Maryland Criminal Procedure Explained
If you were arrested and charged with a crime in Maryland, you may face a long and complicated process in the state’s justice system. Understanding the basic process of criminal procedure is important to building a good defense and protecting your freedom. The following is a brief introduction to what a defendant may go through in Maryland.
Arrest and booking
When the defendant is booked, information including the arrestee’s name, address, photograph, fingerprints and nature of their crime are recorded.
Bail and detention
The defendant is either given the option to post bail, released or detained without bail. The amount of a defendant’s bail depends on the nature of the crime, their criminal history, employment and family circumstances, and the possibility of fleeing or committing another crime.
Arraignment and plea bargaining
The defendants are informed of the charges against them and are allowed to plead guilty, not guilty or nolo contendre, which means the charges are not being disputed (although practically it is usually the same as a guilty plea). If the defendant is considering entering a guilty plea they may have the option to negotiate a lesser sentence or reduced charges in exchange for accepting guilt. If the defendant enters a plea of not guilty, the case often then proceeds to trial.
The small minority of cases that are not settled by a negotiated settlement usually go to trial. At the hearing, the prosecution presents evidence to prove a trial is necessary, however the prosecution only needs to prove the relatively low standard of probable cause as to whether the defendant committed the crime.
Trial and sentencing
There are two types of criminal courts in Maryland. Most misdemeanors and some felonies, such as felony theft or some firearms offenses, are heard in a Maryland District Court, which does not have a jury. Although misdemeanors are usually more petty crimes, they can carry severe consequences and remain on a criminal record. If the charge is punishable by more than 90 days in jail, the defendant can request a jury trial in writing up to 15 days before the scheduled trial. Felonies and misdemeanors with high maximum penalties are heard in a Maryland Circuit Court, where a jury delivers a verdict based on evidence given by the defendant and prosecutor.
If you are facing charges for a crime in Maryland, a La Plata criminal defense lawyer can fight for your freedom and protect your future by advising you on the best legal route for your situation.