Finding out if there are pending charges against you in Maryland is an imprecise science. Even if you suspect officers are about to charge you with a crime, it’s not often in the interests of police or the courts to tip you off.
Even if another person pressed charges against you, the police or court officials may not tell you until you receive a summons or officer shows up to arrest you. However, the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution provides people under suspicion with the right to a right to a speedy and public trial and to be informed of the nature of accusations against them.
Baltimore criminal defense lawyer Randolph Rice looks at how you find out if there are pending charges against you in Maryland.
What Are Pending Charges in Maryland?
Suspects are often arrested and charged very soon afterward. Police also arrest suspects and hold them in cells pending charges. However, police or prosecutors might want to make further investigations, deliberate on whether to bring charges, bring additional charges, reduce them or even drop pending charges. If a charge is pending nothing has been formally filed and your case is still under review.
Charges can also be pending after anther party files a criminal complaint against you. For example, an alleged rape or family abuse victim may make a report to the police or a commissioner. It’s up to investigators to look into the matter further and decide if charges are merited.
Look out for signs that charges are pending against you. The authorities go to great lengths to conceal evidence of pending charges against drugs, gangs or other big organized crime networks until they swoop and make mass arrests. However, suspects usually realize charges may be pending in more routine crimes.
Signs of Pending Charges Against You in Maryland
Law Enforcement Contacts You
A visit, a phone call, a voicemail or a card left at your door by a cop is often a sign that you are under investigation. It’s a possible sign of imminent charges. These actions don’t automatically mean charges are pending against you. The police officer or detective could be acting on a tip-off or a lead. The officer may believe you are a potential witness to a crime rather than the perpetrator or you know the suspect.
You Are Arrested
Most people who are arrested are also charged soon afterward. They are taken before a commissioner in the District Court who determines if probable cause exists to charge them. Occasionally, a defendant will be arrested and placed in a police cell while police and prosecutors look for a final piece of evidence to bring charges. This scenario is often played out in TV shows where a suspect is arrested for murder or another serious crime but investigators want a confession or another key piece of information to file charges. The U.S. Constitution protects suspects from being held for long periods without charge. Defendants cannot be held for more than 72 hours without charges.
A Grand Jury Hearing Is Scheduled
The State’s Attorney’s Office reviews felony and serious misdemeanor cases in Maryland to consider whether they should be handled in the Circuit Court or remain in the District Court. The office presents Circuit Court cases to a grand jury for indictment or files an Information. This is the first paper filed in criminal prosecutions. It states the crime for which the defendant is accused and kickstarts the criminal proceeding. Circuit court criminal cases are usually felonies. Grand jury deliberations are very secretive processes. The jury only hears the prosecution case to decide whether to bring charges. Your criminal defense lawyer should know a grand jury hearing is taking place but the attorney is not given the opportunity to submit your side of the story to the grand jury.
A Criminal Complaint Was Made
You may have reason to believe there are pending charges against you in Maryland because you fear someone will file a criminal complaint. Perhaps you were in a fight or a partner threatened to go to the police. The complainant may have gone to a commissioner who takes the details down and issues a charging document. The complainant cannot change their mind once a charge has been filed. The case will either go to a trial or the State’s Attorney will dismiss it.
Papers typically take a few days to arrive. You can call the clerk of court and ask if any court records, court dates or pending cases have been filed against you. You can also search the Maryland courts database. You may call the police and ask for a warrant check. However, the police have no obligation to inform you of an ongoing investigation. The safety of witnesses could be compromised during investigations into matters like domestic violence.
Police Conduct a Search Warrant
The law protects you from unreasonable searches and seizures. If police have a search warrant to look for items on your home or person, they see you as a suspect. A judge cannot grant a search warrant reviewing police evidence that shows probable cause that you committed an offense.
Police search for specific evidence such as drugs or other contraband. Your arrest may be just hours away.
Police Talk to Friends and Family Members
If police are in your neighborhood, talking to friends and family members about you, it’s safe to assume you are under suspicion. Charges could be pending against you in Maryland. However, investigators also follow up leads based on scant tangible evidence. They could be in the early stages of building a case against you. These inquiries don’t always progress.
Contact a Maryland Criminal Defense Lawyer About Your Pending Charges
At Rice, Murtha & Psoras, our criminal defense attorney has a long working knowledge of the courts in Maryland. We realize few things are as unsettling as the fear there are pending charges against you in Maryland. If you talk to us, we may be able to put your mind at ease. We can make inquiries to find out if charges are likely and defend you against them. Randolph Rice has represented defendants for over a decade in Maryland. Please call us today at (410) 431-0911.