1 Free Legal Consumer Guide Series Brought To You By Meeting All Your Legal Needs For 50 Years
2 2 What You Need To Know About Criminal Law & Juvenile Charges HOW TO USE THIS GUIDE If you read this guide, you will discover what you need to know about your legal issue, and learn about your options. Then you will be armed with information so you can make an informed, intelligent decision about what to do. What you should do now: Read this Free Legal Consumer Guide. You should be informed before you talk to an attorney. Call an attorney. At least get an initial consultation to discuss the unique facts of your situation. The best solutions come from applying the law to the facts of your case. No book can do that. Most attorneys offer a 1 hour consultation to discuss your case. You have many good choices in Southern Maryland. Of course, we hope you choose us! We want to be your family s attorney. Contact us today. Disclaimer: (1) Using this guide will not make you a lawyer, and is no substitute for hiring one. Do not represent yourself in any serious legal matter. (2) This guide gives general information and advice. Effective legal advice requires understanding the unique facts of your situation, and applying the law to those facts. (3) Using this guide does not create an attorney-client relationship with our firm. The only way to do that is by meeting with us. (4) The legal advice and information in this guide applies only to Maryland.
3 3 What You Need To Know About Criminal Law & Juvenile Charges AUTHOR PAGE David Hebb has been practicing law since He concentrates his practice in criminal law, bankruptcy and litigation. See his full bio at /a bout-us/david-hebb David Gormley is a partner here. He has been practicing law since 1992, and concentrates his practice in bankruptcy, real estate, and criminal law. See his full bio at /about-us/dave-gormley Andrews, Bongar, Gormley & Clagett is one of the oldest and largest law firms in Southern Maryland serving clients for 50 years. We have more attorneys and a larger staff than other local law firms. That means we can help you and your family in a wider variety of legal matters. Each attorney concentrates in a few key areas so you get the expertise you need, and the personal service you want.
4 4 What You Need To Know About Criminal Law & Juvenile Charges TABLE OF CONTENTS The Process of a Criminal Case 5 Your Rights When Charged With a Crime 13 Right to Remain Silent.. 14 Right to Attorney.. 14 Innocent Until Proven Guilty. 15 Right to Trial by Jury 15 Right to Challenge State s Evidence..16 Juvenile Crimes the process & differences.. 18 Petition. 21 Status Conference & Adjudication. 22 Disposition AKA Sentencing 24 Review Hearings. 25 How a Lawyer Can Help. 26 Copyright 2013
5 5 What You Need To Know About Criminal Law & Juvenile Charges B eing charged with a crime in Maryland is very scary. A complex process starts to operate the minute you are arrested by the police. It is frightening and bewildering. In this article we give you a good idea of the criminal law process and what you can expect if you are ever charged with a crime. If you are facing criminal charges, you should know your options and understand what is likely to happen. You want to make sure you come out of this problem in the best possible situation. But this article can only provide general advice. The best answers depend on the type of crime you were charged with, the circumstances surrounding it, the county you are in, etc. Only a criminal law attorney who understands the criminal law process, and knows how to make it work, can really tell you what to expect in your particular case. This is one area of the law you do not handle on your own. We provide a free consultation with a criminal law attorney to anyone charged with a crime. You should take advantage of that free consultation immediately. Call us, or another experienced criminal law attorney, sooner rather than later.
6 6 What You Need To Know About Criminal Law & Juvenile Charges Here are things you can expect to happen, and what each step in the process means to you. Stop & Arrest The whole process begins with a stop or an arrest by the police. A stop is not as formal as an arrest. A police officer will stop you to ask questions. They cannot stop you unless they have a reasonable belief you violated the law. What is a valid reasonable belief? There are a million cases answering that question and I can never give you good general guidelines. Let your lawyer handle that question later. However, keep in mind that you always have the right to remain silent, even if you are just stopped and questioned. You do not have to answer any questions from the police at any time. In fact, everyone should know their constitutional rights regarding criminal law. See the next section of this guide for more on that.
7 7 What You Need To Know About Criminal Law & Juvenile Charges If you are in a vehicle, the police officer may ask to search it. The police cannot search your vehicle unless they have probable cause, or you consent. They may seek your consent because they do not quite have probable cause. You do not have to give your consent to a search of your car. They may search your car later, but your lawyer can then challenge the probable cause the police officer asserted as a reason to search the car. If you give your consent, the police do not need any other reason to search your car, and your lawyer will have much less to challenge in court. Probable cause is more serious than reasonable belief, but there are a million cases explaining it too and I could never give you a good guideline. Plus you cannot challenge a police officer s assertion of probable cause until later, in court. Again, let your lawyer handle that question later. Generally, a police officer can arrest you if they have probable cause to believe you committed a crime, or if there is a warrant out for your arrest. If a stop and search lead to an arrest, you should not resist it. Resisting arrest is a crime itself. The best advice if you are arrested is to be calm, be silent, and demand a lawyer before they ask you any questions.
8 8 What You Need To Know About Criminal Law & Juvenile Charges Booking After being arrested, the officer will book you. This is the process where they take your fingerprints, get your mug shot, do a background check, and ask you questions. Remember, you have the right to remain silent and the right to demand an attorney. You do not have to answer questions. They are not going to let you out of jail even if you answer all their questions. Just be calm, be silent, and let your lawyer deal with things later. That is the best you can do. Charging The charge comes from the prosecutor, not the police. The victim does not get to charge you, and contrary to popular belief, they don t get to drop the charges either. The prosecutor will often take into account the wishes of the victim, but they do not have to. You are in the hands of the state after being arrested. They cannot hold you indefinitely, however. You must be charged with a crime within a certain limited amount of time or they must release you.
9 9 What You Need To Know About Criminal Law & Juvenile Charges Arraignment This is where the Judge or Magistrate will formally read your charges and inform you of your rights. You should have asserted your right to a lawyer before now. If not, do so at this time. If you are asked how to plea, and you do not have an attorney, you should probably say not guilty. The Magistrate will decide on whether or not you should be released, and if so, how much your bail should be. Bail is the amount of money you, or someone else, must post with the court so they can be sure you will reappear. If you do not, your bail will be forfeit, and the state gets it. If bail is set, someone must post it for you or hire a bail bondsman to do so. If you hire a bail bondsman, and you run off, the bondsman loses the bail money to the court. If that happens, they send someone after you a bounty hunter. Plus, there will be a warrant out for your arrest. Sometimes you will be released on your own recognizance, which just means there is no bail. But you are now in the system and will have to appear for further proceedings.
10 10 What You Need To Know About Criminal Law & Juvenile Charges Discovery Discovery is a pre-trial process where the prosecutor must give certain information to your attorney. Your attorney gets to see all the evidence against you well before trial. There are no secret, last minute witnesses allowed. Pre-Trial Motions This is the best reason to remain silent, not give your consent to a search, and demand an attorney if you are arrested. Your attorney can make any number of pre-trial motions. They usually ask the Court to exclude certain evidence from trial if it was gained in an illegal or impermissible manner. It is hard to suppress evidence if you spoke voluntarily or gave consent to a search. Frankly, it is hard to suppress evidence at all. There are so many rules and exceptions to the rules, that the evidence against you usually gets in at trial. Do not be swayed by unrealistic movies and television shows that make it look like everyone gets off on technicalities. Hollywood has really done an awful job of accurately showing our justice system both the criminal justice system and the civil side too.
11 11 What You Need To Know About Criminal Law & Juvenile Charges Plea Bargaining This is a fancy word for negotiations. Your attorney and the prosecutor will negotiate over what charges will stick, which will be thrown out, and usually the terms of your sentencing. Your attorney will be trying to get the best deal for you that he or she can. If the two sides reach an agreement, you will usually have to plea guilty to one or more of the charges to get the deal which has been reached. This involves going to court, answering some questions from the Judge, and telling the court on the record that you are guilty to the charge agreed upon by your attorney and the prosecutor. Trial If the prosecutor and your attorney cannot reach an agreement on a plea bargain, you will usually go to trial. Trial is where the government must put on evidence that you committed a crime, usually including producing witnesses live in court to testify. You do not have to testify. You do not have to put on any evidence whatsoever. The government must prove its case, and it must prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.
12 12 What You Need To Know About Criminal Law & Juvenile Charges Sentencing If you are found guilty, or if you enter a plea of guilty based on a plea bargain, you will be sentenced by the Court. The Judge will decide on the proper punishment. This can be anything from probation to active jail time. There are guidelines that apply and give the Judge a general range of punishment options. Your attorney can do a lot for you at sentencing, including making sure all the procedures are followed, arguing for lesser guidelines, and arguing circumstances which would allow the Judge to sentence you to less than that called for in the guidelines. Also, an attorney can help you before sentencing by telling you what actions you can take the make the Judge more likely to be lenient on you. For instance, if you are charged with drunk driving, and take a class or go to rehab, the Judge may take that into consideration when sentencing you. Conclusion I have tried to give you a good overview of the criminal process, with some tips on how best to handle things at each stage. But I must repeat my first and most important advice here: get an attorney anytime a criminal charge is made against you. It is no joke, and you could lose your rights, your money, and your freedom.
13 13 What You Need To Know About Criminal Law & Juvenile Charges What Are Your Rights If You Have Been Charged With A Crime In Maryland Our constitution provides every person certain basic rights to protect themselves from the power of the government. They are so important, but do you know what they are? Do you know how to use them properly? This is a good overview of the rights that apply to anyone accused of a crime in Maryland. We will explain each right, and give you some good advice on how best to assert it if you are charged with a crime. You should know this information before any contact with police officers if you suspect you may be charged with a crime and need a criminal lawyer. We provide a free consultation to anyone charged with a crime. You should take advantage of that free consultation immediately if you are charged with a crime. Having a criminal law attorney is so important to successfully getting through the criminal process, the United States Constitution makes it mandatory for the government to provide you one if you cannot afford one yourself.
14 14 What You Need To Know About Criminal Law & Juvenile Charges You have the right to remain silent This applies if you are stopped by the police, arrested, and it even applies at trial. You cannot be forced to answer questions or testify. Your silence cannot be used against you. Nobody is allowed to presume you are innocent just because you remain silent. This is one of the most valuable rights that people throw away routinely if they are arrested. They think the police will change their mind if they talk, or they think they can tell a lie, or a half truth, and get away with it. Unlike television, this rarely works. The best thing you can do is remain silent until you have consulted an attorney, who can advise you on what you should say if anything. You have the right to an attorney You have the right to an attorney at trial, and during all proceedings leading up to trial. Criminal law is one area you never should handle yourself. The right to an attorney is so important it is guaranteed to you by the United States Constitution. The government will have to provide a lawyer for you if you cannot afford one. This should tell you how important it is that you have a lawyer if charged with a crime. Get one as soon as possible in the process.
15 15 What You Need To Know About Criminal Law & Juvenile Charges Sometimes having a lawyer appointed for you means the Public Defender will do it. Sometimes, a local attorney will do it if appointed by the Court. But either way, you can get a free attorney if you cannot afford one. The court will look into your finances and job situation to determine if you can afford an attorney or not. You are innocent until proven guilty The state must prove your guilt. You do not have to prove your innocence. You are always presumed innocent until proven guilty at trial, or until you plea guilty in court. The state also has a high burden to meet in proving your guilt. They must do so beyond a reasonable doubt. You have the right to a trial by jury In this country, a jury of 12 will have to agree on your guilt or innocence. This means the case against you must make sense to 12 ordinary citizens who got called for jury duty the day of your trial. You can also choose to have your guilt or innocence decided by a Judge alone, without a jury. Sometimes that may be smart. Your lawyer can help decide that based on the circumstances of the crime you have been charged with.
16 16 What You Need To Know About Criminal Law & Juvenile Charges You have the right to challenge the state s evidence against you You have the right to a trial, and to challenge any evidence the state puts forward against you. This includes challenging the manner in which evidence was gathered. The police must gather evidence legally. There is a lot of case law out there on what police can and cannot do when gathering evidence. You have the right to personally confront witnesses and question them on the witness stand. Of course, you should do this through an attorney. You have the right to present evidence on your behalf Although you do not have to testify or present evidence at trial, you do have the right. You may even compel witnesses to be there for your defense by subpoena. The court will force them to appear and answer questions asked by your lawyer. Additionally, the Prosecutor is always forced to give your attorney evidence that may tend to show you did not commit the crime. This is called exculpatory evidence and you can get a new trial if they fail to turn it over to your attorney and you are convicted.
17 17 What You Need To Know About Criminal Law & Juvenile Charges You have the right to an appeal You have the right to an appeal to make sure the trial court, the police, and the prosecutor did their jobs correctly at your trial. An appeal can involve going to a higher court, or even putting together a panel of Judges from the same court who are different than the one who presided at your trial. You can have legal errors reviewed. You can ask for certain evidence to be thrown out. You can even ask for your sentence to be reduced. There are a lot of things which can be challenged. Your attorney can advise you what to appeal based on the current case law. Conclusion I will re-emphasize one point in this article you have the right to an attorney. Criminal law is serious business and nobody should try to handle it without an attorney. We provide free consultations to anyone accused of a crime, or anyone who wants a consultation on behalf of someone accused of a crime. Call us for an appointment as soon as possible. It is very wise to get an attorney early in the process.
18 18 What You Need To Know About Criminal Law & Juvenile Charges JUVENILE CRIME What To Do When Your Child is Accused of a Crime Having your child accused of a crime is one of the most serious situations a parent can face. This is a lot worse than getting into trouble at school. When the criminal justice system gets involved in your child s life, it may change forever. Their future is at stake. The government has an awful lot of power over your child once they are in the juvenile justice system. You do not want to give them that power without your direct involvement. Yet too many parents let their kids go it alone when they face the juvenile criminal system. That is often unwise. The seriousness of the situation depends on the type of crime and your child s prior criminal history. Only a lawyer who understands the juvenile justice system can accurately tell you what is likely to happen. If your child has been accused of a crime, you should seek the help of an experienced juvenile criminal law attorney. We offer a free consultation for anyone whose child has been accused of a crime. Contact us today to make an appointment and discuss the details of your child s particular legal situation.
19 19 What You Need To Know About Criminal Law & Juvenile Charges What is Different About the Juvenile Justice System? What happens when a child commits some act that, if committed by an adult, would result in criminal penalties? The justice system regarding juveniles in the state of Maryland is similar to the adult criminal system, but there are many important differences you should be aware of if your child is accused of a juvenile crime. A child or a juvenile is defined as an individual under the age of 18 years. To initiate a juvenile criminal matter, generally some act takes place which attracts the attention of local, county or state law enforcement officers. These acts are technically referred to as a delinquent act rather than a crime. The police officer will complete an official report and submit the report to the Department of Juvenile Services (DJS.) An agent from the DJS will study the police report, make contact with the victim (if it is an offense against a person or property) and set up a meeting with the parents of the juvenile offender.
20 20 What You Need To Know About Criminal Law & Juvenile Charges The agent will consider all factors and evaluate the case to determine if it should be forwarded on to the local State s Attorney s Office. A prosecutor from the State s Attorney s Office will then assess the case for legal merit. At this stage the prosecutor may reject the case and send it back to the DJS to be handled informally or they can file the appropriate charges by petition in the juvenile court system which is under the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court. Once the petition is filed the juvenile will generally be referred to as the respondent as opposed to an adult case where the offender is referred to as the defendant. The Possibility of Going Into the Adult Criminal System If the charges brought against your child are more serious, and your child is over the age of 14, charges may be filed in the adult criminal court. This would definitely qualify as a serious situation and you would be crazy not to get a lawyer for your child now. Once a juvenile is in the adult criminal system they are entitled to the same rights as an adult offender. However, a juvenile in this situation may request a waiver to be returned to the jurisdiction of the juvenile court. This is only one of many ways a lawyer can help you if your child gets bumped up to the adult system.
21 21 What You Need To Know About Criminal Law & Juvenile Charges What Happens After a Petition is Filed? Once a petition is filed in the juvenile court, a matter number will be issued and it will be set in for an initial appearance date. Depending on the jurisdiction, the matter may be presided over by either a Judge or a Master. A Master has a lot of the same powers as a Judge. In Charles County, St. Mary s County, Calvert County, and Prince George s County, your child s juvenile criminal case will likely be heard by a Master. Do not take the case lightly just because a Master is hearing it. Both the juvenile and the parent or legal guardian must appear at the initial appearance. At the initial appearance, the judge will explain all of your child s rights and set the matter in for a status conference and adjudication. An adjudication is like a trial. If an attorney enters his appearance on behalf of the juvenile than the initial appearance date will be waived. The dates for the status conference and adjudication will immediately be scheduled and your lawyer will get notice.
22 22 What You Need To Know About Criminal Law & Juvenile Charges It should be noted that a juvenile is entitled to representation by an attorney through all steps of this process. And of course, we recommend you do get a lawyer as early as possible. The Status Conference A status conference is held for several purposes. It allows the Judge an opportunity to see if the juvenile has gotten an attorney. It allows the prosecutor handling the case an opportunity to discuss the case with the lawyer representing the juvenile. The parties could possibly reach an agreement at this stage. In some situations the juvenile may enter an admission of guilt, or the matter may be dismissed, depending on the circumstances. The Adjudication An adjudication would be the same as a trial in the adult system. One big difference is that a juvenile will never have the right to a jury trial. The Judge or Master will hear the case and issue a finding of involved or not involved, which is just juvenile criminal system lingo for guilt or innocence.
23 23 What You Need To Know About Criminal Law & Juvenile Charges An adjudication must take place within 60 days of the petition being sent to the parents of guardian of the juvenile. If the matter proceeds to trial, the prosecutor will present the State s case to the Judge or Master. After the prosecution s case is complete, your child s lawyer will normally ask for a motion to dismiss based on the State s case having a lack of merit or failing to meet the burden of proof. If the judge denies the lawyer s motion to dismiss, your child s attorney has the opportunity to present a defense by calling witnesses and offering other evidence to the court. At the end of the hearing the judge will issue a ruling where the juvenile will either be found to have been involved in the delinquent act or not involved.
24 24 What You Need To Know About Criminal Law & Juvenile Charges Disposition AKA Sentencing The disposition hearing is the next phase of the process. This is what would be called a sentencing hearing in an adult court. Technically, juveniles are never punished in the State of Maryland. The disposition is meant for purposes of guidance, treatment and rehabilitation of the child offender. But that treatment can involve some pretty serious consequences. The judge or master may go directly to disposition after the adjudication hearing. Or, the disposition may be postponed so that an agent of the DJS may complete a formal investigation into the juvenile s background. The investigation is ordered so that the judge or master may have a better perspective on what a particular juvenile may need for their guidance, treatment and rehabilitation. Tools for treatment at the disposal of the court include probation (supervised or unsupervised), community service, diversionary programs, and in some situations a juvenile may be committed to a youth facility where they will receive counseling in a structured environment.
25 25 What You Need To Know About Criminal Law & Juvenile Charges If there was property damage to the victim, or if they incurred medical bills as a result of the delinquent act of the juvenile, a restitution hearing may be required. A restitution hearing is used to determine the exact value the juvenile will be responsible for paying to the victim. This is usually only necessary when the parties cannot come to an agreement on their own. A good juvenile criminal lawyer can help a lot here. Review Hearings After disposition, the court will conduct regularly scheduled review hearings where the Judge or Master will receive updates on the juvenile s post adjudication progress. If the court believes that your child has received the proper amount of guidance, treatment and rehabilitation, they may release the juvenile from probation.
26 26 What You Need To Know About Criminal Law & Juvenile Charges How A Lawyer Can Help If an adult is charged with a crime, their right to an attorney is so important it is enshrined in the US Constitution. The state will pay for a public defender if you cannot afford a lawyer. A juvenile crime is no less serious, and we strongly recommend at least talking to an attorney if your child has been accused of a crime. We offer a free consultation to anyone whose child has been accused of a crime. If you find yourself in that situation, call us today. We sincerely hope this Free Legal Consumer Guide has helped you understand the law and your options when your child is accused of a crime. Thanks for reading.
27 27 What You Need To Know About Criminal Law & Juvenile Charges LOCAL RESOURCES Southern Maryland has a lot of great non-profit organizations that can help you and your family if you are facing a need. These are some we know and trust. Point of Change Jail Ministry: Services to the incarcerated Legal Aid Bureau: legal services without cost Center for Abused Persons: The name says it all Center for Children: helping children and families have positive relationships. Provides referrals, counseling, parenting skills, support groups, and supervised visitation Tri-County Youth Services Bureau: help for kids and families, counseling for individuals and groups, substance abuse help United Way of Charles County: has the definitive list of local Human Services Agencies right on their website.
28 28 What You Need To Know About Criminal Law & Juvenile Charges THE FREE LEGAL CONSUMER GUIDE SERIES at Everything You Need To Know About Car Accident Cases What You Need to Know About Bankruptcy and Foreclosure What You Need to Know About Divorce and Child Custody What You Need to Know About Workers Compensation GET MORE FREE LEGAL ADVICE What You Need to Know About DUI & DWI How To Handle A Traffic Ticket Why You Need A Will & What To Do About It How to Handle Your Own Small Claims Case Sign up for our free monthly newsletter, with more legal advice, tips on how to keep your family safe, and our insiders commentary on newsworthy legal events like sensational crimes and new laws. Find the sign up form on our home page. You can also see past examples of our newsletters.
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The Legal System in the United States At the conclusion of this chapter, students will be able to: 1. Understand how the legal system works; 2. Explain why laws are necessary; 3. Discuss how cases proceed
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Chapter Five CRIMINAL LAW AND VICTIMS RIGHTS In a criminal case, a prosecuting attorney (working for the city, state, or federal government) decides if charges should be brought against the perpetrator.
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t A Guide to Minnesota Criminal Procedures What's the difference between felonies, gross misdemeanors, misdemeanors and petty misdemeanors? Under Minnesota law, felonies are crimes punishable by more than
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The Circuit Court The circuit court is the trial court of general jurisdiction in Virginia, and the court has authority to try a full range of both civil and criminal cases. Civil cases involve disputes
Courtroom Terminology A Accused: formally charged but not yet tried for committing a crime; the person who has been charged may also be called the defendant. Acquittal: a judgment of court, based on the
Understanding the criminal justice process Introduction Missouri law establishes certain guarantees to crime victims, including participation in the criminal justice system. Victims can empower themselves
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UNDERSTANDING THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM Anne Benson What is the Criminal Justice System? The criminal justice system is the system we have in the United States for addressing situations where it is believed
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DETENTION HEARINGS By Michael C. O Brien Assistant District Attorney 305 th District Court, Dallas, Texas Speaker Biography Michael C. O Brien is a prosecutor with Dallas County District Attorney s Office