|What court will hear the case?
The District Court hears most cases involving motor vehicle violations, criminal misdemeanors and certain felonies. The Circuit Court hears cases involving serious felony crimes.
Will a Defendant be tried by a jury?
A judge hears District Court cases and many Circuit Court cases. However, a Defendant may request a jury trial if they face a charge punishable by imprisonment for ore than 90 days. A written request for a jury trial should be filed fifteen (15) days before the scheduled trial date. If a case is set for trial in the Circuit Court, the Defendant will be asked whether they want a jury trial when they are arraigned in the court.
What is a preliminary hearing?
A preliminary hearing is a proceeding held in the District Court to determine if probable cause exists to charge a Defendant with a crime. A Defendant is not allowed to testify or to offer evidence at the hearing, but they have the right to hear the evidence against them and to cross examine the State’s witness.
If the court finds no probable cause, charges may be dismissed. (However, the State’s Attorney may refile charges later.) If a Defendant is charged with a felony or crime which must be tried in Circuit Court and the Defendant has not been indicted by the grand jury, they have a right to a preliminary hearing. The Defendant must request one within ten (10) days of your first appearance before the Commissioner. If a Defendant waives their right to preliminary hearing, or if it is held and the court finds there is sufficient probable cause, the State’s Attorney must file within thirty (30) days a charging document in the Circuit Court, enter a nol pros (unwilling to proceed) or stet (a stay of proceedings) in the District Court, or amend the charges so that they can be tried in the District Court.
Will a Defendant have a criminal record?
Records will exist on all charges filed against a Defendant and the disposition of those charges, including any convictions. Even if a Defendant is not convicted, court records will exist on the charges filed against them and the result of the case. Additionally, police agencies, the State’s Attorney, or the Public Defender may maintain records of their arrest and/or trial.
Under certain conditions a Defendant can have all records pertaining to their case sealed and made unavailable to the public through a process called expungement.
How to file for expungement.
If a Defendant’s case is expunged, no public or private agency or individual can use the records of their arrest and/or trial against them. They can request expungement:
1. If a Defendant was arrested but no charges were filed, they may file immediately at police headquarters.
2. If a Defendant is found not guilty, the charges are dismissed or the State’s Attorney enters a nol pros, a Petition for Expungement may be filed immediately following the trial with a General Waiver and Release or after three years from the date of disposition.
3. If a Defendant is placed on probation before judgment, they may petition for expungement three years after the date of the disposition.
4. If the Defendant’s case is marked stet by the State’s Attorney, they may petition for expungement three years after the date of the stet.
5. If a Defendant is convicted of a nonviolent criminal act and are pardoned by the governor, they may request an expungement after five years, but not more than ten years, from the signing of the pardon.
Can a Defendant appeal a judgment?
A Defendant has a right to appeal a guilty judgment entered in a District Court criminal or traffic case. They do not have a right to appeal if they have been placed on probation without the entry of a judgment.
How and when should a Defendant plan an appeal?
A Defendant can complete the Order for Appeal and file in the District Court within 30 days of disposition. Pay the Circuit Court costs. If a Defendant cannot pay, they may speak with a Clerk on the procedures to have the fee waived.
The District Court has no power to grant an extension of time for filing an Order of Appeal.
Does a Defendant continue to pay fines during appeal?
A Defendant must continue to make scheduled payment of court ordered fines and costs unless the Judge ordered that payment be stayed or that the full amount be paid as a condition to forwarding the appeal. Requests for stay of payment must be made in writing at the same time that you file your appeal.
Is a Defendant still on probation during my appeal?
A Defendant must fulfill their terms and conditions of their probation, unless the Judge has ordered a stay of probation. Requests for stay of probation must be made in writing at the same time that you file your appeal.
Will a Defendant be released during appeal?
A Defendant’s release depends upon the factual circumstances of the case and the ruling of the Judge. The District Court conforms with the guidelines established by the Court of Appeals of Maryland to determine your confinement or release pending appeal.
What is bail?
Bail is money paid to the court to ensure that an arrested person who is released from jail will show up at all required court appearances.
Who can post bail for me?
The person posting bail for a defendant assumes full responsibility for the defendant’s appearance in court. Should the defendant fail to appear (FTA)for trial as required, a warrant will be issued for their immediate arrest and the bail will be forfeited.
How can I post bail?
Bail may be posted by a Licensed Bail Bondsman.
A bail bondsman charges a non refundable fee to post bail. The current legal fee to post a bail in the state of Maryland is 10% of the bond face value. This fee is mandated by the Maryland State Insurance Commission.