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How do Maryland criminal proceedings work?

A criminal proceeding in Maryland is initiated with the filing of information or a grand jury indictment by the State's Attorney's Office. Subsequently, the defendant is notified about the same and is ordered to appear in the court on a specific date. In some cases, a warrant may also be issued to keep the defendant in custody.

During the defendant's first appearance in court, he or she is first informed about their right to council and the importance of seeking professional advice. They are also informed about the nature of the criminal charges against them. Once the case is filed in court, all proceedings are pre-scheduled. However, these schedules can be modified during a status conference, wherein the criminal defense council and the State's Attorney's Office can negotiate the dates of hearings and the trial.

However, before the status conference, the filing of pretrial motions such as transferring the case to juvenile court or postponing scheduled proceedings must be completed. Based on this information, the defendant may decide whether to plead guilty or not guilty, and the parties can reach a consensus as to the number of charges imposed on the defendant.

These matters are then presented before the court at the disposition hearing where the judge decides to accept a plea or sentences on the basis of the consensus reached by both parties. In case the defendant does not plead guilty, the case goes to trial. In order to resolve any outstanding motions, the court also holds a motions hearing before the trial.

If the defendant is found guilty at the trial, he or she can turn to the Court of Special Appeals to appeal his or her case. Furthermore, if qualified, the defendant can file for expungement of his or her records. Since a criminal conviction can wreak havoc on someone's career and reputation, the defendant may want to have a criminal defense attorney by their side during the criminal proceedings. An attorney may be able to help defendants understand what to say during their criminal trial and proceedings, and statements issued by the defendant can sometimes make or break their case.

Source:, "Basic Steps in Criminal Proceedings," Accessed April 8, 2015

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