Court Frequently Asked Questions
What can and will the Clerk's Office do for me?
What can't and won't the Clerk's Office do for me?
What is EMHA (Electronic Monitoring House Arrest)?
EMHA is an alternative to jail. House Arrest limits an offender's movement within the community through electronic monitoring. House Arrest encompasses a philosophy of home detention, and strict accountability for any movement of the offender within the community, as approved by the Court. House Arrest is used lieu of incarceration or in addition to jail.
Who can be on House Arrest?
Any individual who is either pre or post conviction may be supervised by electronic monitoring through legal assignment of a Court. EMHA is also used as a condition of bond or as a condition of being released from a residential treatment center.
How long can I be on House Arrest?
The length of House Arrest is determined by the sentencing Court. Typical terms of House Arrest range from 18 to 180 days in length.
What equipment is used to electronically monitor an offender?
House Arrest utilizes electronic monitoring equipment, installed in your residence, to verify compliance. This equipment is used via phone lines and serves several functions. Random computer generated phone calls to your residence provides the House Arrest department with a photographic response, a voice response and a breath sample to ensure that you are not using/abusing alcohol.
What is GPS (Global Positioning System)?
GPS is the current system used to track you when you leave your home. The system relies on 24 satellites that orbit the earth. You will wear, or must carry, a device that transmits an encoded signal to the satellites that gives your precise time, location (accurately within a few feet), and movement.
Will I have equipment strapped to my body?
In some circumstances you may be required to wear a tamper proof ankle bracelet, which electronically communicates with your home monitoring unit. This ankle bracelet will notify House Arrest any time you exit without authorization and continuously confirms your presence within your residence. Ankle bracelets are utilized to strictly reduce your movement in conjunction with photographic, voice, GPS, and breath response.
Will I be allowed to work?
You may be able to maintain employment and approved activities. These activities would include educational programming, probation meetings, drug testing, substance abuse and mental health treatment, and school. All activities must be scheduled and approved in advance by the Judge.
What happens if I violate my house arrest terms?
If you are missing you will be declared Absent Without Leave (AWOL). An arrest warrant will be issued. When violations occur, such as alcohol consumption, drug usage, late returns, unauthorized locations a wide variety of sanctions can be imposed, up to and including your arrest and detention.
Will I be drug tested?
Yes. Everyone receives a breath analysis each time the monitoring equipment contracts them at their residence. You will also be required to submit to frequent and random urinalysis testing to ensure that you are maintaining a drug free lifestyle. Drug and alcohol testing is increased in cases of noncompliance, upon behavioral concerns, or when reasonable belief exists that the you would possibly be using illegal drugs and alcohol.
Who pays for the electronic monitoring?
You will need to pay for EMHA. Failure to pay could result in an arrest warrant, driver's license forfeiture and the forfeiture of credited time that you have served on house arrest per ORC 2929-.23 (B2).
How much will it cost?
There is a $65.00 fee to the Mentor Municipal Court for this program that must be paid prior to the start of the EMHA. The installation of the equipment and activation of the equipment could cost as high as $175.00, depending on where you live. The type of program you need to complete controls the daily cost. The maximum daily cost is $15.00.
A hard wire phone must be in full service at your residence and all telephone accessories must be disconnected including computers and WEB TV.
Can I get a record expunged?
Pursuant to sections 2953.31 and 2953.32 of the Ohio Revised Code, the Mentor Municipal Court accepts applications for expungement or sealing of a record of convictions that were adjudicated within its jurisdiction.
It is recommended that all applicants for this process first review the Ohio Revised Code for rules and criteria or contact an attorney regarding eligibility.
What is required for filing?
In order to file a Forcible Complaint in the Mentor Municipal Court you will need to provide one original complaint form, two copies of the complaint form for each Defendant, one copy of the three-day notice to vacate, and the filing fee.
How much will it cost?
When filing a Forcible Entry Complaint, there is a filing fee of $130.00 for a one cause action and $155.00 for a two-cause action. This fee includes up to three Defendants. It is $10.00 for each additional Defendant. The Court will only accept payment by mail with a certified bank check or a money order. If filing in person, cash or credit card is also acceptable. Following a Forcible Entry Hearing a form for Writ of Restitution to the Bailiff to enforce restitution and a move-out of the premise may be filed with a $100.00 filing fee.
When are hearings held?
Forcible Entry Hearings are held on Tuesdays and Fridays at 8:00 A.M. The hearing is set approximately twenty (20) days from the date you file.
For additional information download: Forcibles Eviction Packet
The above file is in PDF format and require the FREE Adobe Reader to view.
Any further questions consult with the Ohio Revised Code or your own private attorney.
What is an Ignition Interlock device?
An ignition interlock device is an in-car alcohol breath screening device that prevents a vehicle from starting if it detects a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over a pre-set limit. The device is located inside the vehicle near the driver's seat, and is connected to the engine's ignition system.
How does an Ignition Interlock device work?
Before starting the vehicle, the driver must blow into the device. If the recorded blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is above the pre-set limit, the vehicle will not start. Once the vehicle is started, the interlock device requires random breath samples at pre-set times. If a breath sample is not provided or if the BAC exceeds the limit, the device will issue a warning, record the event, and activate specific alarm systems (i.e., lights flashing, horn honking, etc.) until the ignition is turned off.
How does the system know the driver is the one giving the breath sample?
The interlock device does not recognize specific individuals, however, the device has a number of sophisticated features that make it difficult for an individual to provide a proper breath sample without having been properly trained by a qualified service technician. Each failed attempt to provide a breath sample is recorded and attributed to the program participant.
What happens if someone has been drinking and tries to operate the vehicle?
The vehicle cannot be started if the device detects the presence of alcohol. The date and time of the attempt, as well as the measured blood alcohol content will be recorded.
Can the device be installed in more than one vehicle?
Yes, but the individual will be charged for every device that is installed. The device can be installed on other vehicles, such as an employer's or spouse's.
Can someone other than the restricted driver or ignition interlock participant drive an interlock equipped vehicle?
Yes. Individuals such as a spouse, other family member, or employee must be trained on how to properly use the device and must abide by all the program requirements placed on the program participant. While others can drive the interlock-equipped vehicle, the driver who requires the device is ultimately responsible for any activity recorded by the interlock. Any attempts by someone else to start the vehicle if they have been drinking will be recorded and attributed to the program participant.
Can individuals with breathing problems use the interlock device?
Yes. Most breathing problems will not prevent a person from operating the device. Only a few seconds of continuous blowing into the device is required. The interlock provider will provide advice and assistance for specific problems.
What happens if an individual has trouble with the ignition device and with getting the vehicle started?
If the "User Manual" does not cover the specific incident, emergency services will be available from the service provider.
Can the vehicle be started and used if there is an emergency and there may not be someone available who can properly use the interlock?
The system allows for an emergency override. If this feature is used, the service date is changed and the driver must bring the vehicle for servicing within two hours. The program participant will be required to complete an occurrence report, which is forwarded to the Probation Department, outlining the circumstances of the emergency. The technician will reset the emergency override when the device is serviced.
How will cough syrup, mouthwash or other medications that have alcohol in them affect the interlock device?
Even though the breath alcohol tester is calibrated to ensure that use of cough syrup or mouthwash will not result in a zero BAC violation, individuals should avoid any products containing alcohol for at least 10 minutes before using the system or rinse their mouth thoroughly with water.
What happens if the driver fails to give a breath sample when the system randomly requests one?
If the re-test is not taken or if alcohol is detected, an alarm will be activated. It will remain on until the driver passes the breath test or brings the vehicle to a stop and turns off the engine. If the alarm is allowed to remain on, a violation will be recorded by the system and the service date will be reset to require the participant to return to the service center within five to seven days. Failure to return for servicing will result in a permanent lockout. It will not accept a breath test and will not allow the starting of the vehicle under any circumstances.
Can food or liquid other than alcohol affect the interlock device?
Only if the food or drink contains alcohol.
Who pays for the program?
All costs are paid for by the participants in the program on a user pay basis.
What are the costs?
Participants in the program can expect to pay for all costs associated with the program which include:
These fees are based on installations in passenger vehicles. Fees may increase for devices installed in commercial vehicles. Additional fees may be required depending on the driver's service requirements.
Where does one go to have the ignition interlock device installed?
There are two agencies authorized by the Mentor Municipal Court to install interlocks.
ALTERNATIVE COURT SYSTEMS
Smart Start Ignition Interlock
LAKE ERIE INTERLOCK
What is ???
ACQUITTAL: A verdict in a criminal trial in which the defendant is found not guilty of the charge.
AFFIDAVIT: A written statement of facts signed by an individual and notarized. Affidavits are used in many aspects of the court are often filed with court documents.
ANSWER: A written reply to a complaint, prepared by an individual or an attorney, which is filed in Court. An answer is responding to the allegations contained in the complaint and it may admit certain facts or deny certain allegations.
APPEAL: A legal action in which a litigant asks a higher court to review and reverse a lower court's decision.
APPELLANT: The litigant who brings the appeal.
ARRAIGNMENT: The first court appearance for a Defendant. At the arraignment, the Defendant is informed of his rights, asked whether he requires an attorney, and informed of the charges against him. He/she is also advised of the possible penalties if found guilty. Bond is set and the Defendant is asked to enter a plea of Guilty, Not Guilty, or No Contest. If it is a felony arraignment the Defendant will be asked to enter a plea of Not Guilty or No Plea.
ATTACHMENT: A seizure of property or funds by a court assisted process.
BAIL/BOND: Something of value given by the defendant to the Court to guarantee the defendant's future appearance in Court. Bond can be personal, cash or surety, or cash only. With a cash or surety bond the defendant has the choice of depositing the amount of the bond with the Court or utilizing the services of a bail bondsman who will deposit the bond with the Court for a non-refundable fee. With a personal bond the defendant is not required to put up the money, his/her signature is their 'promise to appear in court. Should they not appear they would owe the court the full amount of the personal bond. A % bond means that the defendant would have to pay the court 10% of the bond that the Judge sets at their hearing. If the defendant fails to appear in court the bond may be forfeited and a warrant issued for his/her arrest.
BENCH: The area of the courtroom where the Judge sits. It also can refer to the courtroom itself.
BENCH TRIAL: A trial decided by a Judge instead of a Jury.
BOUND OVER: The transfer of a felony case to the appropriate Court of Common Pleas when the defendant either waives a Preliminary Hearing, or goes forward with the Preliminary Hearing and the Judge finds that there is probable cause that the Defendant committed the offense.
BURDEN OF PROOF: The duty of a litigant to prove or disprove an allegation in court.
CASE LAW: The body of law created by judges' written opinions.
CASE NUMBER: The number that has been assigned to a civil or criminal complaint. Most courts use a system that indicates the year of the filing and identifies the matter as either civil, traffic or criminal in the actual case number. The case number is not the number pre-printed on your traffic ticket.
CHANGE OF PLEA: A hearing in front of the Judge wherein the defendant actually withdraws a previously entered plea of 'not guilty' and enters a plea of either 'guilty' or 'no contest'.
CITATION: A ticket issued by a police officer/sheriff/ranger for minor offenses such as traffic matters which also specifies the date and time that a defendant must appear in Court for an arraignment.
CIVIL COMPLAINT: A written statement which is either prepared by an attorney or by the plaintiff, which tells the Court that, a claim exists favoring the plaintiff. A civil complaint includes the signature of the maker a demand for judgment (amount of money) and the names and addresses of both plaintiff(s) and defendant(s). It is filed with the appropriate filing fee and then will be served upon the defendant by the court.
CONTINUANCE: A written request by a plaintiff, defendant or attorneys in a case made to re-schedule a hearing or trial for cause.
CONVICTION: A verdict in a civil, criminal or traffic case in which the defendant is found guilty of the charge.
COURT APPOINTED ATTORNEY: The Judge may appoint an attorney for a defendant that cannot afford to hire an attorney. Eligibility is based upon financial information provided by the defendant in a document called an 'Affidavit of Indigency.'
It is up to the sole discretion of the Judge to approve the application. There is a $25.00 non-refundable application fee paid by the defendant before the application is reviewed. A court appointed attorney will be compensated by the state for their actual fees and cannot request payment from the defendant unless the 'Affidavit of Indigency' is withdrawn thus rendering the Defendant also responsible for fines and court costs.
CRIMINAL COMPLAINT: A written statement of the facts alleging that the defendant has committed a crime. The complaint usually includes the state statute or city ordinance number of the crime and the severity of the crime. i.e. misdemeanor or felony and level of either.
DAMAGES: Money awarded to a plaintiff in a civil case. Damages are assessed against the defendant who is found by the jury or judge to have been responsible for the plaintiff's injuries or loss.
DEFENDANT: The defendant is the person being sued in a civil case or the person who has been charged with a crime/driving offense in a criminal case.
DEFENSE ATTORNEY: The lawyer who represents the defendant in any legal proceeding.
DEFAULT JUDGMENT: Ohio law indicates that upon being served with a complaint the defendant (or person being sued) must file an answer within 28 days or the allegations contained in plaintiff's complaint are taken to be true. Once the allegations in the complaint are deemed to be true, the plaintiff is usually entitled to a judgment in the amount requested.
DISCOVERY: Discovery is an all encompassing term for a process by which either side in a litigation asks questions in writing that are answered under oath by the opposing party; discovery also encompasses the requesting of certain documentary evidence, for example, copies of written estimates, correspondence, photographs, receipts, contracts, etc. Depositions, which involve oral testimony taken before a court reporter are also considered part of discovery.
DOCKET: A list of cases on a court's calendar or schedule.
EVIDENCE: The information used in court to prove or disprove an allegation.
EXECUTION: The execution is the way/method a person attempts to collect on a judgment. There are several forms of execution, the most common being wage garnishments, bank attachments or judgment debtor's examination. The debtor's examination will provide the information you need to take action to enforce your judgment. These execution methods require certain paperwork be filed with the Court and accompanied by the filing fee. The filing is typically recoverable, assuming any funds are collected from the judgment debtor.
FELONY: A crime in Ohio, which can have extensive jail time and fines. Felonies are not handled in Municipal Court and are bound over to the appropriate Court of Common Pleas.
GARNISHMENT: The attachment or seizure of personal wages through a court-assisted process.
HEARING: A court proceeding in which evidence is presented to determine facts that are in dispute.
HUNG JURY: A jury that is deadlocked and cannot agree on a verdict.
INDICTMENT: A formal, written accusation issued by a grand jury charging someone with a crime. An indictment is not proof of a crime.
INJURY: Any legal harm, wrong or damage done to a person's body, property, rights or reputation, and that the law recognizes as deserving of redress.
JUDGMENT: The amount you are awarded in a civil/small claims case.
JURY: A group of citizens summoned to and sworn by the court to hear evidence and render a verdict in a trial.
JURY CHARGE: The Judge's address to the jury after all testimony has been heard in a trial. The charge explains the law that the jury is to apply in deciding on a verdict.
LAWSUIT: A civil action brought in court in which a plaintiff seeks a remedy provided by the law, such as damages.
LITIGANT: Someone who is a party to litigation. The litigant can be the side bringing the lawsuit or the side being sued.
LITIGATION: A legal dispute between parties argued in a court
MAGISTRATE: A Magistrate is an attorney appointed by the Judge to handle certain types of hearings.
MINOR MISDEMEANOR: A criminal offense in Ohio, which cannot have a penalty, imposed of more than $150.00 and no jail time.
MISDEMEANOR: A misdemeanor is a crime in Ohio, which cannot have a penalty, imposed of more than $1000.00 and one year in jail. There are four different levels of misdemeanors in Ohio (excluding the minor misdemeanor above), each having specific jail sentences and fines.
MISTRIAL: A trial that is terminated by the Judge before a verdict is returned. For example, a Judge might declare a mistrial if the jury is deadlocked and cannot reach a decision.
OFFENSE: A violation of a criminal or traffic law, which results in a citation or complaint.
OPINION: The written explanation of a court's decision in a matter.
PERSONAL RECOGNIZANCE: A written promise by a defendant that he will appear in court for specified hearing.
PLAINTIFF: The party who has initiated the litigation. In criminal cases, the state or local municipality is listed as the plaintiff in a complaint.
PLEA: The response made by a defendant to charges filed in a misdemeanor criminal or traffic complaint. The three forms of pleas acceptable in court are 'Guilty', 'Not Guilty', and 'No Contest.'
PLEA BARGAIN: An agreement between a criminal defendant and a prosecutor in which the defendant admits having committed a crime. In return the prosecutor asks the Judge to impose a less severe sentence than had the defendant been convicted at a trial. The Judge is not bound by the terms of a plea bargain. A plea bargain ensures that a guilty defendant is punished.
PRE-TRIAL: A pre-trial is a conference conducted by the Court to determine whether or not the matter can be resolved without the need for a trial. A criminal pre-trial is held with the prosecutor and defense lawyer. This is an opportunity for the defense attorney to review evidence contained in the prosecution's file, including witness statements, photographs, etc. A civil pre-trial is similar and an opportunity for the plaintiff and defendant to attempt to negotiate a settlement.
PROBABLE CAUSE: A reasonable belief that a crime was committed, and the person accused of the crime was responsible. A probable cause hearing is held in felony cases.
PROBATION: Instead of sentencing a defendant to jail, the judge may place him on probation, which is a supervised form of release for a specified period. While on probation the defendant must follow all instructions given by the probation officer.
PROSECUTOR: The lawyer who represents the State or City in a traffic/criminal case.
SENTENCE: The punishment a judge imposes on a person convicted of a crime.
SETTLEMENT: An agreement between the plaintiff and defendant in a civil case to resolve the dispute without a trial.
SHOW CAUSE: A hearing held to determine if a defendant should be found in contempt of court for failure to follow a previous court order. A finding of contempt can carry additional fine or jail time, as determined by the Judge.
STATUTORY LAW: Laws, or statutes, enacted by legislatures, such as the Ohio State Legislature or the United States Congress.
SUBPOENA: An official notice requiring someone's appearance in court. A subpoena is essentially an Order of the Court for a certain person to appear at Court on a certain date and time. A subpoena may be issued for a witness in either a civil or criminal case, and may also be used to force a witness to bring certain documents with him/her to the court hearing. Failure to comply with a subpoena may result in a warrant being issued for the non-appearing person's arrest.
SUMMONS: A court notice telling you to appear in court at a particular time and place.
TESTIFY: The act by which a witness offers testimony in court.
TESTIMONY: Statements made by witnesses in court.
TIME WAIVER: In criminal cases, the defendant has the right to be brought to trial within a certain number of days, depending on the level of offense charged. In many cases, the defendant agrees to waive the right to be brought to trial within that time period to allow the case to be scheduled for a pre-trial conference.
VERDICT: The decision of the jury in a jury trial or of the judge in a bench trial.
VOIR DIRE: The process of selecting jurors for a trial in a particular case. The prospective jurors are questioned individually and a decision is made following the questioning whether to accept or reject each individual juror.
WAIVER OF TIME: A document signed by a defendant or his attorney in a traffic or criminal matter which, allows the case to continue beyond thirty days.
WARRANT: A court order to arrest you and hold you in custody until you appear in Court before the Judge.
WITNESS: Someone who offers evidence in court.
Does the Judge perform marriage ceremonies?
The Judge performs marriage ceremonies on Fridays. To schedule a date please call the Judge's assignment clerk, Karen Smith at 974-5744 ext. 2371.
Prior to your wedding, you must pick up your marriage license from the Lake County Probate Court (downtown Painesville). For questions, their phone number is (440) 350-2626. Your marriage license and a $20.00 fee must be received at the Court prior to the Judge performing the ceremony.
What is the mission of Mental Health Court?
To facilitate effective and efficient treatment of defendants with mental illness by providing comprehensive support and monitoring services in collaboration with Lake County Criminal Justice and Mental Health Systems.
Who does Mental Health Court Serve?
The Mental Health Court serves Lake County Residents charged with misdemeanors who have been diagnosed with Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective or Bipolar Disorder. In addition, this serious mental illness is a contributing or mitigating factor in their law enforcement involvement and for whom court-monitored treatment and other services would enhance their ability to lead a law-abiding life. The program criteria are minimum requirements that a person must meet in order to enter the diversion program.
What are the Candidate requirements?
To be eligible for diversion a Defendant must be an adult, have an Axis 1 (DSM-IV) serious mental disorder, be stable enough to understand and comply with program requirements, and not pose an unacceptable risk to program staff or the community. The program includes Defendants with Axis II personality disorders, mental retardation and chemical dependency so long as they also have an Axis I qualifying diagnosis.
A diversion candidate must:
This program is VOLUNTARY so Defendants must be competent in order to enter the program.
Candidates for Mental Health Court must have misdemeanor charges pending in Mentor, Painesville, or Willoughby Municipal Courts. Defendants charged with: DUI/OVI; Sex Crimes; and/or Crimes involving children as a victim are ineligible.
If there is a violent offense with a victim involved, prior to acceptance into Mental Health Court, the victim must consent; and the Defendant must agree to repay any restitution to the victim prior to the completion of the Mental Health Court program.
The Mental Health Court Treatment Team meets every Monday at 2:00 p.m. The team has to agree that the Defendant is appropriate for diversion.
If the Defendant has charges pending in another court or is currently on probation due to a prior conviction, then disposition must be coordinated. Competency or NGRI (not guilty by Reason of Insanity) cases must be resolved prior to diversion.
Criminal records will be reviewed not to exclude but to assess Defendant's risk to staff and community. The defendant is expected to pay court costs that are set by the Judge.
If the Defendant is not eligible for Mental Health Court an assessment can still make recommendations for conditions of probation.
Screening is the identification of potential candidates for program consideration. This can be done at the earliest stages of the person's involvement in the justice system by non-clinical personnel, including:
A screening form can be obtained at Mentor Municipal Court at the Clerk's office and or probation department. The Defendant must sign the form to make the referral. The referral can then be forwarded to Linda Bambic at Mentor Municipal Court or Julie Kalina-Hammond at Neighboring.
Once the referral is received the treatment manager will arrange an assessment either in the community or in jail. During the assessment process the following information is discussed: the intake packet including informed consent, releases of information, and program description. In addition, a mental health assessment is completed which includes psychosocial history, needs and preferences and family involvement. Provided the Defendant meets the criteria, is determined eligible, is accepted by the treatment team, and has entered a plea the case will be transferred if necessary and the Defendant will begin Mental Health Court on the next available Tuesday at 2:00 p.m.
Where can I obtain more information on Mental Health Court?
For further questions contact: Linda Bambic, Clerk of Court, Mentor Municipal Court at (440) 974-5744 or Julie A. Kalina-Hammond, LISW, CCDCI, Treatment Manager, NEIGHBORING at (440) 354-9924.
What is Small Claims?
Small Claims is a division of Municipal Court. There are three Municipal Courts in Lake County. Mentor, Painesville and Willoughby Municipal Courts, each have their own Small Claims division. Which of these Courts you will file your claim in is determined by:
1. Where the Defendant (person being sued) resides.
2. Where the Defendant's principal place of business is.
3. Where the action took place.
In order to file a Small Claim Complaint in the Mentor Municipal Court, the person or business you are filing against should reside or do business in Mentor or Mentor-on-the-Lake or the action should have taken place in either of those two cities.
Small Claims was created by the Ohio Legislature to permit easy access to court for persons with disputes involving relatively small amounts of money. In Mentor Municipal Court, cases are heard by a "Magistrate" who is an attorney appointed by the Court.
What cases can Small Claims Court handle?
Small claims cases are like other lawsuits, except that the amounts involved are generally too small to make the expense of regular court proceedings worthwhile. A small claims court can resolve many common disputes that involve modest amounts of money. Typical small claims court cases include claims by tenants to recover security deposits, claims by landlords for unpaid rent or damage to their property, claims by buyers for damages from defective merchandise, claims by business people and trades people for unpaid bills, claims by car owners for damage sustained in minor accidents, claims by employees, babysitters, maids, and handypersons for unpaid wages. There are limits on claims that can be resolved in small claims court:
1. The claims must be for money only. Small claims court cannot issue restraining orders, protection orders or injunctions, cannot grant divorces, and cannot order someone to return property. Small claims court can only resolve claims that ask for money.
2. A claim cannot exceed $6,000 (not including any interest and court costs claimed). The claim itself can be for at most $6,000, and counter or cross-claims that may be filed can only be for $6,000 (each) or less.
3. Regardless of the amount of money involved, a small claims court cannot handle certain types of lawsuits: lawsuits based on libel, slander, and malicious prosecution, lawsuits seeking punitive or exemplary damages, or lawsuits brought by an assignee or agent (such as a lawsuit brought by an insurance company on behalf of a policy holder; however, government entities can bring certain lawsuits through an agent).
4. Small claims court cannot resolve claims against the agencies of the State of Ohio or against the United States government and its agencies.
Do I need an attorney?
Attorneys are allowed, but not required. One objective of Small Claims is to make it possible for individuals to argue their own cases without the added expense of hiring a lawyer. For this reason, Small Claims rules and procedures are not as strict as those in regular Court.
However, if you believe you would like to hire an attorney, but don't know where to turn, call the Lake County Bar Association. The Bar's "Lawyer Referral Service" will provide a name from a list of attorneys. (Call 440 352-6044).
How do I file a Small Claim Complaint?
Once you have determined who you are going to sue and for how much, go to the Mentor Municipal Court Clerk of Courts office (Civil/Small Claims division) to fill out a Small Claims Complaint Form. You will pay the appropriate Court fees at this time. Although the Clerk may help you fill out the form, he or she is not an attorney and cannot give you legal advice about your case.
It is preferred that the Small Claim Complaint form be typed. A handwritten form will be acceptable if legible.
The above files are in PDF format and require the FREE Adobe Reader to view.
What does it cost to file a Small Claim Complaint?
When filing a Small Claim Complaint, there is a $64.00 filing fee for one defendant and a $10.00 filing fee for each additional defendant.- The Court will only accept payment by mail with a certified bank check or a money order. If filing in person, cash, Mastercard and Visa are also acceptable.
When will my case be heard?
Small Claims hearings are on Wednesdays at 4:30 p.m. Hearings are set approximately 30 days from the day you file.
What happens at trial?
The trial in small claims court is between you and the defendant. Both parties must prepare their cases and bring those witnesses or other evidence (such as documents, records, photographs or drawings) to court to support their claims or defenses. Witnesses must have personal knowledge of the facts in their testimonies. Documents, records, photographs and drawings must be identified and explained by someone with personal knowledge of them.
If the defendant does not appear at trial, you will be granted a 'default' judgment for the amount of your claim, plus your filing and service costs. If you fail to appear at trial, the judge will dismiss your claim.
I won a judgment.- How do I get my money?
You yourself must take action to force payment of your judgment. The court will not get your money for you. However, if you take the required steps, including paying the relevant court costs, the court will help you enforce your judgment (get your money).
The best way to collect on a judgment is voluntary payment by the judgment debtor (the person who must pay under the judgment). If the judgment debtor does not voluntarily pay, there are,several kinds of actions you can take THROUGH the Court to collect. These are the same kinds of actions commercial creditors (banks, furniture stores, etc.) use, including garnishment of wages, attaching property, and attaching bank accounts.
How can I get help to enforce my judgment?
You can get help to enforce your judgment by contacting the court that issued the judgment in your favor or by contacting an attorney.
If you have obtained a judgment in a small claims court, the court will help you enforce your judgment'but only after you have paid the court costs. However, while you have to pay these costs up front, if you asked for court costs when you stated your claim (or counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party claim), you may be reimbursed for such costs if the proceedings to enforce your judgment are successful.
After you have paid the court costs, the court will explain the necessary procedures, give you the proper forms, and help you institute a garnishment, attachment, or other proceeding to collect your judgment.
If it is necessary to take court action to collect your judgment, you will need both patience and persistence. The law allows judgment debtors to keep certain items or assets (or portions of assets) so that judgment debtors have the basics with which to support themselves. Creditors cannot take these exempt items or assets.
Where can I get more information about Small Claims?
Click on the following link Ohio Judicial Conference Citizens Guide Brochure (PDF)
My vehicle has been seized by the Police Department.- How do I get it released?
If a vehicle was towed by the Police Department but there is not a 'Court Hold' nor did the Judge 'Immobilize' the vehicle, the vehicle's registered owner may obtain a release from the Police Department after providing proper identification and a valid registration or title. The vehicle owner must then resolve all towing and storage fees with the tow company.
What if my vehicle has a 'Court Hold' ordered by the Judge?
The vehicle will stay in impound. A daily storage fee will be charged by the tow company. Only the Judge can change this order.
The Judge ordered my vehicle released to the owner. How do I get my vehicle?
1. The vehicle's registered owner must show proof of insurance and pay the $100 immobilization fee at the Mentor Municipal Court clerk's counter.
2. Take the paperwork received from the Court to the police department along with proper identification and vehicle registration or title.
3. Take paperwork received to the tow company and pay all towing and storage fees.
The Judge ordered my vehicle released, but plates held by the Court and the vehicle 'Immobilized' with a steering wheel club.- What do I do now?
1. Arrangements must be made with the court bailiff.
2. The vehicle's registered owner must pay a $100 club immobilization fee at the Mentor Municipal Court clerk's counter.
3. Take the paperwork received from the Court to the police department and show vehicle registration or title and receive a restricted tow release to give to the tow company.
4. Tow and storage fees must be paid to the tow company and arrangements made to have the vehicle towed to a location authorized by the court bailiff. The vehicle must remain in Lake County and must remain outside in order for the bailiff to randomly check on the vehicle. The vehicle may not be kept in a garage or other closed structure.
5. When the Judge orders the club removed and the plates returned, you will receive your plates and arrangements will be made to remove the steering wheel club from your vehicle.