The Criminal Justice System includes steps of investigation, arrest, trial, conviction and sentencing. There may be numerous parties involved in a criminal case and court proceedings to include victims, witnesses, police personnel, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, probation officers, correctional officers and jurors.
The State’s Attorney and his staff are responsible for reviewing and evaluating every criminal and serious motor vehicle case in which charges are filed. A determination is then made by the State’s Attorney and his staff to determine how to prosecute the particular matter that is in the best interest of justice. In cases where there is a conviction, the State’s Attorney may make sentencing recommendations to the Court.
The State’s Attorney’s Office also provides services for victims and witnesses and can assist victims and witnesses in locating other available services provided by the county or state.
Crimes are certain types of conduct that society and government have deemed dangerous to individuals or damaging to society as a whole. Most crimes are defined by statutes (laws) passed by our federal, state and local government. For example, the Maryland General Assembly enacts criminal laws that apply in the State of Maryland. Congress in Washington, DC enacts laws that apply to everyone in our country. In the State of Maryland crimes are classified as misdemeanors (less serious crimes) or felonies (more serious crimes).
Although a crime occurs between a victim and the person who commits the crime, the criminal case brought to the court is actually between the State (the State’s Attorney acts on behalf of the State) and the person charged with committing the crime (the defendant). A person may be found guilty of a crime by his or her own admission of committing the alleged act (such as a guilty plea) or by a verdict rendered by a judge or jury in a court trial. Once found guilty, a person may be punished by the Court through the imposing or restitution, fines, imprisonment, probation, community service or other penalties.
Fundamental Rights and Criminal Procedure
There are two fundamental rights that characterize our criminal justice system: the presumption of innocence and the criminal standard beyond a reasonable doubt, used in determining if a defendant is guilty or not guilty of the crime charged.
No matter how heinous or disturbing the crime, the defendant is presumed innocent throughout the entire process until the judge or jury (called the finder of fact) has determined that the defendant is, in fact, guilty. A defendant may be found guilty only if the State (the State’s Attorney) can convince the fact finder that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Criminal Procedure is a collection of laws, court decisions and procedures that protects the rights of the person charged with a crime. Our federal and State constitutions set out the powers of the government and the protection of civil rights to the citizens including such protections as due process, and protection from unreasonable search and seizures. Federal and state court decisions determine how these constitutional rights apply to particular situations or if the action by the government violated these rights.