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Published on 12/11/2023, 3:43:00 PM

Indictment vs Criminal Information in Maryland

Navigating the criminal justice system in Maryland can be complex, especially when it comes to understanding the various processes used to formally charge someone with a crime. Two primary methods used in Maryland are indictments and criminal informations. At FrizWoods, we aim to clarify these legal terms and processes, helping you understand their implications in criminal cases.

Understanding Indictment in Maryland

An indictment is a formal charge issued by a grand jury, indicating that there is enough evidence for the case to go to trial in the Circuit Court for the county where the charges are. This process involves:

  • Grand Jury Review: A group of citizens called a grand jury reviews the evidence presented by the prosecutor.
  • Secrecy and Deliberation: The grand jury's proceedings are secret, and they deliberate to decide whether there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed.

The Role of Grand Jury

The grand jury plays a crucial role in the indictment process. Their task is to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to charge someone with a felony outside the jurisdiction of the District Court. This process is supposed to becritical in protecting individuals' rights against unwarranted prosecution; however, there are longstanding criticism of the grand jury system. A famous judge, Sol Wachtler once said that "a grand jury would indict a ham sandwich, if that's what you wanted". That same Judge himself was arrested and sent to prison years later.

Criminal Information in Maryland

Criminal information is another method of charging an individual, but it does not involve a grand jury. Instead, it is a formal accusation filed directly by the State's Attorney. These charges can be filed in either the District Court or the Circuit Court, depending on the type of charges. This process includes:

  • Direct Filing by State's Attorney: The State's Attorney files the charges based on probable cause.
  • No Grand Jury Involvement: Unlike an indictment, criminal information does not require the convening of a grand jury.

When is Criminal Information Used?

Criminal information is typically used for misdemeanors or lesser offenses, though it can be employed in felony cases under certain circumstances, if a preliminary hearing was already held and the Court found probable cause for the felonies that a Defendant was charged with.

Differences Between Indictment and Criminal Information

Understanding the key differences between indictment and criminal information is essential in navigating the legal system:

Process and Authority

  • Indictment: Initiated by a grand jury based on evidence presented by the prosecution.
  • Criminal Information: Directly filed by the State's Attorney without the involvement of a grand jury.

Types of Cases

  • Indictment: Generally used for more serious offenses, such as felonies in Circuit court.
  • Criminal Information: Often employed for misdemeanors or lesser offenses, though it can be used in felony cases under specific circumstances. A criminal information can be filed in either District Court or Circuit Court

Rights and Protections

  • Indictment: Offers a layer of protection for the accused, as a group of peers reviews the evidence before charges are filed.
  • Criminal Information: Streamlines the charging process but lacks the preliminary review by a grand jury.

Implications in the Maryland Legal System

In Maryland, the choice between indictment and criminal information can significantly impact the course of a criminal case. The method of charging can affect the trial process, plea negotiations, and the overall strategy of defense.

Strategic Considerations for Defense

At FrizWoods, we understand how these differences can shape legal strategies. Whether you're facing charges via indictment or criminal information, our team is equipped to provide the most effective defense approach.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can charges via criminal information be elevated to an indictment?
    Yes, charges initially filed through criminal information can later be presented to a grand jury for indictment, especially if the case's complexity or severity increases.

  2. Does an indictment guarantee a trial?
    No, an indictment is just the first step in the legal process. It does not guarantee that the case will go to trial as plea deals or dismissals might occur.

  3. How can FrizWoods assist in cases of indictment or criminal information?
    Our legal team at FrizWoods specializes in handling both indictment and criminal information cases. We provide comprehensive legal support, from strategic defense planning to representation in court.

Speak with a lawyer today

Understanding the distinction between indictment and criminal information in Maryland is crucial for anyone involved in the criminal justice system. If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, it's essential to have knowledgeable and experienced legal counsel. Visit our reviews page to see how we have successfully helped others in similar situations. Contact FrizWoods today to ensure your rights are protected and to navigate your case with confidence.