There are many stages in the criminal justice system and many Maryland residents may not be aware that they are entitled to legal representation every step of the way, starting from the first step when they are arrested. Many people are unsettled at this point and may not be thinking clearly, saying whatever comes in their mind and assuming that they do not need a lawyer because they have not done anything wrong. However, this is not often the case — the sooner someone facing criminal charges considers getting experienced help to protect their rights, the better off they may be in the future.
One of the first steps of the criminal justice system in Maryland is a preliminary hearing. This is held in the District Court to determine if there is probable cause to charge the accused for committing a crime. The accused is not allowed to testify at this time or even offer any evidence — this simply alerts the accused to the evidence gathered against them and even cross-examine witnesses presented by the state. If the court decides there is no probable cause, the charges can be dismissed but can be re-filed at a later time.
If the accused is charged with committing a felony or a crime that would have been tried in the circuit court, but they have not been indicted by the grand jury, they have the right to request a preliminary hearing and that too within 10 days of appearing before the commissioner.
Even if someone is not convicted of committing a crime, court records will exist on the charges that have been filed against the accused and the results of that case. Under certain conditions, these can be expunged from the record.
It is important to take criminal charges seriously from the onset and consider mounting a strong criminal defense to protect your rights from the beginning. An experienced attorney may be able to represent the accused at every step of the criminal justice system and have the charges dropped without the matter going any further.
Source: Maryland Courts, “What is a preliminary hearing?,” Accessed on May 14, 2016