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Criminal Defense

Experienced Maryland Criminal Defense Lawyers

Traffic • Drugs • Misdemeanor • Felony • Juvenile

Willis Law Firm, P.A., has extensive experience defending Maryland citizens against all criminal charges. The legal system can seem complicated and sometimes mysterious. You owe it to yourself to have a competent legal representative who has the experience to navigate through the system while protecting your rights and your future.

Contact us immediately to protect your rights or those of a family member charged with a crime. E-mail us or call us at 410-461-9400.

For more than 30 years, our law firm has served people in Howard County and the surrounding parts of Maryland. Our veteran attorneys know the law. We know the tendencies of individual judges and prosecutors. We know deadlines and procedures.

The system has little sympathy for those accused of crimes, rightly or wrongly. As your advocate, we will stand up for your rights and mount a vigorous criminal defense. We practice in all state and federal courts of Maryland. We act swiftly and aggressively to defend against all felony and misdemeanor charges, including:

  • DUI/DWI (drunk driving)
  • Traffic Violations (speeding, careless driving, driving with a suspended license)
  • Drug Crimes (sale, possession, trafficking)
  • Theft and Property Crimes (shoplifting, damage to property, bad checks, burglary, robbery)
  • Juvenile Crimes
  • White Collar Crimes (embezzlement, fraud, money laundering)
  • Violent Crimes (assault)
  • Sex Crimes (sexual assault, rape, lewd conduct)
  • Domestic Violence
  • Stalking and Harassment

In addition to criminal defense proceedings, we can also represent you in administrative hearings regarding your driver's license.

How Willis Law Firm, P.A. Can Help

As your defense attorneys, we want to keep you informed about the criminal justice process. We want you to know what can be done to fight the charges or minimize the consequences of a plea or conviction.

If you are charged with a crime, you will be either arrested or sent a criminal summons to appear in court. If you receive a criminal summons, you should consult a lawyer as soon as practical afterward. Your lawyer may not be able to provide meaningful assistance to you if you seek representation shortly before the trial.

If you receive a notice that there is a warrant for your arrest, you will need to turn yourself in. You should be able to arrange with the police a time and place to do so, to avoid having them show up at your workplace or home. Contact a lawyer first.

What to Do When You Are Arrested

  • Rule No. 1: Say nothing. Everything you say can and will be used against you. These are words that everyone knows, and they are words to live by. The police will try to sweet talk you into confessing. They may promise that things will go easier for you; that if you tell everything you did, they will not charge you with any new crimes; that they will put in a good word for you, and other such lies.

They will try to get you to sign a waiver of rights, and to write out a confession and sign it. Or the cop will write it for you, have you read it, make corrections that you initial, and sign it. (The corrections and initials part is an old cop trick to show that you read it and knew what was in it, and that it was voluntary — the errors are intentional.)

Remember, when the police arrest you, they firmly believe you are a criminal and that you are guilty of the alleged crime. Although they may act nice and polite, they think very poorly of you, and wish only to have you confess so their job is easier.

Don't say anything and don't sign anything (except routine administrative documents). Politely tell the police that you would like to cooperate, but that you need to talk to your lawyer, and wish to have your lawyer present during any questioning. Then don't say anything else.

The fact is, the police have no power or authority with respect to working out a deal for you. That is the sole realm of the State's Attorney. Will you see a State's Attorney in the interrogation room? No, there will just be cops. They are not there to help you, and they are not your friends. They are there because they believe that a crime was committed and that you did it. That makes you a dirt bag in their eyes. If you do confess to anything for which you have not yet been charged, you will be charged, no matter what they tell you.

Don't cop an attitude or be rude to the police. Be courteous, respectful, and polite. Call them "sir" or "ma'am." Do what they tell you to do (except confess), and behave. They are mean and they will hurt you. You have enough trouble.

If you have already been arrested, unless you have some experience with that process and knew to be quiet, or to "lawyer up," you probably already confessed. You can at least limit the damage by not saying anything else. Call a lawyer, pronto.

  • Rule No. 2: See Rule No. 1.
  • Rule No. 3: Be cooperative, polite, respectful, and do as you are told (except confess). Do not argue with the police, or fight them. You will lose.
  • Rule No. 4: Do not waive your rights. You will be given several papers to sign. They are generally routine documents that you should read and then sign. But look for a document that says you know your rights, that you have been advised that you don't have to answer their questions, that you have a right to a lawyer, etc., but that you waive these rights. DON'T DO IT! You are not required to sign away your rights.
  • Rule No. 5: Contact us as soon as possible.

Bail

When you are arrested, you will be brought before a commissioner, who will determine the terms of your release, which will factor in your criminal background, your ties to the community, and the nature of your crime. If you were arrested for something small and have no criminal background, you will probably be released on your own recognizance. If you are accused of something serious, have a serious criminal record, or have a history of skipping court dates, your bond will reflect the commissioner's assessment of your flight risk.

Sometimes you may be able to get a 10 percent bond, where you only need to pay 10 percent of the total bond into court. Ask for this. If not, you either need to come up with the whole thing, or go to a bail bondsman, who will charge you 10 percent of the bond as his fee, which you will not get back.

If you can't afford the bond the commissioner gives you, you will stay in jail until you raise the bond, or it is reduced. Usually there is a bail review hearing within a day or so (i.e. when the court is in session), in which a judge will determine whether to reduce your bail or not. This is a good time for you to have an attorney. Sometimes the judge will feel better about letting you out when you have a lawyer. If you get locked up and can't make bail, call a lawyer.

If you pay the bond and fail to appear at your trial, or for any court date, there will be a bench warrant for your arrest issued, and you will forfeit the bond. If this happens, and you have a reasonable excuse, a lawyer may be able to help get the warrant quashed (taken off) and the bond reinstated.

Preliminary Hearing

At your appearance before the commissioner, you will be told that you have 10 days to request a preliminary hearing if you are charged with a crime outside the jurisdiction of the district court. Most felonies (with some exceptions, such as felony theft) are outside the jurisdiction of the district court, and will need to go to the circuit court.

The purpose of the preliminary hearing is to determine whether there is sufficient evidence (probable cause) that you committed the crime. That is a low standard and will almost always be met. You are not allowed to present evidence or testify at the preliminary hearing, but you have the right to cross-examine witnesses. Generally, if a preliminary hearing is requested, the State's Attorney will indict you, at least in some counties. Contact a lawyer if your think you may want a preliminary hearing, or you have requested one and it is already scheduled.

Felonies vs. Misdemeanors

In Maryland, as in most places, crimes are broken down into these two categories. Generally, felonies are more serious crimes than misdemeanors. For example, in Maryland theft or property valued over $500 is a felony, and less than $500 is a misdemeanor. That doesn't mean, however, that the penalty for a misdemeanor is light. Some carry sentences of 10 years or more. Whether a crime is a felony or a misdemeanor is spelled out in Maryland statutes.

Most misdemeanors are within the exclusive original jurisdiction of the district court, and felonies are in the circuit court, although there are some exceptions. A misdemeanor that starts out in the district court may end up in the circuit court if the defendant requests a jury trial, or if there is an appeal.

Jury Trial

Anyone charged with a crime (felony or misdemeanor) that carries a potential penalty of 90 days or more is entitled to a jury trial. If the case started in the district court, it will be transferred to the circuit court upon requesting a jury trial. If you do not request a jury for your district court case, it will be heard by the judge (a "court trial" or "bench trial"), and he or she will decide your guilt or innocence.

Juries consist of 12 people chosen at random from the motor voter registration rolls of Howard County or whichever county the case is being tried in. You and your lawyer will go through a process of jury selection on the day of trial.

Appeal

All criminal defense cases have a right to an appeal, which must be requested in writing within 30 days of sentencing.

  • If the case was heard in the district court, your appeal will be to the circuit court, where you will have a whole new trial.
  • If the case was in the circuit court, the appeal will be to the Court of Special Appeals, and will be heard on the record. That is, there will not be a new trial, but the appellate court will look at the record and decide whether any mistakes were made and, if so, whether it warrants return or remand to the circuit court. If you wish to appeal a judge's or jury's verdict, you need to tell your lawyer right away.

Learn More About Your Case

Contact us today to find out more specific information about what our criminal defense attorneys can do to resolve your case.