May 1, 2009
Local Courts Linked to Ohio Network
Sixteen local courts connected to a statewide justice information exchange system now have the capability to cast a wider net in searching backgrounds of those appearing in court.
Developed by the Supreme Court of Ohio, the Ohio Courts Network (OCN) serves as a centralized warehouse of case-related data, enabling courts and justice system partners to share information and to support functions such as criminal history reviews, warrant and protection order searches, pre-sentencing investigations, background checks, handgun pre-purchase reviews and pre-custody reviews.
These local courts’ case management systems send data each night to the Supreme Court, which then integrates and securely stores this information and makes it available to other courts and justice system partners. As a closed, private, secure application, the OCN is not a public Web site, according to Robert Stuart, Supreme Court Information Technology Director.
Stuart said connecting to the OCN involves only a few steps: signing an agreement to share local court data, training the authorized local court users, connecting to the OCN and loading cases.
Through the OCN, the flow of information between local courts and justice system partners is improved because of the availability of current, accurate and centralized data,” said Stuart. “Judges know more about the person charged with a crime who’s standing before them, and state agencies can access case disposition data as soon as the court has entered it into the local system. Because of this, judges make better decisions based on the additional information.”
The justice system partners’ records available through the OCN include those from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections, the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation criminal history database and any case-related record from local courts connected to the OCN.
Bonnie Gold, Clerk/Court Administrator for Sidney Municipal Court, said the OCN has greatly enhanced the clerk’s office’s procedures by being able to obtain driving records and court information.
“The process is more efficient, and saves much more time than what we had to do before the OCN,” she said. As an example, she said the clerk’s office does not have access to the Law Enforcement Automated Data System and uses the OCN to see if defendants qualify for limited driving privileges. Because of the access to the OCN, defendants who qualify are able to drive legally sooner.
The 16 local courts connected to the OCN include: Butler County Area Courts I, II and III; Domestic Relations and General divisions of Crawford County Common Pleas; the Domestic Relations, General, Juvenile and Probate divisions of Franklin County Common Pleas; Girard Municipal; Hamilton County Probate; Hamilton Municipal; Domestic Relations and General divisions of Hocking County Common Pleas; Miamisburg Municipal; Domestic Relations, General, Juvenile and Probate divisions of Morgan County Common Pleas; Shaker Heights Municipal; Sidney Municipal; Domestic Relations and General divisions of the Union County Common Pleas.
Many other local courts are in various stages of connectivity. Some courts have begun loading case data, some courts are testing their connectivity before loading cases and some courts have scheduled implementation. It is hoped that 80 percent of the case-related data from local courts will be available system wide by the end of the year.