Charged With A Felony in Maryland? Call Zirkin and Schmerling Law

Felonies

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Charged with a Felony? We’re here to help.

Felonies are the most serious kind of criminal offense and usually are tried in the Circuit Court in Maryland. Since the death penalty was abolished in the state of Maryland in 2013, felonies are crimes that carry maximum jail time. However, these crimes are punishable by serving many years in prison. One can be facing over 20 years in prison all the way up to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. At Zirkin & Schmerling Law, our criminal defense lawyers never take your felony case lightly. Your life is on the line, so we’ve got work to do.

When you hire a Zirkin & Schmerling Criminal Defense Attorney, you are getting an attorney who will

  • investigate your case
  • meet with you in person to prepare, whether you are incarcerated or not
  • answer your calls
  • provide you with a copy of your discovery
  • make sure you understand all aspects of your case
  • (most importantly) prepare your case for trial
If you need legal help, contact our Criminal Law attorney to schedule a free case evaluation today.
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What to know and anticipate in your Felony case

Below is a Road Map of your case from investigation through trial that is designed to give you an idea of what to expect at any point in the United States court process if you are convicted of a felony. Click on any of the links below to reveal more information and get a better understanding of what to expect at each stage. 

  1. An Officer/Trooper/Sheriff has arrested you.
    • The Officer’s job at this point is to both take you to a police station to be more formally charged with the crime and to continue their own investigation of the crime. This will include interviewing any witnesses that are nearby and collecting evidence that is on the scene. Many, but certainly not all, officers are wearing Body Cameras and are recording their investigations. There are requirements that they notify you of this, with certain exceptions. Failing to notify you does not automatically mean that this evidence cannot be used in your prosecution.
    • The first thing you need to do is remain silent. You have a right to remain silent. Anything you say and do can be used against you. You have a right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, one will be provided to you. These are known as your Miranda rights. These are your full and complete Miranda rights. Law Enforcement are not required in all situations to notify you of these rights. To the extent that you ever encounter a situation where you are in an encounter with law enforcement, this article has just advised you of your Miranda Rights. Assert them always. Why? Because your own words and actions can be used as evidence against you to convict you of a crime. It is always the State’s Attorney’s job to prove that you are guilty of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a very high standard and difficult for even the best prosecutors to overcome. When you offer up evidence against yourself, you are making the State’s Attorney’s job that much easier.
    • If the police try to interview you, tell them you do not want to speak without consulting an attorney. This may make their questioning come to an end. If they really want to talk to you, they must give you an opportunity to call an attorney. If this should occur, contact an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney to consult with before answering any of law enforcement’s questions.
  2. Initial Bail Hearing
    • After being arrested by an officer, they will bring you to a police station where they will write up the charges against you. Within 24 hours of being arrested, you must be released or taken before a Commissioner. A Commissioner is someone who will advise you of the charges against you and decide if you should be released while your case is pending or hold you in the jail until your trial date. A Commissioner can also order you to have to pay a bail in order to get released. Finally, a Commissioner can order certain pretrial conditions on release on you including, but not limited to, staying away from certain people/locations and reporting to a Pretrial Agent who will stay in touch with you while the case is pending.
    • The standard that a Commissioner will consider is (1) whether you are a flight risk and (2) whether you are a danger to the community. They are applied like a balancing test. One can be enough to keep you detained while your case is pending. This is not a trial and most Commissioners will say they must accept the police report as fact for this hearing alone. Asserting that you are innocent until proven guilty is not enough to be deserving of pretrial release. 
    • You have a right to an attorney at your Bail Hearing. Notify the Commissioner that you want an attorney to represent you at this stage and the Commissioner will give you an opportunity to call your attorney. Contact an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney to represent you at your Bail Hearing.
    • If you are released at this stage, and you have not already done so, contact an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney to begin the preparation of your defense in your felony case.
  3. Bail Review
    • If you are not released from the Detention Center after your Bail Hearing, you will have a court appearance on the next business day with a Judge who will conduct a Bail Review. A Bail Review serves the same purpose as a Bail Hearing: to determine if you should be released while your case is pending or hold you in the jail until your trial date. Also, Judges have more discretion that Commissioners; there are certain situations where Commissioners are not authorized by law to release a Defendant, but a Judge still can.
    • The standard that a Judge will consider is (1) whether you are a flight risk and (2) whether you are a danger to the community. They are applied like a balancing test. One can be enough to keep you detained while your case is pending. This is not a trial and most Judges will say they must accept the police report as fact for this hearing alone. Asserting that you are innocent until proven guilty is not enough to be deserving of pretrial release.
    • You have a right to an attorney at your Bail Review. Contact an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney to represent you at your Bail Hearing.
    • If you are released at this stage, and you have not already done so, contact an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney to begin the preparation of your defense in your felony case.
  4. Preliminary Hearing
    • When charged with a felony, you have a right to a Preliminary Hearing. A Preliminary Hearing will be your next court date after your Bail Review. A Preliminary Hearing is not a trial date but it is a court appearance. The Preliminary Hearing will be set 30 days after your arrest. The purpose of this hearing is for the State’s Attorney to be able to demonstrate to the court that (1) there is probable cause to believe a felony was committed and (2) there is probable cause to believe the Defendant committed that felony
    • A District Court Judge will preside over the case and if they find there is probable case that a felony was committed by the Defendant, the Judge will order that the case be forwarded to the Circuit Court. The case will no longer have court dates in the District Court and will only take place in the Circuit Court.
    • A District Court Judge has the right, but is not required, to conduct a Bail Review at Preliminary Hearing. Typically, any judge conducting a Bail Review after an initial Bail Review will want to know if there have been any changes in circumstances to make a Defendant be deserving of a Bail Review. If you are seeking a Bail Review at this stage, it is best to file a Motion requesting a Bail Review prior to the court appearance to give yourself a better chance of the Bail Review being considered.
    • Frequently, Preliminary Hearings are cancelled because the State’s Attorney takes the case before a Grand Jury. A Grand Jury is a group of people from your community who meet prior to Preliminary Hearings and listen to a presentation of the case by the State’s Attorney. If the Grand Jury determines that there is probable cause to believe a felony was committed by you, they will make this finding and then the case is “Indicted”, your Preliminary Hearing Date is cancelled, and the case is forwarded to the Circuit Court. The case will no longer have court dates in the District Court and will only take place in the Circuit Court.
    • If either a Grand Jury or a District Court Judge at a Preliminary Hearing cannot find probable cause to believe the Defendant committed a felony, the case are either dismissed or the case is assigned a new trial date in the District Court. The reason for this is that a Preliminary Hearing is only to consider the felony charges. Unless the State’s Attorney chooses to dismiss the case at this time, you are still charged with a Misdemeanor(s) and this comes with its own set of procedure. To know what happens next if the Felony charge is dismissed, follow this link to take you to the Road Map of a Maryland Misdemeanor Case.
    • You have a right to an attorney at your Preliminary Hearing. Contact an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney to represent you at your Preliminary Hearing.
  5. Arraignment
    • Your first court appearance in the Circuit Court is called an Arraignment. This is not a trial date. No witnesses are required to appear.
    • If you hire an attorney before your arraignment, an attorney can work with the State’s Attorney’s Office and the Court to schedule your trial date and cancel your Arraignment court appearance. 
    • The Arraignment has three purposes: (1) to advise you of the charges you are facing as well as their maximum penalties, (2) to advise you that you have a right to an attorney, and (3) to schedule a trial date.
    • When selecting your trial date, the court is going to be mindful of your “Hick’s Date.” Hick’s is a Maryland Rule (it is not a Constitutional Right) that governs when your trial date should be set. Your constitutional right is a Right to a Speedy Trial. Your Right to a Speedy Trial triggers well after your Hick’s Date.
    • Your Hick’s Date, by Maryland Rule, is scheduled no later than 180 days after the earlier of your Initial Appearance in Circuit Court or your attorney filing notice with the court that they represent you. If you want to calculate a rough date of when your case is supposed to have gone to trial by, add 6 months to your Arraignment Date. Typically, cases are scheduled 3 to 4 months after the Arraignment Date. It is very possible for cases to last longer than that 6 months but only if good cause is shown.
    • The most important aspect of your Arraignment is the selection of your trial date. If you appear at an Arraignment without an attorney, and the court schedules your case for a trial date, when you do ultimately hire an attorney, they may be unavailable for your trial date and will need to file a motion to postpone your trial date. Postponements are not always a bad thing for your case. But they are not always good either. If you want to avoid unnecessary postponements of your trial date, contact an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney to represent you at your felony Arraignment.
  6. Discovery
    • When you are charged with a crime, the State’s Attorney is required to turn over copies of the evidence they will use against you as well as any evidence they have that may tend to show you are not guilty. 
    • For felony cases, there are specific rules as to what must be turned over and when. The bright line rule is that the State’s Attorney shall turn over required discovery within 30 days after your first appearance in the Circuit Court, which is typically your Arraignment, or when your attorney files a notice with the court that they represent you. Remember, your attorney can enter their appearance on your behalf before your trial date so this will accelerate when discovery must be turned over to you.
    • Take note that there is absolutely no obligation for the State’s Attorney’s Office to turn over evidence against you before this time. This is why no discovery was turned over to you or your attorney from arrest through the Preliminary Hearing.
    • Contact an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney to represent you so that you can obtain your Discovery quicker.
  7. Pretrial Motions Date
    • As evidence is turned over, the case and evidence being used against you will become much clearer. This will now reveal if there are defects in the State’s Attorney’s case. Possible, there are issues in the case such as:
      1. A defect in how the case was initiated;
      2. A defect in the charging document other than its failure to show jurisdiction in the court or its failure to charge an offense;
      3. An unlawful search, seizure, interception of wire or oral communication, or pretrial identification;
      4. An unlawfully obtained admission, statement, or confession; or
      5. Joint or separate trial issues relating to multiple defendants or multiple offenses.
    • These issues are dealt with prior to your trial date and require being set in for a court hearing. They also require filing motions in writing so that you can have a hearing to argue these issues. Failing to do so means you are waiving these issues and a judge is not required to allow you to argue this on your trial date.
    • Contact an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney to represent you at your Pretrial Motions Date.
  8. Trial Date in the Circuit Court
    • The vast majority of felonies must go to trial in the Circuit Court.
    • At your trial, a judge will preside over your case. The State’s Attorney is required to prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. You get to select before the beginning of your trial who will listen to the evidence and decide if the State’s Attorney has proven their case against you. You will be deciding between the Judge or a Jury. A jury is 12 people chosen from the voter and motor roles of the county where your case is being tried. The State’s Attorney will call witnesses to testify and present evidence that they have. Your attorney gets to ask questions of the State’s Attorney witnesses. This is called cross-examination. You have the opportunity to present evidence in your defense. This can be witnesses, evidence, and you have the right to testify in your defense. You also have the right to not testify and your silence cannot be held against you.
    • At the conclusion of the trial, the judge or jury will decide if you are Guilty or Not Guilty. Much work goes into preparing for a trial. You may insist that you are Innocent but asserting that you are Innocent is not enough. You need to be ready to win your trial. Contact an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney to defend you on your trial date when you are charged with committing a Felony.

Types of Felonies in Maryland

When You’re Facing Felony Charges

During this difficult time, you need Zirkin & Schmerling Law on your side. We are compassionate lawyers who have helped thousands of Maryland residents facing felony and misdemeanor charges. We will always do what’s in your best interest and help you survive your legal situation.

Your future and your freedom depend on the outcome of this case. To learn more, please contact Zirkin & Schmerling Law today at 410-753-4611 to get in touch with a qualified, experienced criminal case attorney in Maryland. Our lawyers can go over your criminal record and provide an initial evaluation of your case entirely free of charge. We can give you the representation and advocacy you deserve going forward.

Do you have more questions? Here are more answers:

Booking In and Bailing Out: What You Should Know About Arrests Read More
Self-Defense IS a Defense in Maryland Read More