Germantown Criminal Defense Lawyers Helping Clients Facing Criminal Charges
Dealing with criminal charges in Maryland is a stressful situation. Even if what you are being charged with is a minor offense, it may feel like you are alone, and you may not know where to turn for help. In cases where you are not sentenced to jail or prison time, you may still end up with a criminal record that may affect several areas of your life now and in the future. This is when leveraging the legal knowledge and experience of a criminal defense attorney may make all the difference in your case. Here are a few important aspects you need to know about dealing with criminal charges in Maryland.
What Is the Difference Between a Felony and a Misdemeanor in Maryland?
Generally speaking, felonies are more serious crimes than misdemeanors. In most states, felonies and misdemeanors are classified according to the possible penalties you may receive and how much jail time each offense may result in. Maryland laws are a bit unique in the sense that some misdemeanors may result in longer jail sentences than a felony. Likewise, depending on where the crime occurred, someone convicted of a misdemeanor might end up serving time in state prison.
For example, possession of certain drugs with the intent to distribute is usually considered a felony and may result in up to 5 years of jail time. However, if someone is charged with 2nd-degree assault, they might be subject to facing up to 10 years in jail, even though they have been convicted of a misdemeanor. In addition to felonies and misdemeanors, Maryland also has what is called civil offenses, which are minor non-criminal violations that may result in fines but no jail time.
What Happens if I Am Convicted of a Crime in Maryland?
Each type of offense in Maryland carries a minimum and a maximum recommended prison or jail time. This applies to both felonies and misdemeanors. It will be up to a judge to determine exactly what type of sentence you may receive. Some misdemeanors may result in a fine and potential jail time, which is usually served in jail as opposed to state prison, with a few exceptions.
If you have been previously convicted of another crime, your previous conviction might affect your current charges, possibly resulting in harsher penalties. It is also important to understand that you may be charged with multiple counts of the same crime – for example, if you were caught with several packets containing drugs and drug paraphernalia in your vehicle, you might end up facing multiple charges, one for each packet of drugs you had in your possession. A judge may decide if you will serve time for your charges concurrently or consecutively.
For instance, if each crime you were convicted of has a minimum jail time of 2 years, and you were convicted of 4 counts of the same crime, the judge can decide if you will spend only 2 years in jail, or if you will spend 2 years in jail for every count of the crime you committed. Either way, the potential repercussions of a conviction are not minor, and it may be in your best interest to work with a criminal defense attorney.
Can I Represent Myself if I Was Charged With a Misdemeanor?
Some people may worry about the costs of retaining an attorney and may want to choose to self-represent instead. While this is allowed by the courts, it may not be in your best interest to do so, depending on the potential penalties you may be facing if convicted. Even the less severe charges may result in a criminal record that will likely affect many aspects of your life for several years, regardless of whether you had to serve time in jail or not. Self-representation does not always work in your favor, even though it is an option available to anyone.
For example, if you are a first-time offender facing a DWI charge, you may be inclined not to hire a family attorney and represent yourself. However, what usually happens is that as the defendant, you may end up allowing the state to convince you to plead guilty to your charges without digging deeper or conducting any type of investigation that may have produced evidence. Without any evidence that could have been used to contest the charges or negotiate lesser penalties, you may end up pleading guilty to charges that could have potentially been downgraded or even dismissed if an attorney had been assisting you with your case.
What Can a Criminal Defense Attorney Do for My Case?
A Maryland criminal defense attorney knows how to deal with all of the issues involved with every step of a criminal case in the state. Your attorney may be better equipped to have an objective view of both sides of every case and may be able to pinpoint the weaknesses in your case and prepare an effective defense strategy to better respond to the arguments presented by the prosecutor.
A criminal conviction may jeopardize your freedom and many aspects of your life, such as your finances and ability to secure housing and employment due to a criminal record. When so much is at stake, it is best to work with a well-versed criminal defense attorney who can help you get charges dropped or reduced. Call Paré & Associates, LLC today at (301) 962-2492 to schedule a free consultation.