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If you or someone you love has been charged with a crime, in Maryland, you need to familiarize yourself with Maryland criminal laws and you may need the help of a criminal defense attorney. Do not make the mistake of pleading guilty without talking to an attorney first, even if you do not think you have a chance in court.
Classifications of Crimes
Maryland criminal law categorized crimes as misdemeanors or felonies. Felonies carry much more serious punishments than misdemeanors, but a misdemeanor can still cause very serious problems for you now and in the years to come.
Misdemeanors carry a sentence of up to one year in a jail. Felonies carry a sentence of more than one year, and it is served in a prison.
When you are charged with a crime, you have numerous rights, many of which can affect the outcome of your case. It is important to understand and exercise all of your legal rights.
If law enforcement, the prosecutor, or others involved in your case have violated your rights it can mean that certain evidence is inadmissible or even that the entire case against you must be dismissed.
Some of the rights you need to be aware of include:
- Miranda rights – your right to remain silent
- Protection from illegal search and seizure
- A speedy trial
- Representation legal counsel and adequate representation
- Reasonable bail
In some cases it is in your best interest to enter into a plea agreement, but in many cases it may not be in your best interest to do so. Typically the prosecutor will offer you the opportunity to plead guilty to a lesser charge with a less severe punishment, rather than having to go to trial.
While this removes the risk of being convicted on the more serious charge, it also eliminates your chance of beating the charges. It guarantees a win for the prosecutor, often in cases that are weak or flawed to the point that they would not hold up in court.
There are some dangerous misconceptions regarding juvenile law. Although anyone under 18 is considered a child under Maryland law, that does not mean you are protected from being tried as an adult if you have not turned 18:
- If you are 14 or older you will be tried as an adult for crimes which carry a sentence of death or life imprisonment.
- If you are 16 or older there are numerous crimes for which you will be tried in adult court.
- If you have been convicted once as an “adult”, you will be tried as an adult on all future felony charges.