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Understanding Indictment and Criminal Information in Maryland

indictment

In Maryland, the legal system utilizes two primary methods to charge individuals with criminal offenses formally in Circuit Court: indictment and criminal information. Both processes serve as the initial step in the criminal justice system, yet they differ in their procedural aspects and the cases they apply.

The choice between criminal information and indictment can impact the course of the criminal case, as it can affect the trial process, plea negotiations, and your criminal defense attorney’s overall strategy. This article will explain indictment and criminal information in Maryland and discuss the differences and similarities between these two charging methods.

Indictment in Maryland

An indictment is a formal accusation issued by a grand jury that charges an individual with committing a crime. In Maryland, a grand jury comprises a group of citizens convened by a court and empowered to determine whether there is probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed and that the accused should stand trial.

However, an indictment does not guarantee that the case will go to trial. The prosecution may accept a plea deal or dismiss the case. Characteristics of Indictment include:

  • Grand Jury Procedure — The grand jury process is secretive and involves the presentation of evidence by the prosecutor without the presence of the accused or their attorney. If the grand jury finds sufficient evidence to support the charges, it issues an indictment.
  • Serious Felony Cases — Indictments are typically employed for serious felony cases such as murder, drug trafficking, or major financial crimes. These cases often involve more severe penalties and are subject to grand jury review due to their complexity and gravity.
  • Constitutional Basis — The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution mandates the use of a grand jury for federal crimes. Still, not all states, including Maryland, require grand jury indictments for every felony.
  • Procedure and Formality — Indictments follow a specific legal procedure and are formal documents outlining the charges against the accused, allowing them to prepare their defense accordingly.

Criminal Information in Maryland

On the other hand, criminal information is a formal charging document brought by the State’s Attorney without the involvement of a grand jury. Instead, the prosecution directly files charges against the accused based on evidence and investigation.

It’s important to note that charges filed through criminal information can be presented to the grand jury for indictment. This is especially true if the case is complex or the charges become more severe. Characteristics of Criminal Information include the following:

  • Prosecutor’s Decision — The prosecutor has the discretion to file criminal information without presenting evidence to a grand jury. This approach is often used for less serious offenses or when the case doesn’t require a grand jury’s involvement.
  • Speedy Process — Unlike the grand jury process, filing criminal information can expedite legal proceedings, sometimes allowing for a quicker resolution.
  • Misdemeanor and Lesser Felonies — Criminal information is commonly utilized in cases involving misdemeanors or lesser felonies where the evidence is clear and doesn’t necessitate grand jury review.
  • Informative Document — Similar to an indictment, criminal information details the charges against the defendant, enabling them to understand the allegations and prepare their defense.

Differences and Similarities of Indictment and Criminal Information in Maryland

  • Origin of Charges —The fundamental distinction between indictment and criminal information lies in the initial process of charging. An indictment results from a grand jury’s decision based on presented evidence, whereas criminal information stems from the prosecutor’s direct filing of charges.
  • Severity of Cases — Indictments are more common in serious felony cases in Circuit Court. In contrast, criminal information is often employed for less severe offenses or misdemeanors and can be filed in District Court or Circuit Court.
  • Procedural Aspects — Indictment and criminal information formally charge an individual with a crime and provide details about the alleged offenses, aiding the defendant in preparing their defense.
  • Protection of Rights — An indictment provides extra protection for the accused since a group of their peers reviews evidence before charges are filed, while criminal information speeds up the process but lacks the review of a grand jury.

Turn to Jeremy Widder Law For Knowledgeable Legal Representation in Charles County, Maryland

Individuals involved in the criminal justice system need to understand these legal procedures as they impact the course and handling of their cases. While both indictment and criminal information formally charge individuals with criminal offenses in Maryland, they differ in their procedural aspects and the types of cases to which they are applied. 

The team at Jeremy Widder Law has years of experience working with clients who have been charged with offenses ranging from DUI to murder. We understand how the method of charging can affect your case, and we are ready to provide you with the most effective defense strategy regardless of whether you’re facing charges via criminal information or indictment. We will listen to your story, help you decide on a favorable outcome, and then work towards it.

Contact us today if you’ve been charged with a criminal offense.

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