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Published on 9/26/2023, 9:23:00 AM

What are the differences between Felonies and Misdemeanors in Maryland?

Every state in the U.S., including Maryland, categorizes crimes into two primary categories: felonies and misdemeanors. The distinction is not just a matter of semantics; it can significantly impact the accused's life, the legal process, and potential consequences.

If you're facing charges in Maryland, understanding this difference is crucial. Here, we will delve into the intricacies of felonies and misdemeanors in Maryland and showcase why choosing a seasoned defense attorney, like those at FrizWoods LLC, is paramount.

Felony Criminal Charges in Maryland

Felonies are the more serious of the two classifications. Conviction often comes with substantial penalties, including lengthy prison sentences and hefty fines.

In addition, a felony conviction can result in loss of voting rights while incarcerated in Maryland. Voting rights are generally restored once a person is released from incarceration and placed on parole or probation.

Common Felony Offenses

  • Murder Taking another's life, whether intentional or accidental, is a severe offense in Maryland.
  • Sexual Offenses Charges range based on the severity, but many sexual crimes in Maryland are considered felonies.
  • Robbery: Unlike theft, the felony of robbery involves force or the threat of force.
  • First Degree Assault: If an assault involved a firearm, strangulation, or the intent to cause serious bodily injury - an assault in the first degree is a felony.
  • Drug Distribution or Possession with Intent to Distribute: While simple possession might be a misdemeanor, distributing drugs escalates the charge to a felony.

Misdemeanor Criminal Charges in Maryland

Misdemeanors, while less severe than felonies, can still tarnish your record and disrupt your life. They can come with jail time, fines, and other consequences. Certain misdemeanor charges in Maryland actually carry higher penalties than many felonies. This can lead to confusion; however, maximum penalties are only one of the ways that these types of charges are different.

Common Misdemeanor Charges in Maryland

  • DUI: A DUI might seem minor but can come with significant penalties, especially for repeat offenders.
  • Low value Theft:Theft of less than $100, or between $100 and $1,500 is a misdemeanor. Once the value of the stolen goods or services exceeds $1,500, you might be charged with felony theft.
  • Second Degree Assault: If there's no serious injury or weapon involved, the assault might be charged as a misdemeanor.
  • Drug Possession: Holding small amounts of controlled substances without the intent to distribute.
  • Illegal Possession of a Firearm Most Maryland gun charges are actually misdemeanors. These include transporting a handgun in a vehicle, or carrying a handgun on your person.

Circuit Court vs District Court

In Maryland, both felonies and misdemeanors can be charged in District Court; however, most felony charges cannot go to trial in District Court. They must go through the indictment process, which begins with the scheduling of a preliminary hearing.

The more severe cases, especially most felonies, are typically reserved for the Circuit Court, which holds jury trials.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a DUI a felony in Maryland?

Generally, a DUI is charged as a misdemeanor in Maryland. However, circumstances like repeated offenses or causing bodily harm can escalate it to felony charges.

How much jail could I get for a felony?

Depending on the severity of the felony, sentences can range from a year in jail to life imprisonment. Some charges even carry mandatory minimum sentences.

How much jail could I get for a misdemeanor?

Maryland misdemeanors have a wide range of potential sentences- from as low as 60 days to up to ten years in prison. For example, a disorderly conduct charge carries a maximum penalty of up to sixty (60) days in jail. Meanwhile, a seond degree assault carries up to ten years in jail.

What is the difference between Circuit Court and District Court?

The difference between Circuit Court and District Court comes down to the different types of cases that each Court can hear. District Court is technically a lower Court where most cases begin. Once a case has been presented to the grand jury, or a Defendant has demanded a jury trial, the case can go to a jury trial in Circuit Court.

Do misdemeanors go on my record?

Yes, misdemeanors appear on your criminal record, which can affect employment and housing opportunities. If you are found not guilty, receive a probation before judgment or the law permits it for a guilty finding, an expungement will remove the criminal charge from Court records.

Can I own a gun with a felony in Maryland?

No, individuals convicted of a felony lose their right to own or possess a firearm in Maryland. Possession of a firearm by a felon is a felony with a maximum sentence of fifteen years in a Maryland prison.

Is Assault a felony in Maryland?

Assault can be either a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the severity. First-degree assault, involving serious physical injury, is a felony. Second-degree assault is typically a misdemeanor unless committed on a law enforcement officer.

Many domestic violence cases involve charges for both degrees of assault in the District Court, with the State having to decide if they want to proceed with a felony case in Circuit Court or a misdemeanor case in District Court.

What is an indictment?

An indictment is a formal charge by a grand jury, typically used for felony charges. It's the prosecution's way of bringing felony charges to Maryland Circuit Court without having a public probable cause hearing, also known as a preliminary hearing.

What is a criminal information?

A "criminal information" is a formal charge filed directly by the prosecutor without a grand jury's involvement. It's often used for misdemeanors, or felony charges after a preliminary hearing is held and probable cause is found.

Can I have a jury trial for a misdemeanor?

In Maryland, while most misdemeanors are heard in District Court without a jury, defendants have the right to request a jury trial, moving the case to Circuit Court so long as the maximum penalty of the criminal offense is over 90 days in jail.

Speak with FrizWoods today about your case

Whether facing a felony or misdemeanor in Maryland, understanding the nuances of each is vital. However, navigating the legal waters doesn't have to be a solitary journey. With FrizWoods LLC by your side, you're equipped with a team that knows the Maryland legal landscape inside out.

If you or a loved one is grappling with charges in Maryland, don't leave your fate to chance. Reach out to FrizWoods LLC. Read real-life testimonials from our satisfied clients and let us pave the way for your defense.