A criminal case in Maryland begins when law enforcement has probable cause to believe a crime has been committed. You will either be physically arrested and put in handcuffs or served a criminal summons or citation directing you to appear in court at a later date.
Arrest and Booking
During an arrest, the police officer will advise you of your rights including the right to remain silent and the right to counsel. Do NOT attempt to explain your side of the alleged altercation or crime. This will only make matters worse and will be used against you.
You will be taken to a police station, detention center, or jail to be “booked.” This is a process that involves being fingerprinted and having your photograph taken. A background check will be performed to see if you have a prior arrest record (Review of Arrests and Prosecutions/Rap sheet). You will likely be placed in a holding cell. If the police attempt to question you, state that you wish to speak to a lawyer and refuse to answer any further questions.
Initial Appearance Before a Judicial Officer/Bail Determination
WIthin 24 hours of your arrest, you will be taken before a judicial officer — typically a District Court commissioner for an initial appearance. Once you are brought before the commissioner for the first time, you have a right to have an attorney present. At this first appearance, the judge will make a determination as to whether you will be held on bail or without bail, or will be released on your own recognizance until your trial date.
In making the bail determination, the judge considers many factors including:
- the nature and circumstances of offense;
- your employment status and history;
- your ties to the local community or state;
- whether you are considered a flight risk or a danger to yourself or others;
- whether you have a prior criminal history or record of not appearing in court
Options for Posting Bail
If the judge sets bail, you can pay by:
- Cash Bail– deposit a percentage (usually 10%) with the court. Once the case is concluded the deposit amount is refunded.
- Bail Bondsman– Bondsman charge a fee usually 10% of the bond set by the judge or commissioner. The fee you pay the bondsman in non-refundable.
- Property Bail– may used to post bail provide that the person posting the bond possesses sufficient equity in the property to match the bond amount
- Intangible Assets- includes things like stock certificates, bank books, and certificates of deposit
If a judge denies bail or sets a very egregious amount for bail, you are entitled to bail hearing before a judge. We will represent you at this hearing and request that your bail be lowered.
Bail with Imposed Restrictions
The judge may set bail but impose certain restrictions pending trial such as mandatory drug testing; home arrest/electronic monitoring; supervision of probation officer, restricting travel, or prohibiting contact with alleged victim.
Circumstances in Which Bail Can Be Denied
- crimes punishable by death or life imprisonment;
- crimes of violence, certain drug offenses, other serious crimes, previous convictions of these crimes;
- drug kingpin charges;
- violating provisions of domestic violence protective order;
- certain crimes involving firearms; previous conviction of those crimes
- registration with sex offender registry
Preliminary Hearing for Felony Crimes
If you were charged with a felony, you have a right to request a preliminary hearing within 10 days of your first hearing with the commissioner. This hearing will be held in the District Court to determine whether the State can establish probable cause that you committed the offense. A preliminary hearing, the prosecution will present the evidence against you as well as any evidence. We will have the opportunity during this hearing to cross-examine the evidence and witnesses.
Discovery is used for offenses punishable by imprisonment. This is a process wherein the prosecution must hand over all exculpatory evidence they intend to use against you for our review. In return, we will provide a list of the witnesses we intend to call to testify, as well as any documents or we evidence intent to use at hearing or trial.
The vast majority of criminal cases are resolved through plea bargaining. This is a process by which we would work out an agreement with the prosecution that allows you to plead guilty in exchange for reduced charges or a more lenient sentence. If we decide to go this route, we will advise you of the pros and cons of accepting a deal. You will always have the final say on whether to accept a plea deal.
At trial we will have the chance to present any and all factual and legal defenses relevant to your case before a jury of your peers.