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What is the Initial Appearance in a Maryland Criminal Case?

If you or a loved one has been charged with a criminal offense in Maryland, the first appearance in court is one of the most important. In a Maryland criminal case, the offender is taken before the judge or court commissioner, which is his or her chance to be released after an arrest and start the fight against the charges.

The initial appearance is where you will be informed what your charges are, what the potential maximum sentence is, and again advised on your right to an attorney. This is where bail can be set and any other conditions will be imposed. Depending on the charges, the court may issue a “No Contact Order.” This is an order that prohibits the defendant from maintaining any contact with the victim or someone who is a witness in the case.

What Happens During the Initial Appearance?

To understand more about the initial appearance, here is the order of steps that a judge or court commissioner typically takes:

  • The defendant will be provided with a copy of the criminal complaint. This will list the charges and what the maximum penalty is for each.
  • The judge then makes a determination on probable cause. This means the judge looks at the complaint and reviews whether the facts alleged therein show that the defendant likely committed the offense he or she is being charged with.
  • In the event a defendant appears without a Maryland criminal defense attorney by their side, the court will explain the defendant’s right to have an attorney present. In the event the defendant cannot afford to retain one, the court will provide counsel from the State Public Defender’s Office in most cases.
  • If the defendant is being charged with one or more felonies, the court will inform him or her about the right to have a preliminary hearing.

What do Court Commissioners do?

For many people, a court commissioner is the first person they will have contact with at the District Court of Maryland. These are judicial officers who are appointed by the Chief Judge. Their main responsibilities are to review the applications for statement charges in order to ascertain whether or not there is probable cause to go ahead and issue charging documents. They also conduct the initial appearance hearings to make a decision on the conditions of the defendant’s pretrial release, and they also are the ones who determine whether or not a defendant is eligible for a public defender.

It is important to understand what a court commissioner does not do. The following are not a court commissioner’s duties:

  • They do not provide legal advice to the defendant.
  • They do not decide whether the defendant is guilty or innocent.
  • They do not suggest that the defendant should give up or waive any of his or her rights.
  • They do not make any suggestions or comments on what will happen to the defendant at the time of trial.
  • They do not make discriminatory or inappropriate comments about the defendant.

Contact a Maryland Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been arrested for an alleged crime in Maryland, please contact the Law Office of Robert R. Castro today at 301-705-5137 to schedule an initial consultation.