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Glossary

Understanding What Happens in Court


Alternative Sentencing Program

A Baltimore County agency which supervises defendants who are court ordered to perform community service. This agency also supervises the T.A.S.C. program and the Domestic Violence Referral Program.

Appeal

The right of a defendant to have the decision of the trial court reviewed by another court.

Continuance

A continuance is a postponement in court. At times continuances are unavoidable. Every effort is made to advise you of a continuance in advance. In the event that you cannot be reached, a call to 410-887-6650 the night before trial will enable you to avoid an unnecessary trip to court.

Criminal Courts

Criminal cases in Baltimore County are tried in one of two courts. The type of crime and the possible penalties determine which court will hear the case.

The District Court tries cases called "misdemeanors" and traffic cases. There are no jury trials in District Court. All cases are heard by a judge who decides the verdict based upon the evidence presented. In certain cases, a defendant has the right to have his case moved to Circuit Court for a jury trial. A defendant who is found guilty is District Court can ask for a new trial (appeal). The case will be tried again in the Circuit Court.

The Circuit Court hears cases called "felonies", as well as appeals and requests for jury trials. Cases may be heard by a judge alone or by a judge and a jury, which is a panel of twelve citizens. A defendant who wishes to appeal the decision of the Circuit Court must go to a higher State Court, either the Court of Special Appeals or the Court of Appeals.

When an act that violates the criminal law is committed by a juvenile, the prosecution takes place in the Juvenile Court which is part of the Circuit Court. Trials are heard by specially assigned Masters who make recommendations to a Circuit Court judge. Parties who are dissatisfied with the Master’s findings and recommendations can file exceptions.

Defendant

The person charged with committing a crime.

Defense Attorney

The defendant's attorney may attempt to talk to you. You have the right to decide whether or not you want to discuss your case with him or her. If you choose to talk to the defendant's attorney, you may also request that a representative from the State's Attorney's Office be present with you during the interview.

Be sure you know to whom you are talking when you discuss your case.

Guilty Plea

Please be assured that the Baltimore County State's Attorney's Office is committed to prosecute each defendant to the fullest extent of the law. However, a large number of defendants decide to plead guilty shortly before the trial if they are convinced that witnesses are willing to come to court and testify. If a defendant pleads guilty, there will be no trial and your testimony will not be needed.

Nol Pros - (Nolle Prosequi)

A Latin term meaning that the prosecutor declines to proceed with the case.

Prayer for Jury Trial

In certain cases, the defendant has the right to have his/her case heard by a jury instead of by the District Court judge.

Probation Before Judgment

The defendant agrees to accept any lawful conditions the court orders and gives up the right to appeal. An actual guilty verdict is not entered and the defendant does not go to jail. Also called a "PBJ" or "Section 641."

Sentencing

Your appearance at the sentencing is usually not required. However, in many cases a Victim Impact Statement can be presented to the sentencing judge. If appropriate, you will be asked to complete one of these statements. After sentencing, the Victim/Witness Program will send you a letter advising you of the disposition of the case.

Stet

An indefinite postponement.  No guilty verdict is entered, but the defendant may be asked to accept condition set down by the court.  The defendant must waive his/her right to a speedy trial.  A case on the stet docket may be re-opened at any time within one year if the conditions of the stet are violated.

Summons/Subpoena

Approximately two weeks prior to trial a Deputy Sheriff will deliver a witness summons to your home. You are required by law to appear on the scheduled trial date unless you have been excused by a representative of the State's Attorney's Office.


Revised September 14, 2009

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