What to Expect When Navigating the Maryland District Court
If you’ve been charged with a serious misdemeanor or felony in Maryland, your case may be handled by the Maryland District Court. Here’s what you need to know.
The Jurisdiction of the Maryland District Court
The MD District Court has jurisdiction to hear and determine the following cases:
- Replevin actions
- Landlord and tenant cases
- Motor vehicle violations
- Certain kinds of felonies
For civil cases, the District Court of Maryland has exclusive jurisdiction for claims not more than $5000. Both the District Court and the Circuit Court have concurrent jurisdiction in civil claims above $5,000 but below $30,000.
In certain criminal cases, the District Court and the Circuit Court have concurrent jurisdiction. The criminal cases include misdemeanors and felonies with penalties of up to three years or a fine of $2,500.
Since it has broad jurisdiction, most Maryland citizens may have to deal with the District Court. Although many individuals choose to represent themselves, especially in civil cases, that may not be such a good idea. Penalties that can arise from these cases shouldn’t be taken lightly.
If you are facing a criminal charge in the District Court of Maryland, you need a skilled criminal defense attorney in Silver Spring to advocate for your rights and protect your future. Facing the court can be scary, but with Paolo Gnocchi of Scrofano Law by your side, you can move forward in the process with confidence knowing you have a dedicated legal representative who has your best interests in mind.
Overview of the Maryland General District Court
The Maryland General District Court is a state-funded court of record with statewide jurisdiction, created in 1971. The purpose of the creation of the court was to make justice more transparent and closer to the people.
Before its creation, there were different courts presided by judges, local magistrates, and justices of the peace. These courts sat in different locations and applied their own rules. Unfortunately, this caused problems in the delivery of justice.
Although the district court has 33 locations distributed among 12 districts all over Maryland, its headquarters are in Annapolis. On the other hand, Maryland Circuit Courts are grouped into 8 judicial circuits.
There is at least one district and circuit court in every county in Maryland, including Prince George’s County. However, some larger jurisdictions, such as Anne Arundel County, Montgomery County, and Baltimore City, have more than one District Court location.
Most district Maryland courts are open Monday through Friday from the hours of 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM.
MD District Court Cases
The District Court of Maryland does not conduct its cases by jury trials. A judge sits, hears, and determines the outcome of all cases.
But, you can request a jury trial for your case. Once your request is granted, your matter will be transferred to the Circuit Court. However, Circuit Court cases can be decided by a judge only or by juries at jury trials.
You may appeal the decisions of the District Court to the Circuit Court. You also have a right to further appeal to the Court of Special Appeals.
Lodging an appeal to the Court of Special Appeals is complex. Therefore, you will need the expertise of an experienced Maryland criminal lawyer to guide you through the process.
Accessing the MD District Court Records
The MD District Court keeps a record of all documents, exhibits, and cases filed and heard in the court.
The Maryland Public Information Act empowers members of the public to apply and have access to records kept in the district court. It is possible to access the records of almost all the cases upon proper application to the court.
Types of Records Kept by the District Court
The District Court of Maryland keeps two types of records—electronic and physical records.
Electronic records contain court information that is produced, recorded, and stored through electronic means. Electronic records come in different forms like:
- Digital images.
- Word/Excel documents.
- Electronic spreadsheets.
- Text messages.
Case search is the term used to describe the process of accessing records kept by the MD District Court. Members of the public can access the electronic records of the district court through the official website of the Maryland judiciary.
Through case search, you can get the following kinds of information:
- The case number.
- The name of the parties.
- The county and city.
- The trial date.
- Court order.
Physical court records, on the other hand, are those that you can feel and touch like paper and printed photographs.
Members of the public can also access the records of the court by physically viewing the information through the clerk of court. You can request the record of a case by providing the clerk with some basic details like the case number or the name of the parties. To get certified copies of the court’s record, you may have to pay some fees.
Although the court’s information is to a large extent open to the public, certain records cannot be accessed without a prior court order. The records that are inaccessible are those protected under the Maryland Rules on Access to Court Records.
The following records are closed to the public without a court order:
- Juvenile records
- Income tax returns
- Adoption records
- Child/spousal support financial records
- Some types of medical reports
- Certain marriage license reports
- Certain mental health evaluations
How Are MD District Court Judges Appointed?
The governor appoints the MD District Court judges on the recommendation of the judicial nominating commissions.
The district judges in Maryland come from the distinguished members of the state bar. All selected judges must be residents of the county.
Judges must meet the high standard of professionalism set by the Maryland bar. In addition, a judge should be at least 30 years old in order to qualify for an appointment.
Duties of the Chief Judge
According to the rules, the Chief Judge shall perform the following functions:
- The Chief Judge must maintain and administer the district courts throughout the state.
- In Maryland, the Chief Judge must make administrative rules to govern the District courts.
- The Chief Judge can temporarily assign judges to sit in counties other than their own.
- Every Chief Judge can appoint the chief clerk, administrative clerks, and other officers for the Courts.
- Also, the Chief Judge can approve the appointment of court commissioners.
- The Chief Judge can establish uniform record-keeping procedures for the Courts.
- Last but not the least, the Chief Judge can establish uniform procedures for reporting traffic cases in the Courts in every county.
No matter which judge you are facing in the MD District Court, it’s important to be prepared. An attorney can help you develop a strong defense against the prosecution to successfully show the judge that you are not guilty or that your case warrants a lesser sentence.
Accessing the MD District Court Forms
There are different forms provided for court users under the rules. These forms are used to initiate actions in Maryland District Courts.
The different court forms available in Maryland include:
- General forms.
- Alternative Dispute Resolution forms.
- Domestic violence forms.
- Peace Order forms.
- Criminal Procedure forms.
- Bonds forms.
- Civil procedure forms.
- Extreme Risk Protective Order forms.
- Accounting forms.
- Fine schedule forms.
- Land/Tenant forms.
- Traffic Citation forms.
It’s important to avoid filling a court form without the guidance of a legal professional, especially if you are facing criminal charges. Our firm can help you understand the forms that you will need to fill out and help ensure that they are filed correctly for the best possible outcome.
Understanding District Court Local Rules
The MD District Courts have local rules applied to proceedings in all 33 districts of the state. These rules may apply to either civil or criminal cases.
The District Court rules contain procedural rules and steps regarding a variety of proceedings, including:
- Initiating a complaint.
- Jury selection.
- Filing court processes.
- Applying for access to court records.
The rules are available both in physical and soft copies. The soft or electronic copies of the rules are available online on the court’s official site. You can also view the rules without charge on other government sites.
The physical copies come in volumes of Annotated Code of Maryland with indexes to the court rules. The rules have titles and chapters to help people find and understand the information contained within them. However, a skilled attorney is your best resource for understanding the rules that may apply to you.
If you are facing criminal charges in Maryland, call an experienced defense lawyer who understands the ins and outs of the District Courts of Maryland. Contact our experienced defense lawyers via our physical office address, our phone number, or our email address. We can help you protect your rights and begin moving forward.