Being charged with a crime is not something to be taken lightly, as serious consequences could arise upon conviction. A conviction could end up with you in jail, can make future employment difficult, and can cause a great amount of social embarrassment. If you’ve been charged with a crime, your best course of action is to seek the assistance of a criminal defense lawyer in Eldersburg, MD.
Misdemeanors vs. Felonies in Maryland
In Maryland, as in many other states in the US, misdemeanors and felonies are differentiated based on the severity of the crime and the potential penalties. Here are the key differences between misdemeanors and felonies in Maryland:
- Severity of the Crime:
- Misdemeanors: These are less serious offenses compared to felonies. They typically involve less severe actions that may not cause significant harm to others or property.
- Felonies: These are more serious crimes that often involve violence, substantial harm, or significant property damage. Felonies are generally considered more severe than misdemeanors.
- Misdemeanors: Penalties for misdemeanors in Maryland can include fines, probation, community service, and incarceration in a local jail for up to a maximum of one year.
- Felonies: Felonies carry harsher penalties, including significant fines, longer prison sentences (more than a year), and potentially life imprisonment or the death penalty for the most serious offenses.
- Legal Process:
- Misdemeanors: In Maryland, misdemeanor cases are typically heard in district court. The legal proceedings are generally less complex than felony cases.
- Felonies: Felony cases are usually heard in circuit court. These cases involve more formal and extensive legal procedures, including grand jury indictments and more thorough trials.
- Long-Term Consequences:
- Misdemeanors: While they are less serious offenses, misdemeanors can still have long-term consequences. They might affect job prospects, professional licenses, and certain civil rights.
- Felonies: Felony convictions have more severe and enduring consequences. They can lead to the loss of various civil rights, including the right to vote or own firearms, and can significantly limit employment and housing opportunities.
- Examples of Offenses:
- Misdemeanors: Common misdemeanors in Maryland include minor theft, simple assault, disorderly conduct, and some types of drug possession.
- Felonies: Examples of felonies in Maryland are murder, rape, arson, certain drug trafficking offenses, kidnapping, and more serious forms of assault and theft.
Maryland Criminal Justice Process
In Maryland, criminal proceedings involve several stages, from arrest to potential trial and sentencing. Here's an overview of the legal process in criminal proceedings:
- Arrest: When law enforcement officers have probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed, they can make an arrest. Following the arrest, the individual may be taken into custody.
- Initial Appearance: After the arrest, the defendant is brought before a judicial officer for an initial appearance. During this stage, the judge informs the defendant of the charges against them, their rights, and may set bail if applicable.
- Bail: If the defendant is eligible for bail, a bail hearing is held. The judge decides whether to release the defendant before trial and sets bail conditions if necessary to ensure the defendant's appearance in court.
- Preliminary Hearing (for Felonies): In felony cases, a preliminary hearing might take place to determine if there's enough evidence to proceed to trial. It's an opportunity for the defense to challenge the prosecution's evidence.
- Grand Jury (for Felonies): Alternatively, in Maryland, a grand jury indictment may be used in place of a preliminary hearing for serious felony cases. The grand jury decides if there's enough evidence to bring formal charges (indictment) against the defendant.
- Arraignment: The arraignment is where the defendant formally enters a plea (guilty, not guilty, or nolo contendere/no contest). If the defendant pleads guilty or no contest, sentencing may happen at this stage. If they plead not guilty, the case proceeds to trial.
- Discovery: Both the prosecution and defense exchange evidence and information about the case during the discovery phase. This includes witness statements, police reports, and other relevant evidence.
- Pre-Trial Motions: Before the trial, both parties can file motions asking the court to make decisions on various aspects of the case, such as suppressing evidence or dismissing charges.
- Trial: If the case proceeds to trial, the prosecution presents evidence, witnesses testify, and both sides make their arguments. A judge or jury determines the defendant's guilt or innocence beyond a reasonable doubt.
- Sentencing: If the defendant is found guilty or pleads guilty, sentencing occurs. The judge determines the appropriate punishment, considering factors like the nature of the crime, the defendant's criminal history, and any mitigating circumstances.
- Appeals: Following a conviction, the defendant may have the right to appeal the decision to a higher court, alleging errors in the trial process or legal rulings.
Throughout these stages, the defendant has the right to legal representation, the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, and various other constitutional rights protected under the law. The legal process can vary based on the nature of the charges and specific circumstances of each case.
The Experience Necessary to Help You
When seeking an Eldersburg criminal defense lawyer, perhaps the most important thing you need to look for is experience. You don’t want just anyone handling your case, you want someone who is experienced in Eldersburg criminal defense. Ross W. Albers has aided many clients over the years, giving each one the respect and time they deserve.
Why has Ross W. Albers had so much success in serving the Eldersburg area as a criminal defense lawyer? While this is a question without a single “correct” answer, one of the reasons is the aggressive nature of our representation. No matter the severity of the charge, whether it’s theft under $1000 or aggravated assault, we will give your case the time and energy it deserves and will fight for you.
We Take All Manner of Cases
While some lawyers may only handle certain kinds of cases, we take pride in saying that we handle all kinds of cases. Ross W. Albers has been providing criminal defense lawyer services to Eldersburg for years. Here are some of the kinds of cases we have worked with in the past:
Why Should I Hire an Eldersburg, MD Criminal Defense Lawyer?
Many people think they can represent themselves, and while this is certainly true, it is not the best course of action. Many who decide to defend themselves end up worse off than they would have been, had they hired a professional Eldersburg criminal defense lawyer.
If you want to “beat your charges” or if you want to receive the lesser punishment, you need the help of a criminal defense lawyer in Eldersburg. You need Albers & Associates. Give us a call today, we would be happy to answer any questions you may have, and can even offer you a free consultation.