Maryland Criminal Law & Court Procedures
Felony v. Misdemeanor
Strictly speaking, Maryland statutes don’t use the terms misdemeanor and felony. However, in general, felonies are always regarded as more serious charges than misdemeanors.
In the broadest sense, so-called felony charges in Maryland include violent and very serious offenses, including murder, first-degree assault and sexual assault, weapons charges, robbery, and selling drugs.
If you are facing a felony offense, you can expect to be facing minimal penalties of 1 year or more in prison. Many serious or violent felonies have mandatory minimum sentences that are significantly higher than that.
Other results of a felony conviction can be: loss of professional licensing or certification, you may no longer be able to own a firearm or gun, you may lose the right to vote, you may become ineligible for many types of employment, and more.
Misdemeanor offenses are generally defined as crimes in which the maximum sentence is 1 year in jail. For a misdemeanor conviction, you can still face significant additional penalties, that can include loss of driver’s license, inability to travel internationally, problems with immigration status, and any number of court imposed probation requirements.
For a true understanding of what penalties you are facing for any Maryland criminal charge, you need to speak to an experienced defense attorney. A lawyer will need to ask you a number of questions about the facts of your case, any prior offenses, and other circumstances that could affect what is likely to happen to you in court.
Contact us for a free consultation on any criminal offense in Maryland.
Maryland Sentencing Procedures
Once you have pled or been found guilty you will have to go before the judge to receive your sentence. While this day may provide some closure, it can also be a very scary time as you wait for the court to decide your fate.
Typically the judge will set sentencing for a future date. Very rarely are you sentenced the day of your conviction. The reason for this is the judge wants to be fully informed before a decision is reached.
Aside from the specifics of your crime, the judge uses a pre-sentence report to help decide your sentence.
This report is completed by a probation officer employed by the state of Maryland. The presentence report is made up of information the officer gathers in a presentence investigation. It is designed to give the judge a good idea of your risk level for reoffending and your likelihood of success if left in the community.
Your final presentence report can include:
- Family history
- Psychological evaluation or history
- Connections in the community
- Employment history
- Criminal history
- Victim statements
- Circumstances of the offense
Typically the most important piece of the presentence report is the investigating officer’s recommendation to the judge. The investigating officer will tell the judge what their view is on your sentence.
Because of their experience supervising probationers within the community, the probation officer may tell the judge that you would be a good candidate for probation rather than a prison sentence. However, if the officer thinks you may re-offend while on probation, they could suggest to the judge that you be sentenced to active time.
Whatever the recommendation is, the judge is not required to follow it. Typically, however, the judge will give the officer’s suggestions considerable weight due to their experience.
Maryland Criminal Sentencing Guidelines
Aside from the presentence report, the judge will have to take the Maryland Sentencing Guidelines into consideration. These are simply rules that apply to sentencing most criminal offenses.
For each crime, the guidelines suggest a sentencing range for the judge to use. For instance, the offense of 1st-degree assault carries a sentence of up to 25 years. This means that the judge has considerable leeway, being able to sentence you to as little as one day or as many as 25 years.
For some offenses, there is a mandatory minimum sentence that the judge cannot dip below. Typically offenses with a mandatory minimum are quite serious. For instance, assault with intent to commit 1st-degree rape carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 2 years and a maximum sentence of 15.
The Maryland Sentencing guidelines are quite extensive and confusing due to the sheer number of offenses included.
If the presentence report is in your favor or the judge decides that you are a good candidate for community supervision, you may be sentenced to serve probation. When you are sentenced to probation you will be given a prison sentence that will be suspended. This suspended sentence can be activated if you violate the terms of your probation.
For instance, if found guilty of 2nd-degree assault, you could face up to 10 years in prison. The judge may look over the circumstances of your offense and determine a 2-year prison sentence is appropriate because of your otherwise clean record.
If he determines you are a good candidate for probation your 2-year prison sentence will be suspended while you serve a term of probation. If you violate the probation, you can be taken in front of a judge, have your probation revoked, and your prison sentence activated.
Probation is not necessarily an easy thing. While on probation you will be required to follow rules set forth by your officer and Maryland law. You may have to abide by a curfew, remain employed, attend counseling, have random drug tests, or perform community service, for example.
Having a good attorney can increase the chance that you will serve probation in lieu of your prison sentence. An aggressive, hard-working attorney is what you need on your case. Call today to discuss what your sentencing date will look like or to talk about your case in general.
Call Our Attorneys a Free Consultation on any Maryland Criminal Offense
If you are facing a criminal court date in Maryland, please contact our defense attorneys today. We can consult with you on any criminal offense as part of a free legal consultation. And it is better to get this advice quickly. You may have more defense options and get a better result if you act early in the process.
The first step with any criminal legal problem is to talk to an attorney who handles criminal defense cases every day. We will help you figure out your options and what to do next to protect your right, your freedom, and fight to keep your record clean.
Call us at (888) 452-4344 for a no obligation, criminal defense consultation.