Criminal Defense 101

Coming up on your first criminal defense case? Here are some common questions that you might need answered.

Common Criminal Defense Questions

Q: The city police/state troopers/DEA stopped by and said they just wanted to ask me a few questions about a criminal case in Maryland. Shouldn’t I just go to the station to talk to them? I didn’t do anything wrong.

A: No. You shouldn’t go down to the station and talk to them without first consulting with an attorney. The reality is that if the police have come to you to ‘just talk’ they probably have enough evidence to arrest you and are hoping you’ll make their job easier by giving them a statement that will help them build their case against you. It’s human nature to want to explain things, to think that if you could just sit down across the table from the officer in charge you could clear things up. After all, they haven’t arrested you – yet. Resist the temptation to give the police what they want. Your best bet is to call a criminal defense attorney who can make sure your constitutional rights are protected right from the start.

Q: I was charged with misdemeanor assault after a fight. The paper from the Maryland District Court says it’s a misdemeanor. This isn’t serious, is it?

A: It IS serious. In Maryland, if you are convicted of Assault in the 2nd degree, which is a misdemeanor, you can face up to ten years in prison. You are entitled to a jury trial in Circuit Court on an assault 2nd degree charge.

Q: My boyfriend was arrested last night. When will he get bail set?

A: This depends on a lot of factors. What are the charges against him? What were the circumstances of his arrest? Does he have a long criminal history? Does he have a history of not returning to court when he’s supposed to? Does he have a job or family that needs him to get back to work? All of these factors will be taken into consideration by the Judge when deciding on bail. It’s important that you contact a criminal defense attorney immediately so they can go to the jail, if possible, and meet with your boyfriend in order to build the best case possible in favor of bail.

Q: I got notice to appear for an arraignment in Maryland Criminal Court? What does this mean?

A: An arraignment means that you will be formally given notice of the charges against you. If you’ve been arrested, the arraignment has to take place within 72 hours. It is important that you go to the arraignment with a criminal defense attorney since you will be expected to enter a plea at arraignment and your speedy trial clock starts running then too. If you have previously had bail set, its possible that the government may seek to have it revoked if you have been indicted for a higher class of crime, or revoked all together.

Q: Speedy trial clock?

A: Speedy trial is the time limit the prosecution has to bring your case to trial. This time is generally 180 from the date of your first appearance in circuit court or the date on which your attorney enters her appearance, whichever is earlier. But this also depends on a number of factors, like if you asked for continuances or if you changed attorneys.

Q: I was convicted after trial, can I appeal?

A: If you went to trial and were found guilty by either a judge or jury, its important that you preserve your right to appeal by filing a notice of appeal within 30 days of your sentencing date. You may also have other types of relief available to you depending on whether you are currently incarcerated or on probation or parole or have finished your sentence but have other issues that have come up due to your conviction, such as immigration consequences, harsher sentencing in other courts, or inability to get a liquor or professional license.

Q: I plead guilty but I didn’t want to and I’m innocent. Can I appeal?

A: The grounds for appealing after you have plead guilty are more limited, but you can apply for leave to appeal. You should do this right away to preserve your rights and you should contact a criminal defense attorney who handles appeals who can discuss your case with you.