Maryland Criminal Lawyer

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Seeking legal assistance from a qualified Maryland criminal lawyer attorney is the first step to take if you have been faced with a criminal charge. A 'crime' has been defined as any act, or omission of an act, in violation of a public law forbidding or commanding it. Though there are some common law crimes, most crimes in the United States are established by local, state, and federal governments. Criminal laws vary significantly from state to state, but all states make the distinction between felonies and misdemeanors.

Felonies are more serious. Felonies include rape, arson, aggravated assault, robbery, kidnapping, homicide and fraud. Felonies can be characterized as violent or non-violent, and many non-violent crimes such as embezzlement and tax evasion are considered white-collar crimes while misdemeanors are less serious offenses like petty theft or jaywalking.

The consequences for crimes can vary, depending on the jurisdiction in which the crime is being prosecuted, the severity of the crime, and the vagaries of the sentencing judge. Naturally, more severe crimes are punished more severely, with the most vicious crimes resulting in life imprisonment without parole or even the death penalty. Misdemeanors, especially for first-time defendants, are likely to be punished by a fine. Some misdemeanors do entail incarceration, but usually of a duration lasting under a year and in a local or county jail. Felonies are generally punished by incarceration of over one year, in a state or federal prison.

Most states allow a defendant the right to a speedy trial, but sometimes the client may need to give up this right to allow for sufficient time to prepare a solid defense on the case. The cost of a criminal defense lawyer will depend on the jurisdiction where the lawsuit is filed, as well as the nature of charges and the extent of investigation that may be required on the part of the attorney. A lawyer may require a greater retainer for a highly complex case and this may also correspond to the severity of the charges filed.

In the event that the case goes to trial, it may be heard by a judge in a bench trial or by a judge and panel of jury members, referred to as a jury trial. Both the prosecutor as well as the defendant can demand a jury trial, but under some circumstances, such as in very technical cases, the defendant may seek only a bench trial.

If a case is scheduled for a jury trial, the jury selection may play a significant role in the outcome of the case. During this process, the panel of jurors will be questioned by the judge, as well as the attorneys, to determine if their qualifications match the requirements of the case. The defendant lawyer may also try to eliminate jurors who have an obvious bias against the accused or any prior knowledge that will prevent an impartial assessment of the parameters of the case. Both the prosecution and defense can challenge jurors for cause, meaning that they fear the jurors may be prejudiced against a particular party.

Any criminal trial begins with the presumption that the accused is innocent until proven guilty. This means that the prosecutor, on behalf of the state, must prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to win the case. During the course of the trial, an experienced criminal lawyer will seek to protect the best interest of the client at all times. This includes questioning the witnesses presented by the prosecutor as well as relying on expert opinion that will cast doubt upon a prosecutor's claims. A defense attorney does not need to prove the defendant's innocence; all he or she need do is to cast enough doubt that the jury is unable to meet the standard of reasonable doubt.

The defendant's lawyer may file plea bargains for lesser charges or negotiate guilty pleas in consultation with the defendant. In such instances, the defendant may receive a lesser charge or a reduced sentence in return for completing a mandatory rehabilitation program, or even simply for pleading guilty instead of letting the matter go to trial.

A qualified criminal defense attorney is crucial to ensuring that a defendant has the fairest trial proceeding possible. If you have been charged with a crime in the state of Maryland, make certain to retain a criminal attorney immediately after your arrest.