Frequently Asked Questions

What does the County Prosecuting Attorney do?

The duties of the office are many and varied. The Wood County Prosecuting Attorney oversees the operation of the Prosecutor’s Office. While the role is primarily administrative, Paul Dobson involves himself in specific cases as he sees fit or as necessity dictates. The Wood County Prosecutor’s Office has three main divisions: the Criminal division, which acts on behalf of the State of Ohio and prosecutes, or brings to trial, all offenders for felony crimes which occur in the county; the Juvenile Division, which prosecutes all juvenile crime, whether felony or misdemeanor, based on either location of the occurrence or residency of the juvenile in the county; and the Civil Division which acts as civil counsel to its statutory clients.

The prosecuting attorney is the legal adviser for all county elected officials, officers and boards, including all tax-supported public libraries and most township officers, boards and commissions. These clients may request opinions or advice from the prosecuting attorney in matters connected with their official duties. The prosecuting attorney also prosecutes and defends all suits and actions on behalf of these public officials or entities. No county officer may employ any other counsel or attorney at the expense of the county, unless authorized to do so by statute.

If I am a victim of a felony crime or delinquent act, who should I contact initially about the investigation or case?

The local law enforcement agency having jurisdiction over the location of the crime should be the first call. Often this will be the police department of the locality where the criminal event occurred. In certain villages or townships, the Wood County Sheriff’s Office has jurisdiction. These law enforcement agencies investigate criminal acts. The prosecuting attorney’s office may receive the case only after the this investigation is complete.

How do I know if my problem is criminal or civil?

This determination can be difficult. However, a valuable guideline is to test the intention of person who committed the act. Generally, the actor must commit the act knowing or intending to commit an act which is against the law. If the act was committed accidentally or unknowingly, the case is quite possibility civil in nature. The prosecutor’s office does not represent private individuals in these types of matters. However, if an act that resulted in physical or economic harm was committed intentionally, knowingly (knowing that a certain result would occur without necessarily intending it) or even recklessly (acting with heedless indifference to the consequences), the incident may be criminal. The prosecutor’s office may have authority to prosecute the criminal matter. These are broad generalities and should not be considered as hard and fast rules.

I have witnessed a crime or have information about a crime, who should I call?

You should contact the local law enforcement agency having jurisdiction over the location of the crime. Often this will be the police department of the locality where the criminal event occurred. In certain villages or townships, the Wood County Sheriff’s Office has jurisdiction.

I have information about the whereabouts of a person who has a warrant out for his arrest, who can I talk to about this information?

If you know where the person is located, you should contact the local law enforcement agency having jurisdiction over that location. The Wood County Sheriff’s Office can also be contacted if the local jurisdiction is unknown or unreachable.

My spouse, a family member, or a person I live with physically abuses me, what can I do?

Physical abuse is a crime and you should call your local law enforcement agency immediately to seek help. There are also many public and private social service agencies that stand ready to offer assistance, advocacy and shelter in such a crisis. Click on the “Links” page to find a link to many of these agencies. Additionally, many of these agencies can be accessed by calling The Link 24 hour Crisis Hotline at 419-352-1545 or 1-800-472-9411. You do not need to call law enforcement before you call The Link.

What is the difference between a “Temporary Protection Order,” a “Civil Protection Order”, and a “No-Contact Order?”

A “TPO” is a court order issued in connection with a criminal case involving domestic abuse or stalking. The order generally requires the offender to stay away from the protected person and have no contact in any way, even through a third person, with the protected person. Generally, the offender is ordered to stay away from the residence, the business and other necessary locations of the protected person. The order lasts only as long as the criminal case. It is a criminal offense to violate a TPO.

A “CPO” is issued through the Domestic Relations Court. No criminal case need be pending, but it must involve a domestic relationship and there must be violence or legitimate fear of violence that can be articulated to a judge or magistrate. The order is generally similar to the guidelines set out above for a TPO. It is a criminal offense to violate a CPO.

A “No Contact Order” is an order by a court in a criminal action that the criminal defendant not have contact with the protected person. The protected person may be a victim, a witness, a co-defendant or anyone else the court determines may be negatively affected by contact from the defendant. The order may be issued as a condition of probation if the defendant has been convicted of the offense or of bond if the case is still pending. Violation of this order may subject the Defendant to answering to the court for violating his probation or his bond conditions. Violation of a No Contact Order itself is not a criminal offense. However, in dangerous situations, the police should always be called.

In all of these instances, the responsibility to comply with the Order is entirely on the person who was ordered, not on the protected person.

How do I drop charges as the victim in a criminal case?

The parties to a criminal case are the defendant and the State of Ohio as a whole. The victim is not a party. Therefore, the victim in a criminal case has no authority or standing to drop charges. Victims are strongly encouraged to discuss their concerns and desires with the assistant prosecuting attorney handling the case. While victims are not parties to the case, they are important and their point of view will be heard. The Victim Services Division of the Wood County Prosecutor’s Office is also a valuable resource for victims to express themselves to the office.

How do I find out if a Defendant is still in jail?

Ohio VINE (Victim Information and Notification Everyday) system links county sheriffs, county prosecuting attorneys, and state correctional facilities to create a comprehensive victim notification system. The Ohio system is part of a nationwide VINE program. A website or toll free hotline will provide information 24 hours a day, 365 days per year.

  • For inmate information, go to www.vinelink.com or call 1-800-770-0192.
  • Be prepared to provide the offender’s name or inmate number. To obtain an inmate number of a defendant in prison, go to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction’s website (www.drc.ohio.gov) and enter the defendant’s name under “Offender Search.”
  • When an inmate has a change in status, the call center will automatically begin to call all registered victims. Notification calls continue every half-hour for 24 hours or until the victim enters a Personal Identification Number (or PIN) to indicate a successful notification.
  • VINE will leave a message on an answering machine, but will continue to call every two hours until the 24-hour period is over.

Who do I speak with about restitution owed to me or compensation for unreimbursed hospital bills or lost wages due to being a victim of crime?

While a case is pending, it is important to get this information to the Victim Services Division of the Wood County Prosecutor’s Office as soon as possible. Restitution cannot be ordered unless it is known to an assistant prosecuting attorney. Documentation is vital to recovery. Victims are encouraged to contact the office even before receiving anything in the mail to alert the office to their financial loss. Contact Bob McGeein in the Victim Services Division at 419-354-9250 for information.

How do I get a Civil Protection Order (CPO)?

CPO’s are ordered by the Domestic Relations Court, found on the first floor of the Wood County Courthouse (downtown Bowling Green). Petitions for these orders can be obtained at the Wood County Clerk of Courts office, located on the second floor of the Courthouse. A lawyer is not needed to file the Petition. The prosecutor’s office cannot act as legal counsel for the obtaining of these orders. After filing the paperwork, the petitioner will be required to provide specific reasons to a Domestic Relations Court Magistrate as to why the CPO is warranted. If the magistrate deems it appropriate, he or she may issue an immediate temporary order of protection. Once served on the subject of the order, he or she will be subject to the order until a full hearing can be had by the Domestic Relations Court. Once a CPO is in place, the petitioner is required to appear at all hearings on the CPO in order to keep it in place, unless otherwise told by the court.

Where can I find a lawyer to help me?

The Wood County Bar Association has a listing of lawyers on its website according to practice area. Use the “practice areas” page at www.woodcobarassociation.org.

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

A subpoena is a court order commanding you to appear at the time and date specified in the subpoena. A subpoena cannot be ignored or avoided. Failure to comply with it could lead to your arrest. Upon receipt of the subpoena, you should immediately contact the issuing party and discuss your testimony and any issues you have in appearing. Unless relieved of your duty, you must appear.

Will the case be continued if I do not appear pursuant to a subpoena?

Often cases do not get continued. The case may be dismissed for failure to prosecute or, without your voice or appearance, the case may proceed or end in a way you feel is unsatisfactory. Additionally, the court may order a warrant for your arrest if you fail to appear.

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

The clerk’s office is required to reimburse you as a witness, based on a whole day-half day system. It will pay you for whole days or half days in which your appearance was required. If you stay longer than you are required, you will not be reimbursed for the additional time. You may also be entitled to compensation for the distance traveled to appear. You must present your subpoena to the clerk’s office in order to be compensated.

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

There is no requirement that a lawyer accompany you for any hearing in which you are required to appear as a witness. You may contact an attorney if you wish to discuss the need for counsel pursuant to the subpoena.

Who is the prosecuting attorney handling my case?

Case assignments are handed out by the Chief Assistant of the division or by the Prosecuting Attorney. Cases are assigned after a brief review of the facts of each case. Certain areas of cases (for instance sex offenses or drug crime) have been assigned as the focus of certain assistant prosecutors. While those prosecutors do not necessarily handle all of the cases of that type, they handle the majority of those types of cases and are the resource for other prosecutors handling them. Cases are also divided in order to equalize the caseload among the assistants as much as possible. If your case has been indicted, you should have received an introductory letter, indicating the assistant prosecuting attorney assigned to you case. Before indictment, or, if you have not received such a letter, call the office and the staff will locate your case to identify the assigned assistant prosecutor.

How do I file criminal charges against an individual?

The Wood County Prosecutor’s Office Criminal Division only handles felony crimes. These crimes are investigated by the police, typically charged by the police and then turned over to the prosecutor’s office for potential indictment. Otherwise, cases may be turned over to the office before charging for potential direct indictment. In either case, charges are not brought by individual citizens. The best way to proceed on a potential criminal case is to contact the law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over the location where the crime occurred. Often this will be the police department of the locality where the criminal event occurred. In certain villages or townships, the Wood County Sheriff’s Office has jurisdiction.

How do I obtain my court case information?

The answer to this depends upon the court in which your case is pending. The Wood County Clerk of Courts records all pleadings and related court filings for the Wood County Court of Common Pleas. The progress of the case can be checked on its website (clerkofcourt.co.wood.oh.us). Wood County is served by three municipal courts: Bowling Green, Perrysburg and Fostoria. For any of these courts, or for the Wood County Clerk of Courts Office, please go to the links page on this site and click on the appropriate location.

What are your office hours?

The Wood County Prosecutor’s Office is open 8:30am to 4:30pm, Monday through Friday, except legal holidays.

Who do I talk to about collecting child support?

Contact the Wood County Child Support Enforcement Agency at 419-354-9270.

How does the court process work?

The court process is a complicated process to be described in a few lines. However, once a crime has been committed and law enforcement has investigated, officers may file a charge against an individual if they have enough evidence. If the offense is a felony, the person, once arrested, will appear before a Municipal Court judge who will determine, after a short hearing, called a Preliminary Hearing, whether there is probable cause to believe the person committed a felony offense. At that time the judge, “binds the case over,” or transfers the case to the Court of Common Pleas. This is not a finding of guilt, but a determination that enough evidence exists to forward the case to the Court of Common Pleas, where felony cases are prosecuted. The prosecutor’s office will present the case to the Grand Jury in a proceeding where only the prosecuting attorney, the Grand Jury, and the witness or witnesses attend.

If the Grand Jury determines that it has been provided enough evidence that a crime was probably committed and that the defendant probably committed the crime, it returns an indictment. An indictment is a document charging an individual (now called a “defendant”) with a criminal offense and replaces the charge originally filed by the police. Based on that document, the defendant is brought before a Common Pleas Judge for Arraignment. At the Arraignment, the defendant is notified of the charges against him or her and the rights of a criminal defendant.

After the Arraignment, the case moves into the “pre-trial” stage, which includes the exchange of information between the prosecuting attorney and the defense attorney, through a process called “discovery.” A series of meetings with the judge, called pre-trial conferences, may follow. Should there be any question as to the propriety or validity of any evidence, written “motions,” or arguments to the judge may be filed. These would typically be followed by hearings, where the court will hear witness testimony and arguments by the attorneys. Finally, a trial may occur, in which evidence would be presented to either the judge or a jury, who would make a final determination on the guilt of the defendant. Should the defendant be found guilty, the judge will issue a sentence with is a penalty for the criminal violation.

This is a brief summary of the process. At any point, the process could change. Plea negotiations may occur which would change or obviate some portion or all of the other steps.

How can someone plead “not guilty” in their arraignment when they are so obviously guilty?

A plea of “not guilty” at the arraignment is necessary in order to begin the court process. No matter the evidence against a defendant, he or she is entitled to require the state to present evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. By entering a plea of “not guilty,” he or she is exercising this constitutional right.

How do I get a Temporary Protection Order (TPO)?

A TPO is ordered by the court as part of a criminal case. In order to obtain a TPO, certain charges, such as Domestic Violence or Stalking, must already be filed. If the court has not already issued a TPO as part of the case, a victim may request one by appearing before the court in which the case is pending.

What is a warrant?

A warrant is an order by a court to all law enforcement agencies under the force of the order, to arrest the person who is the subject of the order and hold him until he can be brought back before the court.

What is a pre-trial conference and do I need to attend?

A pre-trial conference is a meeting between the judge and the attorneys to an action. It is typically held out of public view in the judge’s chambers. During such a conference, the parties and the judge will discuss the progress of the case, the exchange of information (known as “discovery”), any issues that may require a hearing, any plea negotiations, and generally anything else of relevance to the case. At these conferences, new dates are set for other conferences, motion hearings, plea dates or trial dates.

Generally, it is unnecessary for victims or witnesses to appear for pre-trial conferences and many do not. However, victims or witnesses are welcome to attend. It is best to notify either the prosecuting attorney or the Victim Services staff ahead of time if you plan on attending. Several cases are set on a particular day and you may not be indentified if the staff is unaware that you are coming. This could result in delays and leave you dissatisfied with the process.

What is the difference between a bench trial and a jury trial?

A “trial” is a court proceeding where the guilt or innocence of a defendant is determined after the facts surrounding a particular alleged event or series of events are set forth through testimony and evidence. A “court trial” or “bench trial” is one where the judge makes the ultimate guilt determination. A “jury trial” is one where a jury, or a group of citizens assigned to hear a particular case, makes the determination.

Am I allowed to be present in the courtroom during the trial?

Generally, a trial is a pubic proceeding, which means that any member of the public can be present. However, witnesses in a trial are not allowed to be present in the courtroom unless allowed by the judge. Witnesses are generally not allowed to sit in a trial until after they have testified and, in some cases, even after they have done so.

What if the defendant’s attorney or some other individual acting on behalf of the defendant contacts me about the case?

Victims and witnesses are still citizens of the United States and Ohio. As such, they retain the right to speak to, or refuse to speak to, whomever they choose. You cannot be required to speak to someone unless you are in the courtroom or under similar requirement, such as a Grand Jury. Even if you are subpoenaed to a case, you are still not required to speak to anyone before you appear pursuant to that subpoena.

It would be improper for this office to attempt to dictate to whom you can speak or prohibit you from speaking to anyone you choose. That said, you can refuse to speak to them or may agree to speak under any conditions you desire, such as having counsel, police, a prosecuting attorney, or even a friend or family member present.

What is a Victim Impact Statement?

A Victim Impact Statement is quite simply a statement, either oral or written (or both) made by the victim of a criminal offense to the court, either given at or used at the time of sentencing which identifies for the court the impact the crime had on the victim or on others affected by the crime. It is one important factor of many factors the court considers when it determining the appropriate sentence for an offender.

What is restitution?

Restitution is the repayment the judge orders the offender to pay for financial loss to the victim or others related to the crime. Restitution must be related to specific identifiable monetary loss that the victim suffered. Speculative damages, such as punitive damages or “pain and suffering,” are not restitution in a criminal case. Likewise, loss that has been reimbursed through some third party, such as an insurance company, cannot be awarded to the victim. Documentation of damages is vital to the restitution amount ordered by the court. Once restitution is ordered, it essentially becomes a civil judgment that the victim can use as a basis for collection activity.

What is Crime Victim Compensation?

The Ohio Victims of Crime Compensation Fund is a fund established by the State of Ohio that provides financial relief to victims of crime, mostly violent crime, for specific financial losses suffered. Loss of property or the value of property through theft or damage is not covered by the Ohio Victims of Crime Compensation Fund. Instead the fund can cover such loss as health care costs for hospital bills and physician visits directly caused by the criminal act and counseling necessary for recovery from the act. There are several areas of recovery.

The Wood County Prosecutor’s Office does not administrate this fund and has no authority over the acceptance of any applications or the release of any funds. The Victim and Witness Services staff has applications to apply for funds and can offer some limited assistance in completing the forms. Application does not guarantee recovery, as several factors and circumstances are taken into account before a decision regarding acceptance of the application is made. Documentation of the losses is vital to recovery of funds.

For more information and to download an application or apply for compensation on-line, go to http://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/Services/Victims/Victims-Compensation-Application .  You can also call (800) 582-2877.

What is VINE?

Ohio VINE system links county sheriffs, county prosecuting attorneys, and state correctional facilities to create a comprehensive victim notification system. Membership in the VINE system, done by calling the 800 number or on-line, enters an individual into a system where he or she is notified of any change in an inmate’s incarceration status. The Ohio system is part of a nationwide VINE program. A website or toll free hotline will provide information 24 hours a day, 365 days per year.

  • For inmate information, go to www.vinelink.com or call 1-800-770-0192.
  • Be prepared to provide the offender’s name or inmate number.
  • When an inmate has a change in status, the call center will automatically begin to call all registered victims. Notification calls continue every half-hour for 24 hours or until the victim enters a Personal Identification Number (or PIN) to indicate a successful notification.
  • VINE will leave a message on an answering machine, but will continue to call every two hours until the 24-hour period is over.

What is a grand jury?

A grand jury is a group of citizens of the county, randomly selected by a court of common pleas, which examines evidence and testimony to determine if a felony charge should be filed against an individual. The grand jury does not determine guilt or innocence. Instead, it decides whether the prosecutor’s office has shown it probable cause to believe that a crime was committed and that the suspect committed the crime. “Probable cause” means that, essentially, the grand jury has more reason to believe the crime did occur than not. If the grand jury finds probable cause, they return an “indictment,” or a document which is delivered to the defendant saying that he or she has been charged with a crime.

The Wood County Grand Jury generally meets twice per month, on the first and third Wednesdays. They may be required to meet at others times, should circumstances require. The grand jury meets in the central conference room in the Wood County Prosecutor’s Office.