Misdemeanors in Maryland are sometimes categorized by 1st degree misdemeanors which is the most serious class with the highest penalties, and 2nd degree misdemeanors which are less serious crimes. A Maryland criminal charge is generally classified as misdemeanors or felonies depending on the seriousness of the crime. Misdemeanors are typically less severe than felonies. A misdemeanor is a crime that has a maximum charge of 12 months or less of incarceration. Examples of misdemeanors include:
- Drinking and Driving DWI/DUI
- Driving with a Revoked License Speeding
- Careless or Reckless Driving
- Petty theft
- Public drunkenness
- Simple assault
- Resisting arrest
- Failure to appear
- Disorderly conduct
Although misdemeanors never result in the loss of civil rights, it can result in the loss of certain privileges. These privileges include but not limited to:
- Loss of professional licenses
- Loss of driver’s licenses
- Termination of public/government employment
- Ability to hold public office
- Removal of public office
People that are convicted of misdemeanors are often punishable by:
- Community service
- Up to 1 year of jail time (typically during the weekends)
- Mandatory Classes (typically for DUI/DWI, Domestic Violence)
- An example of how the misdemeanor court system works. .
All misdemeanors begin with the issuance of a citation to the defendant. This is a summons that is issued to the defendant with the time and location to appear in court. Arraignment An arraignment is when the defendant is brought before a judge and read his or her criminal charges. During this process the accused is asked to plead either “guilty” or “not guilty” of his or hers charges. If the defendant pleads guilty at the arraignment, the defendant can be sentenced that day or a later day. If the defendant pleads not guilty, depending upon the seriousness of the charges, and previous criminal history, the judge will have the right to set a bail or release the defendant on his or her own recognizance. Typically for a misdemeanor the judge will release the defendant on his or her own recognizance. The court also has the right to issue a restraint against the defendant if the charges are related to domestic violence or physical violence and harassment of another. If the court orders a restraining order, it is extremely important that you abide the order or else you can be held for contempt. Pre Trial The purpose of the pre trial is to bring both the defendant and the prosecutors together to determine if they can resolve the case out of court; This is known as plea bargaining. If both parties reach an agreement, the defendant can be sentenced at the time of the pretrial or at a later date. If an agreement is not made the defendant will have to go to trial. Typically if a plea bargain is rejected the defendant and the attorney feel that they have a good chance of winning the case. Depending how an arrest was made, the evidence was handled and presented, and allegations related to the case, the defendant may have certain motions prior to a hearing that can be made. This could result in dismissing a case, keeping out statements or keeping out physical evidence relating to the case. The trial can be a daunting process. Trials are either “jury trials” or “court trials”. It is up to the defense team to pick the jury for the case. In a misdemeanor case there are 6 jurors are selected. The number of jurors for a felony is 12. In a “court trial” the decision is made by the judge. Once the trial begins, the prosecution makes its opening statement. This typically consists of introducing the defendant and explaining the charges against the defendant. Next is the presentation of evidence. Since the defendant is innocent until proven guilty, the criminal defense team will present last. Presenting the evidence can include physical evidence, verbal evidence, witnesses and expert testimonials. During this time the prosecution is trying to make a case against the defendant and the defense team is trying to prove the defendants innocence. After the defendants presentation of evidence, will be the closing arguments. If it is a “jury trial” the juries will than convene and once a verdict has been made, the jury will typically read a “guilty” or “not guilty” plea. If it is a “court trial” the judge will rule a “guilty” or “not guilty” plea. Sentencing A sentencing hearing is the last regular hearing held before the court. The prosecution will recommend the appropriate sentence, as well as the defense team. Both the prosecution and the defense team can call witnesses and introduce evidence to support their position about the sentencing. The court will have final say of what the sentence should be; fines, jail time, probation or community services typically result from a misdemeanor. An appeal is taken to a higher court called an appellate court. Although it is very hard to overturn a ruling from a lower court, an appeal can sometimes help reduce a sentencing.
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