Glossary of Common Maryland Court Terms
Arraignment — This type of court proceeding is the first appearance for a defendant before the Circuit Court in serious criminal cases. The judge will make sure the defendant has a lawyer, understands the charges, and is aware of the maximum penalties. The defendant may enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. If a plea of not guilty is entered, the defendant will be asked to elect trial before a judge or jury and to select a trial date.
Assistant State’s Attorney (ASA) —Assistant State’s Attorney is a lawyer who represents the State in court. Also called a prosecutor.
“Baby Booking” — This term is sometimes used to refer to the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center.
Bail — Bail (also called bond) refers to the conditions of release set by the court. These conditions often require payment of a “bail bond” which is an amount of money, that the court can collect if a person does not appear in court.
Bail Review — After a person is arrested and booked, a judge reviews the bail set by the District Court Commissioner. For certain serious offenses, only a judge may set a bail. At the bail review, a defendant has a right to representation by an attorney. If the defendant cannot afford an attorney, the Office of the Public Defender will provide one. At a bail review, the judge listens to the attorneys for each side as well as any recommendation from the court’s pretrial services staff. The judge then sets bail based on the nature of the evidence against the defendant, the potential sentence, public safety, the defendant’s ties to the community, and any history of failure to appear or flight.
Charging Document — A charging document is the formal method of accusing a person of a crime.
Circuit Court — Each county and Baltimore City has a Circuit Court. The Circuit Court hears serious criminal cases as well as all criminal cases where a jury trial is requested.
Criminal Information — A criminal information is a charging document issued by the State’s Attorney’s Office. Often called a “CI”, a criminal information can be filed in misdemeanor cases or in certain felony cases.
Discovery — The prosecution is required to provide the defendant or his lawyer with information to allow them to prepare for trial. This information is called “discovery”. This normally includes any statements made by the defendant or other witnesses, police reports, and the reports of any expert witnesses such as fingerprint examiners.
District Court — The District Court hears misdemeanors and certain felony cases as well as preliminary hearings for felony cases. There are 3 locations in Baltimore City: Wabash Avenue in Northwest Baltimore, Eastside District Court on North Avenue, and Patapsco Avenue in South Baltimore. District Court judges also handle bail reviews at the courtroom in Central Booking on Madison Street.
Division of Correction (DOC) — Maryland’s state prison system is called the Division of Correction.
Indictment — An indictment is a charging document issued by a grand jury. An indictment may charge felony or misdemeanor offenses; indictments are commonly used in Baltimore City to charge many offenses ranging from murder to handgun possession
Juvenile Court — Juvenile court is part of the Circuit Court, which hears cases involving children. In Baltimore, juvenile court is located at 300 North Gay Street.
Master — In juvenile court, a master may be assigned to hear certain cases. The master is a judicial officer who makes recommendations to the Circuit Court judges. The judges may accept these recommendations or reject them. Once accepted by a judge, the recommendation becomes part of a court order. A master’s decision may be appealed to a judge. Only judges may hear certain types of cases, including waiver of jurisdiction hearings.
Motion to Move — A motion to move, also called a motion to transfer physical custody, is a request filed with the Court to have a transfer-eligible child detained in a secure juvenile facility rather than an adult jail pending the transfer hearing. This may be filed in District Court, Circuit Court, or both.
Panel Lawyer — A panel lawyer is an attorney in private practice who represents Office of the Public Defender clients in conflict cases. For example, it would be a conflict of interest for an attorney to represent a defendant and a witness against that defendant in the same case; a panel attorney would be hired by the Office of the Public Defender to represent one of those clients. The Office of the Public Defender maintains a list of qualified panel attorneys. The Office of the Public Defender decides which clients to panel and retains the panel attorney and pays for the panel attorney’s services.
Preliminary Hearing — Held in the District Court, at this hearing a judge decides if probable cause exists to forward a felony case to the Circuit Court for trial. If an indictment or information is filed in the Circuit Court, a preliminary hearing is not required.
Probation — When a judge suspends a sentence or fine or places a person on probation before judgment, the court may place a person on probation. Probation may be supervised or unsupervised. Standard conditions of probation include obeying all laws and avoiding illegal drugs.
Probation Before Judgment (PBJ) — Probation before judgment is a type of disposition where a court finds the defendant guilty but withholds entering the conviction in favor of a period of probation. The defendant has never been convicted even though he was found guilty. However, PBJ “counts” as a conviction for many purposes, including immigration. If a defendant violates probation, a judge can enter the conviction on the person’s record and impose a prison sentence.
Public Defender — A public defender is an attorney who represents clients who cannot afford private counsel. Public defenders are lawyers who are licensed to practice law.
Transfer Hearing — At this type of hearing, a judge decides if a child’s case remains in adult court or is transferred to the juvenile court system. The law requires that a judge consider five factors: the age of the child, the mental and physical condition of the child, the amenability of the child a treatment through programs and services available to delinquent youth, the nature of the offense, and the threat the child may pose to public safety. The child, thorough his or her attorney, has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that it is in the best interest of society or the child for the case to be handled in juvenile court. Also called a “reverse waiver” hearing.
Trial — A court hearing where a judge or jury makes a decision about guilt or innocence. In Circuit Court, a trial may take place before a judge or a jury. In the juvenile court system, a judge or master hears the case without a jury. At a trial, the State is required to prove guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If guilty is not proven beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant is found not guilty.
Waiver — A "waiver" is the movement of a case from juvenile court to adult court. The State's Attorney's Office may ask to waive the jurisdiction of juvenile court when a child is at least 15 years old on the date of the offense for any type of offense or under 15 years of age for first-degree murder or an offense that carries a life sentence. At a waiver hearing, the case will remain in juvenile court unless the State proves to a judge by a preponderance of evidence that a child is not fit to remain in juvenile court.