Frequently Asked Questions

I received a subpoena to appear in court, what should I do?

If you receive a subpoena you are required by law to appear as instructed. A subpoena is an order by a Court requiring you to appear for a scheduled court date. If you refuse to appear, the Court does have the authority to issue an order for your arrest.

More information on Subpoenas

Will the case be continued if I am not there?

If you are subpoenaed to court as a victim or witness and you do not appear, the judge assigned to the case may not permit a continuance and the case will be dismissed. If you are the defendant and you fail to appear in court, a warrant will be issued for your arrest.

Will I get paid for appearing in court as a witness?

Employers will generally permit subpoenaed witnesses to appear in court without any job related problems; however, it is recommended that you contact your human relations department. You will receive a witness fee for appearing, provided the assistant prosecuting attorney has authorized payment.

As a witness or victim, do I need a lawyer to appear with me?

It is not necessary for you to have an attorney present if you are a victim or witness on a pending criminal case. The assistant prosecuting attorney handling your case will pursue the criminal charges. However, you may retain your own personal attorney if you so desire.

What is a victim advocate?

A victim advocate is an employee of the Prosecutor’s Office who provides assistance to victims of crime. The advocate acts as a liaison between the victim or witness and the assistant prosecuting attorney. Advocates understand the criminal process and will attempt to explain each step of the criminal process to the victim or witness and answer any questions they might have.

More information on Victim & Witness Advocate Program

Who is the prosecuting attorney handling my case?

Generally the prosecutor assigned to handle your case will meet with you outside of the courtroom where the case is scheduled. If your case is a felony or misdemeanor criminal case, they will be heard in the Hamilton County Courthouse. Look at the subpoena you received for the location of the court appearance. Generally the judge’s name, courtroom number and the prosecutor’s name appear on your subpoena. Please wait outside the assigned courtroom at the assigned time and the prosecutor will contact you.

How do I file criminal charges against an individual?

If you are the victim of a crime or believe a crime has occurred, please contact the police department where the offense occurred. The police will investigate and file a complaint if sufficient evidence is found. These complaints are then forwarded to the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office for prosecution. Please note that you cannot drop charges after you have signed a complaint. Only the assistant prosecuting attorney, with the judge’s permission, can dismiss criminal charges.

How do I obtain my court case information?

Please contact the Hamilton County Clerk of Court by going to www.courtclerk.org. If you wish to call the Clerk’s Office, please call (513) 946-5675 for felony criminal cases or (513) 946-6010 for misdemeanor criminal cases.

What are your office hours?

The Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office opens at 8:00 A.M. and closes at 4:00 P.M., excluding weekends and holidays.

How do I obtain legal advice or assistance?

The Prosecutor’s Office is not permitted to provide legal advice to the general public. If you seek more information you may contact the Public Defender’s Office at (513) 946-3700, or the Cincinnati Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service at (513) 946-8213.

How can I find out if a person is in jail?

To find out if a person is in jail, please contact the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, Jail Records, at (513) 946-6300.

Where does DNA come from?

DNA is the name of a long molecule (string of smaller molecules) in the nucleus (center) of a living cell.  Even though it is a very large molecule it is still too small to see with your eye.  It contains the chemical information from your parents (part from your mother and part from your father) that determines what you look like.  It is what makes you, “you.”

Why is a mouth swab used to collect my DNA?

Saliva does not contain DNA but the cells inside your mouth do.  The cells inside your cheeks are constantly falling off into your saliva in large numbers.  These cells have nuclei with your DNA.  Your white blood cells also have DNA but swabbing the inside of your mouth is easier than using a needle to draw blood so it is also less painful.

Can the crime lab find out my medical information from analyzing my DNA?

NO absolutely not.  The lab looks at only 15 short locations along a very long molecule.  None of these locations is near any gene.  No genetic information is read by the crime lab

Can you tell what a person looks like from analyzing their DNA sample?

NO absolutely not.  The parts of the DNA the crime lab looks at are called “Junk DNA.”  They serve no purpose in determining the appearance of a person.  Those locations were chosen only because mathematically they are drastically different in different people.    The crime lab only compares the chemical make-up of the unknown DNA from the crime scene to the chemical make-up of samples from other crime scenes or actual people.

Can the crime lab tell if the DNA from a crime scene is from a man or a woman?

YES.  One of the locations on the DNA molecule does provide reliable information as to the sex of the person.

Will my DNA go into a database?

Victim’s DNA is prohibited from being entered into any database by federal law.  Only unidentified crime scene DNA profiles or profiles from suspects who have signed a consent form will be added to the local database.  Additionally, the unidentified DNA must be associated with the investigation of a criminal case.  Convicts who have been convicted of a felony are added to the database under Ohio law.  Ohio law also allows for arrestee samples to be added to the database.  Anyone arrested in Ohio will have a sample collected from them to be added to the database.

Do other people have the same DNA that I have?

NO, unless you have an identical (not fraternal) twin

Where is DNA found at the crime scene?

Normally body fluids such as blood, saliva, or semen can stain items collected by the police at the crime scene.  For example a discarded cigarette butt may have saliva from the perpetrator.  Also some skin cells may have been rubbed off onto discarded hats, masks, or clothing discarded at the scene.  These may be linked to the suspect if enough DNA is found.

Why does DNA analysis take so long?

DNA analysis is a procedure that has many steps.  Very strict oversight occurs at each step to prevent mistakes.  It is difficult to rush science.  Also, there is a high demand for analyses but the County can only afford to hire a small number of analysts.  Therefore there is always a backlog of hundreds of cases waiting processing.

How reliable is DNA analysis?

It is highly reliable, highly sensitive, and highly specific which is why there is such a high demand for its use.  The procedures used in Hamilton County are the same as those used throughout the world.  In fact, the Hamilton County Coroner’s Crime Lab DNA Section is inspected every other year by an outside agency to insure it meets national standards.  The entire lab is inspected every 5 years to insure it meets international standards.  Throughout the year the lab must meet stiff standards required by the FBI DNA Quality Assurance Standards and the American Society of Crime Lab Directors Laboratory Accreditation Board International.  This insures the results are accurate and can be trusted by the courts.