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Preliminary Hearings in Maryland Criminal Cases

In the Maryland criminal justice system, a preliminary hearing may occur when a defendant is charged with one or more felonies. The practice in most other Maryland counties is to only schedule a preliminary hearing upon request of the defendant. Criminal defendants must make the request within ten days of the arrest or file a motion for good cause with a judge.

Preliminary hearings are conducted in the Maryland District Courts. If a judge finds probable cause, the case is sent (held over) to the Circuit Court for arraignment and possible trial. If the judge does not find probable cause that a felony has been committed by the defendant, then felony is dismissed. If a defendant is also charged with one or more misdemeanor, those charges remain and will be set for trial on another day at the District Court level.

Simply put, a District Court judge must find some link between the felony and the defendant. In most preliminary hearings in Maryland, the arresting officer will take the stand and read from his/her police report. The standard of review in a preliminary hearing is in the “light most favorable to the state”. In simple terms, the judge will give the prosecuting attorney the benefit of the doubt when determining if the defendant has committed the crime.

The defense attorney is permitted to ask limited questions pertaining to the facts. An experienced criminal defense attorney will try to obtain as much detail from the police officer, under oath, for use down the road at trial. For such reasons, holding a preliminary hearing may be useful to the defense-even if the judge does not dismiss the felony charge(s).

Often times a defendant will show up for court expecting a preliminary hearing, only to find that 1) the case has been indicted by a grand jury, 2) the prosecutor has exercised his/her discretion and dropped the felony(s), or 3) the entire case has been dropped (nolle pros) or placed on the stet docket (indefinite postponement). Often, an experienced criminal defense attorney can sway the prosecutor into dropping the charges even before the preliminary hearing is held.

For more information on a criminal defendant’s rights and the strategy of holding a preliminary hearing in Maryland, please contact the Law Offices of Gabriel J. Christian & Associates, LLC at 301-218-9400 for a free consultation.

What You Should Do If You Are In An Accident?

If you are involved in a car accident, the first rule of thumb is to keep everyone safe. Make sure that no one in your car is injured. If no one is seriously injured, exit the vehicle after checking to make sure that no cars are coming. If possible, drive your car to the side of the road to keep yourself out of the way of traffic.

Approach the drivers of the other cars involved in the accident, but remember to keep a cool head. After an accident, everyone involved will be shaken up, and so level headed thinking will be tremendously helpful. Additionally, no matter what happened, do not admit guilt at the scene. Even if the accident was your fault, simply collect contact information from the other drivers and do not confess to anything until you speak with your insurance company.

The most crucial information to gather from other drivers after an accident is their license plate numbers, driver’s license numbers, full names, telephone numbers and addresses. Also collect their insurance information if possible. It’s a good idea to keep a disposable camera in your glove compartment so that you can document an accident for your insurance company. Take pictures of the overall scene of the accident, as well as specific damage to your vehicle and the other vehicles involved. After collecting information from the other drivers and documenting the damage, call the police to file an accident report, and then call your insurance company.

If anyone involved in the accident has been injured, the very first thing you must do is to call 911. Use any first aid equipment or blankets that may be in your trunk to attend to injured people until an ambulance arrives. If any of your passengers, or the driver of your car, have been injured, you’ll want to contact a personal injury attorney as soon as you get to a safe place.

A personal injury attorney will work with your insurance provider to collect money from the at-fault driver to cover hospital bills and any other medical fees. Again, if someone is injured, do not admit fault in the accident until you have first spoken to a personal injury attorney. We are seasoned Personal injury attorneys who have successful strategies for helping injured victims in any type of accident, and you will want us to do the speaking on your behalf.

What Is An LLC?

LLC stands for Limited Liability Company. Because it is not a partnership or a corporation, the owners of an LLC are not partners or shareholders, they are “members.” Such companies are frequently labeled Limited Liability Corporations, but corporation is inaccurate and company is the proper term.

An LLC actually combines aspects of partnerships and corporations, so an LLC is less formal and more flexible than a typical corporation, yet offers protection as well as certain advantages that are much the same. For example, members cannot be found personally liable for company debts. Their assets are separate from the assets of the LLC so they cannot be seized. One of the advantages of an LLC is that taxation is based on the partnership model. Flow-through taxation is advantageous since members are only required to pay taxes on their earnings once instead of paying both corporate and individual taxes. Our firm can help you form an LLC. Give us a call today.

What Happens When One is Charged With A Crime?

Certain constitutional protections apply to a person charged with a crime. There are also certain procedures that are roughly the same from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The following is a brief description of what happens when a person is charged with a crime.

Confer with a Criminal Defense Attorney immediately if you or someone you know have been arrested or charged with a crime. Getting legal help is critical to ensure a defendants rights are protected.

A person may be charged with a crime before they are arrested. If this happens, a judge will issue a warrant for the person’s arrest. A police officer will attempt to locate the person who is the subject of the warrant. If the person is located by the police and arrested, the police must give the person a copy of the warrant that states the charge for which they are being arrested. The police do not necessarily need to have a copy of the warrant with them at the time of the arrest, but they should provide a copy to the arrested person within a reasonable amount of time afterward.

After a person is arrested, they will be “booked” at the police department. This entails taking fingerprints and completing other procedural requirements. The person will then be held in police custody pending a court hearing. This hearing will usually take place within 48 hours.

When a person is taken into police custody, they have the right to speak to a lawyer. The person will be allowed to contact that lawyer. The person should have at least a brief opportunity to meet with their attorney before their initial court hearing.

At the court hearing the judge will read the charges against the person, who is called the defendant. If a person was arrested without an arrest warrant, this may be the first time that they are told the charges against them. The judge will try to make sure that the defendant understands the charges. The judge will then ask the defendant to enter a plea. A defendant can enter a plea of “not guilty”, of “no contest”, or of “guilty”.

Even if a defendant is guilty, they can enter a plea of not guilty, if they think that there is not enough evidence to prove their guilt. In any case, a plea of not guilty will lead to a trial where the government will have to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant is guilty of the crime that they are charged with.

A jury will have to decide, based on the evidence presented by both sides, whether the defendant is to be found guilty or not guilty. In some cases, a defendant may waive their right to a jury trial, and the judge will be the one to decide if they are guilty or not guilty based on the evidence that is presented. The defendant should consult with their lawyer about whether or not they should waive their right to a jury trial.

If the result of the trial is that the defendant is found not guilty of the crimes charged, they will be released from custody. If the result of the trial is that the defendant is found guilty or if there is no trial because the defendant entered a plea of no contest or of guilty, then there will be a sentencing hearing.

There may be evaluations of the defendant that are performed prior to the sentencing hearing. For example, if the crime is DWI the defendant may be evaluated to determine if they have a substance abuse problem. The court will also make a pre-sentencing report, which is basically an investigation into any prior criminal history of the defendant. This information helps the judge determine an appropriate sentence.

At the sentencing hearing, there may be an opportunity for individuals to speak to the court about what factors they feel the court should take into account in determining a sentence. These individuals can include the victim of the crime, the victim’s family, the defendant, the defendant’s family, and any other interested party.

The judge will consider all of the evidence presented and take into account any sentencing requirements. The judge will then enter a sentence for the defendant. If the crime was relatively minor, and the defendant has been in custody during the whole court process, they may have already served the jail time that is imposed by the judge. If the crime is more serious, the defendant may face even more jail time. A criminal sentence may involve more than serving time in jail as well. The defendant may be ordered to pay fines, to give restitution to the victim, to undergo treatment for substance abuse or mental problems, to perform community service, or many other things.

Anyone who is charged with a crime should hire an attorney with experience in criminal defense to represent them. This is the best way to make sure that their rights are protected, and that they obtain the best possible outcome.

Marital Separation

What is a Marital Separation Agreement?

A marital separation agreement, also known as a property settlement agreement, is a written contract dividing your property, spelling out your rights, and settling problems such as alimony and custody. A marital separation agreement may be drawn before or after you have filed for divorce, even while you and your spouse are still living together.

Why is a Marital separation agreement important?

If you have no marital property, no joint debts, and no children, you probably don’t need a marital separation agreement to get a no-fault divorce. However, if you want to provide for the future governance of your relationship, as well as provide additional evidence to the court about the day that you separated, you should have a Marital Separation Agreement. An agreement leaves no doubt about the details of the ending of your marriage relationship. It is better to have a clearly written agreement, rather than rely on verbal understandings.

Do I have to file a Marital Separation Agreement with the court?

When you initially execute your Marital Separation agreement you do not have to file the Agreement with the Court to be effective. When you begin the divorce proceedings you will, in most jurisdictions, attach the Marital Separation Agreement to the complaint and ask the court to merge, but not incorporate, the Agreement into the final judicial decree. If the Marital Separation Agreement is incorporated into the decree, it becomes a court order and is enforceable by the court’s contempt powers. If you don’t incorporate it into the decree, it simply becomes a contract between you and your spouse, which you later have to sue in a separate action to enforce. If the separation agreement is not incorporated into the divorce decree, and your spouse violates the agreement you can still seek money damages for the violation of the agreement, but it is easier and faster if the agreement is incorporated into the divorce decree.

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Contact Information

Gabriel J. Christian and Associates, LLC
3060 Mitchellville Road, Suite 216 
Bowie, MD 20716

(301) 218-9400
Fax: (301) 218-9406

Serving Maryland and the District of Colombia
Available 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

We Make House Calls Where Possible

MD Law License Member of: American Bar Association, Maryland State Bar Association, Prince Georges County Bar Association, J. Franklyn Bourne Bar Association, Better Business Bureau

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