What happens after I'm
After you are arrested, you will be taken before a District Court commissioner
who determines if probable cause exists to charge you. The commissioner
• ensures that you understand the charges against you and the possible
• advises you of your right to an attorney,
• advises you of your responsibilities in obtaining an attorney,
• decides whether you should be detained or released pending trial,
• and determines whether bail should be set.
You should provide the commissioner with any information requested.
What court will hear my case?
The District Court hears most cases involving motor vehicle violations,
criminal misdemeanors and certain felonies. The circuit court hears cases
involving serious felony crimes.
Will I be tried by a jury?
A judge hears District Court cases and many circuit court cases. However,
you may request a jury trial, if you face a charge punishable by imprisonment
for more than 90 days. A written request for a jury trial should be filed
fifteen (15) days before the scheduled trial date. If your case is
set for trial in the circuit court, you will be asked whether you want a
jury trial when you are arraigned in the court.
What is a preliminary hearing?
A preliminary hearing is a proceeding held in the District Court to determine
if probable cause exists to charge you with a crime. You are not allowed
to testify or to offer evidence at the hearing, but you have the right to
hear the evidence against you and to cross examine the state’s witness.
the court finds no probable cause, charges may be dismissed.
(However, the state’s attorney may refile charges later.)
If you are charged with a felony or crime which must be tried in circuit
court and you have not been indicted by the grand jury, you have a right
to a preliminary hearing. You must request one within ten (10) days
of your first appearance before the commissioner. If you waive your preliminary
hearing, or if it is held and the court finds there is sufficient probable
cause, the state’s attorney must file within thirty (30) days a charging
document in the circuit court, enter a nol pros (unwilling to proceed) or
stet (a stay of proceedings) in the District Court, or amend the charges
so that they can be tried in the District Court.
Will I have a criminal
record?Records will exist on all charges
filed against you and the disposition of those
charges, including any convictions. Even if you
are not convicted, court records will exist on
the charges filed against you and the result of
the case. Additionally, police agencies,
the state’s attorney, or the public defender
may maintain records of your arrest and/or trial.
Under certain conditions you can have all records pertaining to your case
sealed and made unavailable to the public through a process called expungement.
(How to file for expungement.)
If your case is expunged, no public or private agency or individual can use
the records of your arrest and/or trial against you. You can request
1. If you were arrested but no charge was filed, you may file immediately
at police headquarters.
2. If you are found not guilty, the charges are dismissed or the state’s
attorney enters a nol pros, a Petition for Expungement may be filed immediately
following the trial with a General Waiver and Release or after three years from
the date of disposition.
3. If you are placed on probation before judgment, you may petition for
expungement three years after the date of the disposition.
4. If your case is marked stet by the state’s attorney, you may
petition for expungement three years after the date of the stet.
5. If you are convicted of a nonviolent criminal act and are pardoned
by the governor, you may request an expungement after five years, but not more
than ten years, from the signing of the pardon.
I appeal a judgment?
You have a right to appeal a guilty judgment entered in a District Court
criminal or traffic case. You do not have a right to appeal if you have been
placed on probation without the entry of a judgment.
How and when should I plan an appeal?
Complete the Order for Appeal and file in the District Court within 30 days
of disposition. Pay circuit court costs. If you cannot pay, speak with
a clerk on the procedures to have the fee waived.
The District Court has no power to grant an extension of time for filing
an Order of Appeal.
Do I continue to pay fines during appeal?
You must continue to make scheduled payment of court ordered fines and costs
unless the judge ordered that payment be stayed or that the full amount be
paid as a condition to forwarding the appeal. Requests for stay of
payment must be made in writing at the same time that you file your appeal.
Am I still on probation during my appeal?
You must fulfill the terms and conditions of your probation, unless the judge
has ordered a stay of probation. Requests for stay of probation must
be made in writing at the same time that you file your appeal.
Will I be released during appeal?
Your release depends upon the factual circumstances of the case and the ruling
of the judge. The District Court conforms with the guidelines established
by the Court of Appeals of Maryland to determine your confinement or release
Must I post new bail while my appeal is pending?
Original bail, if any, continues through an appeal unless discharged by the
judge. If the judge sets an appeal bail greater than the original bail,
you must post an additional bail to cover the increase.
Do I need a transcript for an appeal?
A transcript of the trial is not required in criminal or traffic appeals. If
you would like to have a recording of your District Court trial, you may
have one upon payment of the cost.
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What is bail?
Bail is money paid to the court to ensure that an arrested person who is
released from jail will show up at all required court appearances.
Who can post bail for me?
You may post bail for yourself, have someone over 18 years old post it on
your behalf or use a bondsman. Whoever posts bail for you assumes full
responsibility for your appearance in court. If you fail to appear
as required, a warrant will be issued for your immediate arrest and the bail
will be forfeited.
How can I post bail?
Bail may be posted in the following manner:
1. Cash Bail
A percentage may be posted for cash bonds. All bonds that are set at two
thousand, five hundred dollars ($2,500.) or less may be posted with a cash
deposit of ten percent (10%). However, the person posting cash bail is liable
for the full amount. If you appear for trial or the charges are disposed
of before trial, the amount posted will be refunded. If you do not
appear, all cash posted will be forfeited and the full amount of bail becomes
2. Property Bail
Property (e.g. land or home) in Maryland may be used to post bail, provided
that the net equity in the property meets or exceeds the amount of bail. To
determine net equity deduct any liens, mortgages or deeds of trust, and ground
rent, capitalized at 6 percent, from the assessed value of the property.
When posting property, you need to present tax bills, assessment notices,
copies of a recorded deed or other public records. Each person whose name
appears on the tax bill must sign the form, unless a power of attorney has
been executed by one or both parties authorizing another signature.
3. Intangible Assets
Acceptable intangible assets include:
a. Bankbooks and certificates of deposit accepted at 100 percent of
b. Letters of credit from a bank,
c. Certificates for stocks listed on the American or New York Stock Exchange,
accepted at 75 percent of the present exchange quotation.
Only a clerk of the court may accept intangible assets; a commissioner may
not. Present the required documents to a clerk at the court location where
the case is pending.
4. Credit and Debit Cards
Bail may be charged on certain credit and debit cards. Although a commissioner
or clerk accepts the card, an independent company processes the charge. The
charge includes the amount of the bail and a service fee. (These charges
will appear on your next credit or debit card statement.) The card and personal
identification must be produced in person at the time of posting bail. (Contact
a District Court commissioner or clerk for information on cards accepted
and the fees charged.)
5. Professional Bail Bondsman
A bail bondsman charges a non refundable fee to post bail. In addition to
the fee, the bondsman may require collateral security or property to secure
your release. Collateral will be returned to the person who posted it after
disposition of the charges. The service fee and collateral received must
be displayed on the bail bond form. Make certain that the information
is correct on the form, that you receive a receipt and that you understand
the action the bondsman may take if you fail to meet your obligations.
For the telephone number of a bondsman consult the Yellow Pages under the “Bail
Do I need a lawyer?
You are not required to have a lawyer. However, a lawyer will offer
you legal advice, help defend you and protect your interests before the court.
How do I get a lawyer?
If you wish to hire a lawyer but do not know one, or if you wish
to defend yourself but want to consult with a lawyer, the Lawyer Referral
Service of the local Bar Association can help. Check the Yellow Pages
under Lawyer Referral Service.
If the offense is one that is punishable by imprisonment and you want to
hire a lawyer but cannot afford one, the state may supply you with a lawyer
free of charge, if you meet eligibility requirements. Contact the Office
of the Public Defender at 877-430-5187.
If you do not meet eligibility requirements for a public defender, many organizations
and law firms provide free or low cost legal services. Contact the Maryland
State Bar Association or a local bar association for assistance.
When should I contact a lawyer?
Immediately! Your lawyer will need time to prepare your case for trial. If
you have not hired your own lawyer or contacted the public defender by the
time of your trial, the judge can make you go to trial without a lawyer.
The public defender may refuse your case if you apply with less than 10 working
days before trial.
It is your responsibility to obtain legal counsel.
Information is intended to inform the public and not serve as legal advice. Any reproduction of this material must be authorized by the Office of the Chief Clerk of the District Court of Maryland.