if there is “probable cause” for someone to face charges. Probable cause means that a crime has probably been committed and the accused probably committed the crime. Only then can charges be filed in the Common Pleas Court. If the Municipal Court Judge finds there is probable cause, he then transfers the case to the Common Pleas Court. If the matter is heard by the Grand Jury and they find probable cause an “indictment” is given. The indictment is the document informing the accused that he or she has been accused of a crime and gives the general nature of the offense with which he or she has been charged.