St. Mary’s County Criminal Court hears all criminal cases in St. Mary’s County. Below you will find specific information about criminal cases and how they are handled in St. Mary’s County.
A Plea Agreement, sometimes known as a Plea Bargain is an agreement between the prosecution and the defendant, where the defendant pleads guilty or no contest often in exchange for a lesser charge or lighter recommended sentence. A large majority of criminal cases end in a plea agreement. In St. Mary’s County you can inform your attorney to negotiate with the prosecution to attempt to come to a plea agreement, but this is dependent upon the charge severity and also the prosecutors willingness to accept a plea deal.
Appealing a Criminal Conviciton
A defendant may appeal a criminal conviction to an appellate court. In an appeal, the actual trial is not redone, but the appellate court hears arguments that the criminal case was not handled in a legal manner at the original criminal court. The appellate court can either uphold the conviction, or determine that errors were made and may request a retrial, a resentencing of the defendant or that the charges be dismissed.
St. Mary’s County Prosecutor
For criminal cases in St. Mary’s County, the prosecutor will be a representative of St. Mary’s County. The St. Mary’s County prosecutor reviews all evidence and ultimately decides whether to file or dismiss charges in the case. Most of the time, the prosecutor has leeway in plea negotiations and determines how the case will be prosecuted.
Right to an attorney
The US Constitution’s Sixth Amendment ensures the right to an attorney regardless of whether or not you can afford one. In St. Mary’s County a public defender will be appointed by the judge if you cannot afford private representation.
Burden of Proof
The burden of proof is always on the prosecution in a criminal trial. In other words, the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. The defense must only prove that there is a reasonable possibility that the defendant did NOT commit the crime. If the prosecution cannot prove that the defendant committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, the jury will be instructed to find the defendant not-guilty.
St. Mary’s County Arraignments
An arraignment is a court hearing. In St. Mary’s County this is the first thing that will happen in a criminal case. The defendant will be brought before a judge in St. Mary’s County Criminal Court and the judge will read the charges that were filed against the defendant. The judge will also read the rights the defendant has and ask the defendant if they understand both the charges filed against them and their rights as a defendant in the case. In St. Mary’s County a plea of Guilty, Not Guilty or No Contest may be entered. In a guilty or no contest plea the sentencing of the defendant may take place at the same arraignment hearing or a later date may be scheduled for sentencing. For a not guilty plea, a date will be set for a trial.
What is Jury Deliberation?
After both the prosecution and defense have presented their cases, the judge in the case will provide instructions to the jury about what they must decide. The jury will be dismissed to the jury room where they will deliberate about the guilt or innocence of the defendant. After reaching a unaminous decision, they return their decision to the court where it is read aloud in the courtroom. If the jury is unable to reach a unaminous decision, the jury is deadlocked, also known as a hung jury, in which a mistrial will be declared.
Mandatory Appearances in St. Mary’s County Criminal Court
At a mandatory or required court appearance in St. Mary’s County, the defendant must appear before the court. In the event of a “Failure to Appear” the judge may issue a warrant for the arrest of the defendant. Note: not all criminal hearings are mandatory, in a non-mandatory hearing an attorney may appear on your behalf without you being in court.
St. Mary’s County Criminal Court hearings
Criminal hearings in St. Mary’s County will take place at the St. Mary’s County Criminal Courts. Please see here for a list of the St. Mary’s County Criminal Court Locations.
The Right to Trial by Jury
The Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees the right to a trial by a jury. This is applicable for when the crime can carry a sentence of 6 months in jail OR a $500 fine, these are known as “Serious Crimes”. The defendant can also waive their right to a speedy and public trial.
Sentencing in St. Mary’s County
In St. Mary’s County if the defendant is found guilty (by trial or plea), the defendant will be sentenced. This sometimes occurrs immediately after being found guilty, but can also take place at a later date. In most instances, a judge will impose the sentence that is requested by the prosecution, but they also have the descretion to impose a different sentence.
Who can help me in St. Mary’s County?
For general information about your case the St. Mary’s County court clerk will be able to provide legal information about your specific criminal case. Legal information is not legal advice though, the court clerk will only be able to provide information about your case, like date/time of hearings what will occur at the hearing and what you may be required to do in the hearing. They cannot provide advice about what you should do or what the best legal options may be for your particular case. Only an attorney can provide legal advice and this is your best place for information about your specific criminal proceeding. If you cannot afford to hire a private attorney to represent you, a judge will appoint an attorney to represent you, this is most often a public defender.
St. Mary’s County Criminal Court Locations
Saint Mary’s County Circuit Court
Address: 41605 Courthouse Dr, Leonardtown MD 20650
Phone: 301-475-7844 Fax: 301-475-4658
Saint Mary’s County District Court
Address: 23110 Leonard Hall Dr, PO Box 1509, Leonardtown MD 20650
Saint Mary’s County Orphans’ Court
Address: 41605 Courthouse Dr, PO Box 602, Leonardtown MD 20650
Phone: 301-475-5566 Fax: 301-475-4968