Court System

Criminal cases usually begin through a police investigation or by an individual's application to the District Court Commissioner for a Statement of Charges. The type of crime and the possible penalties determine whether the case will be tried in the District Court or in the Circuit Court. Also, the age of the accused at the time of the offense will determine whether the person will be tried as a juvenile or as an adult.

The District Court tries misdemeanors, traffic cases, and some felonies, such as felony theft and forgery. These cases are tried before a judge without a jury. However, if the possible penalty for the crime charged is more than ninety days incarceration, the defendant has the right to request a jury trial. Such a request moves the case from the District Court to the Circuit Court. Further, a defendant who has been convicted in the District Court may appeal the decision, and a new trial is held in the Circuit Court.

The Circuit Court hears felonies not within the jurisdiction of the District Court, as well as requests for jury trials and appeals from the District Court. The defendant may elect to be tried by a judge sitting alone, or by a jury. A jury is made up of twelve citizens selected from a much larger panel.

Following conviction in the Circuit Court, a defendant may appeal that verdict to a higher state court, either the Court of Special Appeals or the Court of Appeals.

To help victims and witnesses navigate through the court system, the State's Attorney's Office developed its Victim Witness Division.

Page last modified 01/30/21 15:05:52