Experienced Maryland Criminal Attorneys do not generally make it a practice to advertise cases we lose but I had one the other day that I think merits discussion, the outcome not withstanding, both because it was an interesting case and because it offers an opportunity to discuss the ” de novo” appeal process in the District Courts of Maryland. In English, that means that if a person who is convicted in the District Court is dissatisfied with either the verdict or the sentence, he has the right to a brand new trial in the Circuit Court. That’s right, the appeal is not “on the record” such as it is in cases that are appealed from the Circuit Court to the Court of Special Appeals. Instead, the case starts all over again in the Circuit Court.
This may sound incredibly inefficient to someone who is not acquainted with the system as it sounds as if every case has to be tried twice. In practice, the exact opposite is true. Indeed, it is the very fact that we have de novo appeals that affords litigants the opportunity to take a shot in the District Court, even if the posture of the case or the judge is not ideal. If you win the case, it is obviously over but even if you lose you get another shot at it in Circuit Court. Not only that, a record now exists of exactly what the State’s witnesses will say. This is an invaluable tool in a State where criminal depositions are almost never done. In practice, most litigants accept the decision of the District Court as even the majority of those who are convicted are not sent to prison. The result of all of this is that most of the cases docketed in District Court are resolved there instead of ending up in Circuit Court. I had a case in the District Court for Baltimore County last week that, for reasons I am confident will become clear to the reader, I decided to take a shot with even though the situation was not ideal. Here are the facts.
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