What Are the Possible Outcomes of My Criminal Case?
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If you are charged in a criminal case in Baltimore, it’s inevitable will you end up in the district court or circuit court to have your case adjudicated. Adjudicate means that the case is concluded and there’s some finality. If the case starts out in the district court, you have the absolute right to “pray” a jury trial or to have the case adjudicated in district court. If your case is in the circuit court, you have the absolute right to a jury trial (if the possible penalty is over 90 days in jail) or a judge trial.
Fundamentally, there are five basic possibilities how your case can be finalized and adjudicated:
- Not Guilty
- Guilty Plea or Verdict
- Dismissal (Nolle Prosequi)
- PBJ (Probation Before Judgement)
Taking swift action is of the utmost importance when your rights are on the line. Speak with our Baltimore criminal defense lawyer during a free consultation today. Call (443) 709-9999.
Not Guilty Verdict
Not guilty denotes that the case was tried in front of a judge or a jury that rendered the judgment that you are not guilty of any and all charges. As in any case, defendants are sometimes charged with more than one “count.” Each count is an “act” or “series of acts.” State attorneys use multiple counts to bolster their case and try to convince a defendant to take a deal because of the number of charges against them. Sometimes extra counts will sway a defendant to plead the case even if some of the counts are a bit of a stretch to prove.
The prosecutor adds additional counts for leverage. The term “not guilty” inherently means that a trier of fact listened to the case after the government presented their case into evidence and your lawyer had the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses and also present a case on your behalf. The interesting thing about a “not guilty” finding in Baltimore is that you have the absolute right to have that case expunged. In order to have it expunged, you must file a petition for expungement. However, that is not automatic and there are certain rules and provisions that govern same.
Guilty Verdict or Plea
A guilty finding by a judge or jury means that you were determined to have committed a crime beyond reasonable doubt. That guilty finding will go on your record. If it’s a state case, it will be listed on the Maryland Judiciary, as well as the court records. Fundamentally, most people don’t realize that state records that are eventually transferred to various other state and federal agencies such as the FBI and other governmental gatekeepers.
If you are found guilty by a judge, then they must determine what your sentence will be. A judge may use many different components to formulate probation or sentence.
Your sentence could include:
- Totally or suspended term of incarceration
- Class attendance
- Community service
- Program attendance
If a judge issues a 10-year sentence to the Department of Corrections in Maryland and suspends all but one year, then nine of those years will not actually include incarceration unless the defendant breaks the terms of their probation. This is typically called a split sentence.
In Latin, the term “STET” means “Let it Stand.” Placing your case in a STET docket means the state attorney’s office will place your case on the inactive docket for a period of three years. In order for a defendant to accept the STET, it means the conditions attached to the STET must be met and no other crimes committed. Some of the requirements can be in depth or simple.
A STET may be granted when:
- The prosecutor believes the case may be very serious but may have limited information or evidence in order to prove their case
- The state feels as if they don’t have enough evidence to prove their case or the case is not very serious
This is one of the ways our Baltimore criminal defense attorney can try to convince the state to offer a STET. If our firm can convince them that we are right about any particular issue, then this may make them think that can’t win the case. We have convinced the state attorney to STET a case pending certain conditions to be completed. We have then asked the state’s attorney to set the case on a future docket to have the case then converted to a “Nol Pros.” The case can then be expunged immediately.
A prime reason for this compromise is that it appears that the state is taking positive steps to protect the general public. Sometimes our law firm will even suggest or offer for clients to complete certain classes, community service, counseling, or a restraining order. We know that it’s much better to have them go through the fuss of these requirements than to actually face the criminal charges. The Law Offices of James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates has set up and created various psychological and therapy programs with a local counseling center to give the state attorney’s office and the defendant an opportunity to resolve the case.
It’s important to know that the state or defendant may reopen the STET for any reasonable reason whatsoever upon a motion to the judge within a period of 12 months from the date of the adjudication. After one year, and up to three years, the case can then only be reopened with “good cause.” Very seldom are STET cases reopened. It has happened, but generally, it’s because the defendant has committed an additional crime related to the issue at hand.
Nol Pros (Dismissal)
Sometimes a prosecutor will simply dismiss a case. Usually, it’s because your lawyer has brought forth arguments prior to trial pointing out to the state that a particular count or the case in total cannot be proven. If the prosecutor agrees, then the case goes away. That is why it is so important that your legal team investigates and the situation to bring all the facts to the attention of the prosecutor. The tireless, hardworking Baltimore criminal defense attorney at the Law Offices of James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates leaves no stone unturned when it comes to defending our clients.
If the case is in the circuit court, it is a more serious situation. Multiple state attorneys and investigators may pick up the file and handle it. If it’s a district court case, a prosecutor may not even know about the case until a short time before the trial. Sometimes it is good for your lawyer to point out certain circumstances than bring it to the attention of the state attorney in order to make a decision about how they are going to proceed.
Here is an example of a recent case handled by our law firm:
- Defendant was accused of peeping at an underage girl in a dressing room by using his phone to record her without clothing;
- The state’s attorney’s office claimed that he placed the phone on an angle at the bottom of the stall in order to capture her image on video;
- Our criminal defense lawyer obtained surveillance video from the store to determine that the state would not be able to prove their case;
- After careful review of the evidence, they could not prove that he actually “recorded” any video on his phone.
The state didn’t have to actually produce the video. They could have argued that he did record it and then deleted it. But that’s where a forensic expert really comes in handy. Our firm convinced the state to Nol Pros the case.
Probation Before Judgment (PBJ)
Probation before judgment (PBJ) is probably the most controversial adjudication method in the state of Maryland. When a defendant is given this type of sentence, they are first found guilty. At the sentencing phase, the defendant’s lawyer will then ask the judge to “strike” the guilty finding and offer the defendant a probation before judgment. The defendant can honestly say they have never been convicted of a crime because the guilty finding is “stricken” and all that remains the PBJ verdict.
To accept this type of disposition the defendant must “waive” their appellate rights. When the guilty finding is stricken, there is nothing to appeal from because there is a “not guilty” finding on the record. After a period of three years, the defendant can apply for an expungement.
It’s very important for criminal defendants to understand what the limitations are on probation before judgment. At first glance, it appears great because a client can honestly say that there are no convictions in the state of Maryland. However, the problem is that the federal government refuses to cooperate since there are 49 other states and territories that have other types of dispositions than Maryland.
For federal immigration purposes and other federal administrative or employment purposes, probation before judgment is not recognized as “not guilty.” The federal government, depending upon the nature of the crime, may still try to deport an individual based on the severity and potential penalty of incarceration. If an individual has any type of pending immigration issues they must look at the scenario very carefully because it could affect them in the future. The federal government does not recognize PBJ and may still deport the individual. It’s a tricky nuance and your Baltimore criminal defense lawyer needs to be well aware of the possible consequences.
The end goal in many of these dispositions is expungement. Generally speaking, when an individual receives a not guilty finding, they may file an expungement immediately. It is not automatically completed, but if there are no other crimes and other aggravating circumstances, it will be expunged. A guilty finding can be fatal to your future. This affects employment, immigration, housing and many other circumstances in your life.
With the advent of the computers, when an individual is found guilty, literally 15 minutes later someone can find this information on a different continent. It is a very serious matter and individuals should never accept a guilty finding unless that’s something that absolutely must occur.
A guilty finding can very seldom ever be expunged. There are techniques used in the past to expunge a guilty finding, such as:
- Corum Noblis post-conviction
- Innocence motion
- Petitions to request a modification.
It is better to take care of it at the time of your court case, not years down the road. You can expunge a STET or probation before judgment after three years. There are no guarantees and depending upon other cases you may have been previously charged with, the court will make that determination. The same thought process occurs with probation for judgment.
The general legal thought process with the three year period is that if a criminal defendant intends to sue a police agency or any other governmental entity, the civil statute of limitations is three years. The state does not want to be in a situation where they get rid of and expunge all records of a case and then the individual defendant sues them civilly afterward. The state is then caught with “their pants down” and they have no records in order to defend the case.
Trust Our Baltimore Criminal Defense Lawyer
We offer dependable and reliable criminal defense, with an accessible attorney that communicate with our clients every step of the way. We have over 25 years of experience handling a variety of allegations. When it comes to fighting for your rights, we take utmost care in analyzing every aspect of your case and crafting the right case for your needs.
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Get representation from an aggressive criminal defense lawyer in Baltimore. The Law Offices of James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates can be reached at (443) 709-9999.