Baltimore Criminal Lawyer: First-time Offender series

Following up on some earlier posts: What to expect when you’re expecting…a court date & Diversion programs.  Now up, “Trial Tax” or better said, why can’t I exercise my rights to force the State to prove their case and not get penalized.  Many clients who are first time offenders have a hard time understanding that plea deals, while sweet, are often only available BEFORE a trial, and not after.  In other words, the Probation Before Judgment may be off the table with the judge if you elect to have a trial.

Trial Tax, what is it and how do I avoid it?

Under Maryland law, the Judge has the final say with regard to sentencing in all cases, misdemeanor or felony.  See Md. Rule 4-342.   Juries did decide death penalty cases, but Maryland’s death penalty has been repealed.  In District Court cases (all misdemeanors and some felonies) the decision is not just up to the judge, but also the plea agreements are non-binding, which means while the State’s Attorney and your defense counsel will both recommend a sentence, the judge can give any legal sentence, up to and including the maximum (even for a first offense).  This is why it is so vitally important to have a Baltimore Criminal lawyer who has a wide variety of experiences with judges across the state, who can know and predict what a particular judge is going to do given a certain set of facts.  It is also important to know who you, as a first time offender, can have a trial with and not get penalized or “taxed” for having a trial.  Many judges will impose a stiffer sentence than they would have otherwise given if you don’t plea.  In fact, in Federal Court, sentencing guidelines call for an increased penalty if a defendant does not admit his or her guilt.  However, some judges like to have trials, especially if they are able to hear a novel argument, there is a true legal issue, or guilt/innocence is truly contested and they won’t punish you for exercising your rights.  Only an experienced criminal defense lawyer “knows their judge” and will be able to tell you when to hold your cards or when to fold.

Baltimore Criminal Lawyer: Bottom Line

Don’t get yourself “taxed” into a corner and make a bad choice.  For now, relax, stay calm, and call your favorite Baltimore Criminal Lawyer if you find yourself charged as a first time offender!