Practice Areas : Criminal Defense

Van Dress Law Office represents accused defendants for all levels of felonies and misdemeanors in the State of Ohio and in the Federal District Court for Northern Ohio. A criminal matter is brought by the State of Ohio or by the Federal Government or other department or agency of the government, charging that person with a crime. All crimes are punishable either as felonies or misdemeanors. The lowest degree felony in Ohio carries a possible jail time of one year in prison. The highest degree felony can mean the death sentence.

View Hourly Rate Criminal Fee Agreement

Van Dress Law Office has significant experience in all aspects of criminal defense. Attorney Van Dress is one of a select number of attorneys on the major felony list for Cuyahoga County, Ohio and has secured not-guilty jury verdicts and dismissals on behalf of his clients. The most common categories and typical scenarios are as follows:

  1. DUI/OVI/DUS (Drunk Driving/Driving Under Suspension).
    1. What can happen to me?
      Ohio’s drunk driving laws (DUI – Driving Under the Influence/ OVI – Operating a Vehicle while Intoxicated) are the toughest they have ever been. A first time offender who is convicted or pleads to the offense can go to jail from a mandatory minimum 3 days up to 180 days in jail, from $250.00 to $1,000.00 in fines, a mandatory minimum 6 months to 2 year license suspension, 6 points on your license, court costs and probation! The court has discretion to mandate special yellow or orange license plates for your vehicle. Aside from the criminal liability, the BMV will charge a $425.00 “license reinstatement fee”, and, you can bet on the fact that your insurance will increase for the next 3 to 7 years. Multiple convictions increase the penalties, eventually making a DUI a felony, possible lifetime license suspension and possible forfeiture of the vehicle to the state! DUI can affect not only the accused, but the accused’ family and job.
    2. What should I do when I get pulled over?
      You must follow all lawful orders from the police, but you do not have to say or do anything that will incriminate yourself. You have the option of “blowing” into an alcohol detection device or to give a blood or urine sample for purposes of determining the level of alcohol (ethanol) in your body. Ohio’s current limit is .08 for the breath test. For an average person, you are at .08 after a few beers and then one every hour. It depends on your metabolism, the last time you ate, etc. But, .08 is 2/10 less than the old test of .10. Keep in mind that you can still be arrested for DUI even if you blow under the legal limit because some drugs, such as pain killers, do not show on the breath test. If this is the case, the officer’s observations of you will be the only evidence to convict you. So, you should be respectful to the police officer but you do not need to answer any of his questions, such as “did you have anything to drink tonight/” Also, you do not need to perform the field sobriety tests, such as walking a straight line, one leg stand and eye nstagmus tests. If you refuse to give the police a breath, blood or urine sample, then Ohio Law says that you automatically get a one-year license suspension, even if you are completely innocent! So, the best advice is not to drink and drive, but if you do and you are concerned about your rights, call an experienced attorney.
    3. What is DUS?
      DUS stands for Driving Under Suspension. Ohio adopted the Financial Responsibility Act (FRA) in response to an insurance (or lack thereof) “crisis.” DUS is actually the same degree crime as a first offense drunk driving offense, so it is very serious. Often, DUS results because you simply moved and didn’t get the notice from the State, asking for proof of insurance. The State RANDOMLY mails thousands of FRA requests to Ohioans every year. In addition to fines, jail, points on your license and court costs, a DUS conviction can suspend your license.
    4. How much will representation cost?
      The average cost for an attorney for a first time DUI is about $1,250.00. Van Dress Law Office offers hourly and flat rate fee agreements for DUIs and DUSs. Click above link to view the agreements.
  2. Felonies (Possession, Carry Concealed Weapon, Homicide).
    1. What is a Felony?
      A felony is any crime that is punishable by six months or more in prison. A misdemeanor is any crime punishable by 6 months or less in jail. Also, the amount of fines are different. Ohio has five levels of felonies and possible prison time as follows:
      • F-1 (three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, or ten years)
      • F-2 (two, three, four, five, six, seven, or eight years)
      • F-3 (one, two, three, four, or five years)
      • F-4 (six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, or eighteen months.)
      • F-5 (six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, or twelve months)
      Additionally, the death penalty is available for capital felonies such as premeditated murder.

      There is mandatory prison time for F-1 and F-2 felonies. The Court has discretion for F-3 prison or probation, but must give at least one year if imposing prison. F-4 and F-5 felonies have a presumption of probation but often carry prison sentences.
    2. What should I do when confronted by the police?
      You do not have to talk to the police -- even in casual conversation. Also, you do not have to let the police your home or apartment unless the police show a warrant. You do not have to give the police or anyone else a blood, urine, hair, breath or other bodily sample unless they obtain a warrant. Do not think that “if you are a nice guy, the police will take it easy on you.” The Supreme Court of the United States has even said that the police are allowed to lie to you. You, however, are not allowed to lie to the police (giving a false statement/making a false report). If arrested, and you ask for a lawyer, the police must immediately stop questioning you. If you decide to talk to the police, do not give them false information, such as your identification. If you do, this is another crime. In general, ask for a lawyer and wait to consult with the lawyer. When approached/arrested by the police, try to remember what the police did so you can tell your lawyer. Try to remember such things as whether the police gave you the Miranda Warning, what tests they did, what instructions they gave you, etc.
    3. What do attorneys charge for Felonies?
      Felonies are very serious crimes and can often cost many thousands of dollars in legal fees. Typically, a $2,000.00 retainer and $150.00 per hour is charged by the Van Dress Law Office for F-5 felonies. However, a client’s criminal history and other information and expectations, the judge on the case, and the location of the case are all factors to consider when trying to anticipate how much work the attorney will perform and thus charge the client. For example, some judges move cases along at a fast pace and others will call the attorney to court on many occasions over a longer period of time, so a good attorney will know the judge’s style and will be able to reasonably predict the amount of time required. A homicide case can often cost $25,000.00 or more.
  3. Misdemeanors (Domestic Violence, Petty Theft, etc).
    1. What is a Misdemeanor”?
      A misdemeanor is any crime punishable by 6 months or less in jail. Ohio has five levels of misdemeanors and possible jail time as follows:
      • M-1 (up to 6 months and up to $1,000.00 fine)
      • M-2 (up to 90 days and up to $750.00 fine)
      • M-3 (up to 60 days and up to $500.00 fine)
      • M-4 (up to 30 days and up to $250.00 fine)
      • MM (minor misdemeanor – no jail – up to $150.00)
    2. I have a minor misdemeanor marijuana case, why hire a lawyer?
      The maximum fine for a MM possession of marijuana offense is $150.00, but all drug offenses in Ohio mandate a minimum of 6 months drivers license suspension, regardless if you were arrested in a car or not. A good lawyer knows how to eliminate the drivers license suspension even though it is “mandatory.”
    3. I have a Domestic Violence Case?
      Domestic Violence is the same thing as assault with one difference – the victim is a “family or household member.” The big Affect of a domestic violence case, is that multiple convictions elevates it to a felony, unlike multiple convictions of assault. Also, in reality, police will arrest people for domestic violence upon allegation of the threat of violence, even if there was absolutely no physical contact. I have never seen an assault case based upon a threat. Many domestic violence allegations coincide with divorce proceedings. Many involve no physical contact. Some call it the “O.J. Simpson” effect, and some police departments have an unsaid policy to arrest the man. Needless to day, domestic violence charges are very controversial and often involve very complicated fact patterns. The most recent development in Domestic Violence Law centers on the definition of “family or household member” because of the anti-gay marriage amendment to Ohio’s Constitution. Defense attorneys are successfully arguing that boyfriends are not subject to the domestic violence laws. The Supreme Court has not issued its ruling yet.
    4. How much do attorneys charge for misdemeanors?
      Van Dress Law Office recommends flat fees for misdemeanors. A flat fee is a set amount of money that will not increase or decrease, even if the case goes all the way to trial. A flat fee enables clients to budget for their representation and often makes it easier for a client when attempting to determine whether it is worth it to hire an attorney for a relatively minor matter.