How do I initiate a criminal complaint against someone?
If a crime is committed in the presence of a police officer, the police officer has the ability to arrest that person. Even if a crime is not committed in the presence of a police officer, a citizen can always contact the Charles County Sheriff's Office and request that the police take a report and conduct an investigation. In Maryland, a citizen may also initiate criminal charges on their own. The citizen can appear before a commissioner and fill out an application for a statement of charges. If the commissioner believes that probable cause is present, the commissioner would issue a charging document against the person alleged to have committed a crime. The citizen filling out the application would then need to meet with an Assistant State's Attorney shortly thereafter to discuss preparing the case.
Do I, as a witness or a victim, need to have my own private attorney for a criminal case?
In most circumstances, no. For the purposes of a criminal case, the State's Attorney's Office presents the testimony of witnesses. In some cases, a victim may obtain a civil attorney to address issues beyond the scope of criminal prosecution.
How do I protect myself against the defendant?
If you have been threatened or assaulted by a defendant or others, you should contact the Sheriff's Office immediately. For victims of domestic violence, there are several other options available including the loan of a cell phone or obtaining a protective or peace order.
What information do I need when calling or visiting the State's Attorney's Office?
If you are calling about a specific case, it helps us to locate the case in the computer system if you have the defendant's name, case number, and trial date. The information is usually on your summons, subpoena, or other letters from the State's Attorney's Office. If you have been dealing with a police officer, it is also helpful to have the name and ID number of that person.
When and how do I get my restitution?
Restitution can be ordered for loss or damage to property or for medical or funeral expenses. In a criminal case, restitution cannot be ordered for lost wages. Lost wages may be recovered in a civil lawsuit. Restitution can be ordered by the judge upon conviction of the defendant. Depending on the amount of restitution and the ability of the defendant to make payments, restitution might be made in one payment at sentencing or collected a little at a time over many years. An order of restitution is filed as a civil judgment and can be executed by the victim as any other civil judgment.
Can I drop charges?
While your concerns are important, only an Assistant State's Attorney can dismiss charges once they are filed. We invite you to come to the State's Attorney's Office to discuss your case with an Assistant State's Attorney or member of our Victim/Witness Unit.
Why is the State of Maryland involved?
Most likely, the police were called, completed a police report of the offense, and then filed charges against the defendant. The State's Attorney's Office represents the people of the State of Maryland and prosecutes the case on behalf of the State.
I am a victim and the defendant continues to contact me. What should I do?
The Court can issue an order that the defendant stay away from you and/or your family. If the defendant continues this behavior, contact the police right away. You may also contact the State's Attorney's Office and we may file an emergency motion to revoke the defendant's bond in a pending criminal case.
How can I find out my court date?
You can check court dates online at the Maryland Judiciary Case Search site. You can also contact the State's Attorney's Office.
I received a subpoena to appear in court. Do I have to come?
Yes. You should appear on time and dressed in business attire. If you refuse to come to court, there may be a body attachment issued for your arrest and you can be held in jail.
How long will my court appearance take?
There is no way to know in advance. You should be prepared to wait.
I am a defendant. What happens if I fail to appear in court?
A warrant may be issued for your arrest.
I am a witness or victim. What can happen if I don't show up for court because I do not want to get involved or testify?
A subpoena is a Court order for you to appear at a trial date. If you refuse to appear, the Court can issue a body attachment for your arrest and have you held in jail.
Will the case be continued if I am not there?
It is up to the judge assigned to the case. If you fail to appear, the case might be dismissed. The judge also has the right to hold you in contempt of court.
What is a plea bargain?
A plea bargain or plea agreement allows the criminal justice system to function effectively. Most pleas are designed to have the defendant plea to a serious charge. Plea bargains allow the State and the victim the certainty of a criminal conviction and often, an agreed-upon punishment.
As a victim, if I do not agree with the outcome of a case, what can I do about it?
Generally, once the judge's decision has been handed down in a criminal case, it cannot be changed. Therefore, it is very important to contact the prosecutor assigned to the case and discuss your thoughts about the outcome prior to any hearings or trials.