THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE PROCESS
AFTER YOU REPORT A CRIME
If the police arrest a suspect, he will be taken before a District Court
Commissioner. Information regarding your case will also be provided to the
local prosecutor, also called the State's Attorney.
The Court Commissioner will decide if there is enough evidence - known as " probable cause" - to charge the suspect with the crime, and if so, on what conditions the suspect could be released until a hearing before a judge.
If the suspect is held in custody after the Commissioner hearing, he will be entitled to a bail hearing before a judge. The judge will then decide whether to release the suspect, perhaps with certain conditions, or to keep him in jail until a trial is held. A defendant can only be detained if the facts show he is a danger to the community and/or there is a risk that he will not show up at the trial. Most suspects are released.
The prosecutor will review any available information, including that provided by the police and Commissioner, and determines what charges, if any, the suspect should be prosecuted. In more serious cases, the prosecutor may use a Grand Jury to make these decisions.
In serious cases a suspect has the right to ask the judge for a Preliminary Hearing. At this hearing, the judge will decide if there is enough evidence or "probable cause" to continue with the charges against the suspect.
If the prosecutor proceeds with the case, the court will set a trial date. Due to crowded court dockets, the case may take several months to come to trial. The prosecutor will notify the victim and key witnesses if and when it is time to prepare for trial.
YOUR RIGHTS BEFORE THE TRIAL
A victim or witness can request that their address and phone number remain
confidential and not be released by the judge, States Attorney, police,
District Court Commissioner or juvenile intake worker.
Once a suspect (now called the defendant) has been charged with a crime, the defendant's attorney will try to discover information, which will help him to prepare the case. The attorney will probably ask for, and generally receive, the names and addresses of witnesses involved in the case. You are not however, required to talk to the defendant's attorney or his representative.
If the defendant threatens you, or interferes with you in any way, do not hesitate to call the police. If you are acting as a witness for the prosecution and your safety has been threatened as a result, contact the State's Attorney and your local police agency immediately. It is a crime for the defendant to do anything to stop you from testifying at the trial. Victim/witness protection resources may be available to increase your protection and enable your continued participation in court proceedings.
Before the trial, the defendant may be required to appear at various court hearings. As a victim, you have the right to attend these hearings, the trial, and any related hearings or proceedings. Your may ask the prosecutor to notify you of any appearance that you should attend. Often the judge will grant several "continuances" of delays, at the request of the defense or the prosecution. Even though delays and continuances are frustrating, it is important that you continue to appear in court when you are requested.
DURING THE TRIAL
A victim has the right to be present at the trial. A victim or witness can
request that their address and phone number remain confidential, and not
be released. The prosecutor can help you prepare for the trial by telling
you what questions he will ask and what questions to expect the defendant's
attorney to ask.
AFTER THE TRIAL
If the defendant is found guilty, the judge will hold a sentencing hearing,
often at a later date. The judge has several sentencing options including:
confinement in prison or jail, probation, payment of fines or restitution,
or any combination of these options.
Probation is the most frequently imposed sentence. Probation means that a convicted offender will be released and may be under the supervision of a probation officer. Probation often includes special conditions such as: drug-testing, repayment of restitution, monthly reporting to a probation or parole officer, etc.
At the sentencing hearing, the victim or victim's representative may address the court to describe the impact of the crime. In cases resulting in serious physical injury or death, the court must consider the victim's or the victim's representatives written impact statement describing the effects of the crime on the victim. A written victim impact statement provides a victim or a victim's surviving family members an opportunity to tell the court about the emotional, physical, and financial impact of the crime.
A victim also has the right to request restitution. The State's Attorney will help you make this request to the judge.
After the trial is over, a victim may have the right to have stolen or other
property returned once the case is finished. The State's Attorney will help
you retrieve your property.
Finally, a victim has the right to be notified of any further hearings related to the defendant's sentence or release by the Division of Correction, Patuxent Institution, or the Parole Commission. If you so request the State's Attorney will see that your request to be notified is forwarded to the correct criminal justice agency for future contact and/or notification.
HELP THROUGHOUT THE JUSTICE PROCESS
Throughout the criminal justice process, and even after it has been completed,
you may experience physical, emotional or psychological distress as a result
of your victimization. This is a normal reaction, and help is available.
Please refer to the Resource Section of this website if you would like to
locate supportive services within your local community.
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