Every seven minutes, a serious crime occurs in Maryland. For every crime that takes place, the police hope to arrest the person or persons responsible. If you are reading this, it is likely that you or someone you care about has been arrested and charged with a crime in the State of Maryland. How you act, what you do (or don’t do), and what you say (or don’t say) can have a tremendous impact on how your case is charged, prosecuted, and ultimately disposed of. It is important to keep in mind that absolutely nothing you do is unimportant when you are the Defendant, or family member of the Defendant, in a criminal matter. If you are a friend or family member of the person being charged, you can use this information to guide this person and answer questions he or she may have. While this Report cannot answer every question or concern that you may have, it will cover the major factors that you should now be considering. The Criminal Process Most Often Begins With An Arrest. Following the arrest of a friend or loved one, they will be taken to appear in front of a District Court Commissioner. The Commissioner’s job is to determine whether or not there is probable cause to charge them with a particular crime. The Commissioner has several responsibilities to ensure the Defendant is aware of what is happening and has been properly protected in accordance with the United States Constitution. First, the Commissioner must ensure that the Defendant understands the charges against him or her, as well as the potential penalties that he or she may face upon conviction. Up until this point, most people have only read or learned about pour Constitution in grade school or during a trip to a museum. Now that someone you care about has been arrested, the Constitution plays a key role in the rights and protections that that person must be given. Specifically, the Commissioner must be satisfied that the Defendant understands the charges he or she is facing. This is usually accomplished by the charges being recited by the Commissioner and the Defendant being asked if they understand. Regardless of whether they say yes or no, manner in which they answer will be observed to determine if true understanding is taking place. When it is decided that the Defendant does understand the charges and possible penalties, the Defendant is then advised of his or her right to an attorney.
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