What to Expect From the Criminal Process

Being in trouble with the law is an overwhelming and intimidating experience. You may be feeling scared, anxious, frustrated, and deeply concerned about the consequences you may be facing. Having a criminal defense attorney to guide you through the criminal justice system can ease some of your stress and give you confidence that you’re in good hands.

To give you an idea of what to expect during the criminal process, we’ve provided a brief overview of the average case from a procedural standpoint.

  • The Arrest: If law enforcement has probable cause to believe you committed a crime, you will be arrested. While you are in police custody, they may try to get you to talk. It’s critical that you exercise your right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you. For this reason, politely state that you do not wish to answer any questions until you have a lawyer present.
  • Citation or Booking: If you are cited, the police will give you a piece of paper that states the date you must appear in court. If you are booked at the police station, you will have your photo and fingerprints taken. Your belongings will most likely be confiscated and you will be kept in a detention area.
  • Arraignment: Within 24 hours of your arrest, you will have your first court appearance or arraignment. At this hearing, the state’s charges against you will be read aloud and you will have the opportunity to enter a plea.
  • Bail Hearing: At your arraignment, a judge will make a determination of whether to set bail, release you of your own recognizance, or keep you in police custody. Bail acts as an “insurance policy” that you will appear at future court dates. In setting a bail amount, a judge takes several factors into consideration including the seriousness of the offense, whether you are considered a flight risk or danger to the community, and whether you have a history of skipping court dates.
  • If bail is set and you cannot afford to post it, then you are entitled to a bail review hearing. Criminal defense attorney Prince Williams can represent you at this hearing and advocate for a reduction in your bail. If a reduction isn’t granted he can help you find a bail bonding company.
  • Plea Bargaining: If you enter a guilty plea, the prosecutor may be willing to negotiate reduced charges or a lesser sentence in exchange for an admission of guilt. Mr. Williams will always act in your best interests and will always speak with you first before pursuing a plea deal.
  • Preliminary Hearing: If you were charged with a felony, you are entitled to a preliminary hearing before a judicial officer within 10 days of being charged. At a preliminary hearing, the prosecution will present the state’s evidence against you in an attempt to show that probable cause exists to charge you with the particular crime you are alleged to have committed.
  • Trial and Sentencing: In Maryland, there are two types of criminal courts: Maryland District Court and the Maryland Circuit Court. Most misdemeanors and some felonies are heard in the District Court which does not have a jury. More serious crimes are heard in the Circuit Court where a jury will deliver a verdict based on the evidence and testimony presented by both sides.


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