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Published on 3/3/2023, 2:12:00 PM

A Guide to Maryland Criminal Court

As a resident of Maryland, it's important to know the basics of criminal defense law. Criminal charges can come from a variety of situations such as theft, assault, drug possession, DUI, and more. In this blog post, we will discuss where criminal charges come from, the burden of proof for the state in a criminal case, the elements of a criminal offense, and the maximum penalties for certain charges. We will also discuss how trials work, including the difference between bench and jury trials, and what happens during a plea agreement. Finally, we will cover what to expect during sentencing and why it's important to speak with a Maryland criminal lawyer.

Where do criminal charges come from?

Criminal charges can come from a variety of sources such as a police investigation, a victim report, or a witness report. In Maryland, citizens can also file their own criminal charge against a person, which is commonly referred to as a "comissioner complaint"

If law enforcement suspects you of committing a crime, they may conduct an investigation, make an arrest, and submit the case to the comissioner. The commissioner will then determine if there is enough evidence to charge you with a crime, and if so may issue a warrant for your arrest.

Burden of Proof for the State in a Criminal Case

In a criminal case, the state has the burden of proof. This means that the state has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the crime you are charged with. This is a high standard of proof, and the state has to present evidence to support each element of the crime.

Every criminal charge is different

It's important to note that every criminal charge is different. Each crime has its own specific elements that the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt. If even one element of the crime is not proven, the charge may be dismissed. Additionally, different charges carry different penalties, which we will discuss below.

Elements of a criminal offense

As mentioned above, each crime has its own specific elements that the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt. For example, in a theft case, the state must prove that you took someone else's property without permission with the intent to deprive the owner of the property. Each element of the crime must be proven for the charge to stick.

Maximum penalties vary based on your charge

Each criminal charge carries its own maximum penalty. For example, a misdemeanor shoplifting charge of theft under $100 carries a maximum penalty of 90 days of incarceration and a $500 fine, while a felony theft of $1, 500 to $25,000 would carry up to 5 years of incarceration and a $10,000 fine.

This is why it's important to know the maximum penalties for your charge so you can make informed decisions about your defense strategy.

How does a trial work?

If you are charged with a crime, you may have the option to have a trial. Trials can be either a bench trial or a jury trial.

Bench Trial

In a bench trial, the judge makes the decision about whether you are guilty or not guilty by holding the State to the burden of proof explained above. The judge listens to the evidence presented by the prosecutor and your defense attorney and makes a decision based on that evidence. This type of trial is typically used for less serious offenses in Maryland's District Court.

There are occasions where Defendant's in Maryland's circuit court choose to have a bench trial in leiu of a jury trial. Some examples might be a sexual offense that could shock the conscious of the jury and make them overlook lapses in the State's case.

Jury Trial

In a jury trial, a group of twelve of your peers will listen to the evidence presented by the prosecutor and your defense attorney and decide whether you are guilty or not guilty. The jury's decision must be unanimous. This type of trial is typically used for more serious felony offenses in Maryland's Circuit Court.

You may remove a misdemeanor case from the District Court and demand a jury trial in the Circuit Court through a jury trial prayer

What is a plea agreement?

A plea agreement is an agreement between you and the prosecutor. In a plea agreement, you agree to plead guilty to a criminal offense in exchange for a reduced sentence, reduction of charges, or other considerations. Plea agreements are often used in cases where the evidence against you is strong, and you may be facing a significant penalty if you are found guilty at trial.

How do I avoid a trial, and avoid a conviction?

It's possible to avoid both while also resolving your case. If you have an experienced lawyer, perhaps he can convince the State to dismiss your case. In the alternative, the State may offer a STET agreement.

What is sentencing?

If you are found guilty or you plead guilty to a criminal charge, you will be sentenced by the judge who is presiding over your case. The judge will consider various factors before deciding on a sentence, including the nature of the offense, the defendant's criminal history, and any mitigating or aggravating circumstances. They may also consider Maryland's sentencing guidelines.

Sentencing can include fines, probation, community service, and even jail time. In some cases, the judge may allow the defendant to participate in a diversion program, which may involve drug or alcohol treatment, counseling, or community service in lieu of incarceration.

Speak with a criminal lawyer today

It's important to note that if you are facing criminal charges, you have the right to legal representation. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help you navigate the criminal justice system, protect your rights, and work to achieve the best possible outcome in your case.

Don't wait until it's too late to seek legal counsel. Contact FrizWoods, as soon as possible to discuss your case and begin building a strong defense. With the right representation from a Maryland criminal defense lawyer, you can fight back against criminal charges and protect your future.