Prosecutes Felons and Juvenile Delinquents The County Prosecutor prosecutes all adults charged with committing felonies in Seneca County and juveniles who commit delinquent acts. Felonies are serious criminal offenses that may result in prison time. Delinquent acts are felonies or misdemeanors a juvenile commits which would constitute crimes if committed by an adult.
A criminal case begins with the commission of a crime reported to and investigated by a law enforcement agency and may result in a felony charge or juvenile delinquency handled by the Seneca County Prosecutor’s Office. There are two ways a felony case is referred to the County Prosecutor. The first kind is a felony arrest case. Upon collecting evidence to establish probable cause, a law enforcement officer, specifically a peace officer with jurisdiction over the territory where the crime was committed, may arrest and charge a person with a felony crime based on probable cause that a particular person committed a felony in Seneca County. Felony arrests result in charges filed in either Tiffin Municipal Court or Fostoria Municipal Court, depending upon where the felony crime occurred in Seneca County. If there is probable cause established at a preliminary hearing, the municipal court may bind a felony arrest case over to the Grand Jury for consideration of formal felony charges.
The second kind of felony case referred to the County Prosecutor is a felony secret investigation case. A law enforcement officer may investigate a crime and submit the case directly through the County Prosecutor’s Office for presentment to the Grand Jury for consideration of one or more felony charges. This is called a secret case because ordinarily, no arrests have been made prior to the Grand Jury’s consideration of the case.
Upon review of a felony arrest case or secret investigation case, the County Prosecutor presents it to the Grand Jury, which is a group of nine (9) citizens randomly chosen from Seneca County once every four (4) months who have the power to inquire into the commission of crimes and issue indictments upon a finding of probable cause. There must be a concurrence of at least seven (7) of the nine (9) grand jurors to file formal felony charges against a person accused of committing one or more felonies. Cases presented and indicted include all felony violations of the laws of the State of Ohio under Chapter 29 of the Ohio Revised Code, including murder, rape, burglary, robbery, and trafficking in drugs. A law enforcement officer, ordinarily upon consulting with the County Prosecutor’s Office, directly files juvenile charges in the Juvenile Division of Seneca County Common Pleas Court. Unless a juvenile is bound over to the Grand Jury to be prosecuted as an adult, the juvenile case will be adjudicated in Seneca County Juvenile Court.
Following the issuance of an indictment in an adult case, the County Prosecutor will appear in Seneca County Common Pleas Court to represent the People of the State of Ohio in the General Division of Seneca County Common Pleas Court or in the Juvenile Division for juvenile delinquency charges. The Defendant or alleged delinquent child, who is entitled to legal representation, either retains a private attorney or receives court-appointed legal counsel to represent him or her throughout the court proceedings. Upon an adult being convicted of a felony at a jury trial by being found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt unanimously by all 12 petit jurors, or a child being found delinquent beyond a reasonable doubt at a bench trial in Juvenile Court, every convicted defendant or juvenile delinquent is entitled to a right to an appeal. The Seneca County Prosecutor represents the State of Ohio during the appeal process, filing a written brief and in most instances making an oral argument before the Third District Court of Appeals in Lima, Ohio. In the rare event a discretionary appeal is permitted at a higher level of the court system, the Seneca County Prosecutor will perform additional written appellate work and may appear for oral argument at the Ohio Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court for legal issues of great general interest.
The Victim Assistance Program is the County Prosecutor’s assistance branch to the citizens of Seneca County who have found themselves involved in the criminal process by being a victim of a felony crime or juvenile delinquent act. A victim advocate is assigned to each of the two General Division courts and to the Juvenile Division of the Seneca County Common Pleas Court to provide emotional support and referrals to professional service agencies, notice of court proceedings, information about the criminal justice system, and will assist in organizing documentation for restitution. In this regard, an advocate will further assist victims in applying for reparation funds available through the Victims of Crime Compensation Fund. For more information on filing a reparations application, contact the Victim Assistance Program at its toll-free number (1-800-400-9900) or the Ohio Court of Claims at its toll-free number (1-800-824-8263). Advocates may also be present at municipal court proceedings in particular kinds of criminal cases. The Seneca County Victim Assistance Program is located adjacent to the Seneca County Prosecutor’s Office in the County Services Building, 71 S. Washington Street, Tiffin, Ohio.
Advises County Officials and Performs Civil Litigation
Ohio law designates the County Prosecutor as the chief legal counsel for all county offices, boards, and agencies such as the Board of County Commissioners, the County Engineer, County Auditor, County Treasurer, Board of Elections, Board of Health, and other similar agencies. The County Prosecutor’s statutory clients also include numerous county school boards, public libraries, and all fifteen (15) boards of township trustees and their zoning boards where a township has approved a zoning resolution. The Seneca County Prosecutor further provides legal services on a contractual basis as provided in Ohio law to the Seneca County Park District, the AVR and Bascom Joint Fire Districts, and the Bascom Joint Ambulance District. In his capacity as chief legal counsel for county and township officers, the County Prosecutor may advise and offer written legal opinions to these officers in matters connected with their official duties. The County Prosecutor also performs civil litigation. The County Prosecutor by law shall prosecute and defend all suits and actions which any such officer directs or to which the officer is a named party with a couple of notable exceptions. R.C. Section 305.14 provides authority for the Board of County Commissioners to employ additional legal counsel to assist the prosecuting attorney in any matter of public business, or the board may employ legal counsel in lieu of the prosecuting attorney, such as in conflict of interest cases or under insurance coverage agreements such as municipalities and other units of government have in place, to prosecute or defend the board or any other county officer in any action or proceeding involving a matter of public interest. A common civil action the Seneca County Prosecutor's Office files and litigates in Seneca County Common Pleas Court is nuisance abatement of property on behalf of the Seneca County General Health District to clean-up residences which contain unhealthy living conditions.
As counsel for the County Auditor, the County Prosecutor advises the Auditor on all taxation matters, including tax appeals. The County Prosecutor also represents the County Treasurer to collect delinquent real estate and personal property tax monies for the county. If property owners have not made an attempt to pay their delinquent real estate taxes, foreclosure proceedings are commenced in Common Pleas Court and the property may be eventually sold at Sheriff’s Sale.