Contact Us 301-705-5137

Criminal Cases in Charles County, Maryland: What is a District Court Versus a Circuit Court?

The criminal justice system in Waldorf, Maryland, is more complicated than in other states. Part of the reason is that Maryland has two different trial-level courts: the District Courts and the Circuit Courts. Above these are Maryland’s appellate courts: the Court of Special Appeals and the Maryland Court of Appeals (which is our version of what is commonly called the Supreme Court in other States).

This article discusses three of the most important differences between the District Courts and the Circuit Courts. If you have been arrested or charged with a crime in Waldorf, MD, or in nearby communities in Southern Maryland, call the experienced and courtroom-proven Maryland criminal defense lawyers at the Law Office of Robert Castro. Call us at (301) 705-5137. We are available around the clock, 24/7.

The first difference between Maryland District Courts and Circuit Courts is the type of criminal cases they handle. District Courts handle any sort of criminal case where the potential jail time is less than three years, or the fine is less than $2,500. So, generally, all misdemeanor criminal charges are heard in the District Courts, and likewise, any Maryland DUI/DWI. The Circuit Courts handle more serious criminal charges involving felonies. For example, charges related to first time criminal possession of drugs will be handled by the Circuit Courts since those crimes carry a potential four-year prison sentence and fines up to $25,000. The Circuit Courts will also handle other felonies like murder, rape, gun charges, etc.

The next difference is that all trials in the District Court are conducted before judges. That is, in the District Courts, there are no juries. Generally, those charged with crimes are entitled to a jury if the crime charged can result in a jail term of more than one year. Thus, if a Maryland criminal defendant is charged with a felony — meaning a possible jail term exceeding one year — the defendant can demand a jury trial, and the case will be heard in the Circuit Court. Whether a given case should be tried before a judge or a jury is a complicated factual and legal question. If you have questions about this, consult an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney.

The third important difference between the District Courts and the Circuit Courts concerns appeals. If an accused is convicted in the District Court, the accused has an automatic right to appeal to the Circuit Court. If an appeal is taken, what happened in the District Court is sort of “erased” and the accused gets a brand new trial before the Circuit Court. This can be a second chance to obtain a “not guilty” verdict. This could also backfire if there is another conviction and the Circuit Court judge imposes a more severe sentence than the one imposed by the District Court. On the other hand, if an accused is convicted in the Circuit Court, the only appeal is to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. That, however, is not a new trial, but rather a traditional appeal that argues some error was made by the Circuit Court.

Contact Waldorf, Maryland Criminal Defense Lawyer Robert Castro Today

This article has been provided by the Law Office of Robert Castro. For more information or questions, contact our office to speak to an experienced Maryland criminal defense lawyer at (301) 705-5137. We are Waldorf Criminal Defense lawyers. Our address is 2670 Crain Highway, Waldorf, MD 20601.