Maryland Criminal Law: An Overview
In 2015, Maryland ranked 12th in the nation for the highest violent crime rates, falling back from its position as 10th in the nation in 2014 and eighth in 2013. Despite its national rankings in these three years, violent crime rates in the state have rebounded to 457.2 crimes per 100,000 residents in 2015 from a dip of 448 in 2014.
Baltimore, Maryland's largest city and the largest city in America that is independent of a county, remains as the state's most dangerous place to live in. It ranked sixth in the nation's top 10 cities with the highest violent crime rates in 2014. In fact, it ranked as the 19th most murderous city in the world in 2015 at a rate of 54.98 murders per 100,000 residents.
Maryland Felonies and Misdemeanors
Every state is free to define its own criminal code as long as the laws are constitutional. This means that what constitutes a misdemeanor in Tallahassee, Florida or according to the federal government's criminal code may be a felony in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Maryland doesn't actually clearly define the difference between felonies and misdemeanors as many other states do. Common law determines whether a crime is a misdemeanor or a felony. In general, felonies and misdemeanors are differentiated by the penalties they carry.
Felonies are generally penalized with imprisonment longer than one year and up to life imprisonment. Misdemeanors are generally penalized with imprisonment of less than one year plus a fine.
Maryland DUI Laws
Maryland, like every other state, sets the legal intoxication limit for drivers at 0.08 percent blood-alcohol content (BAC). If a driver is chemically tested and registers at or above this limit, he or she may be charged with a driving under the influence (DUI) offense. The first DUI offense can carry up to a $1,000 fine and up to one year in jail.
DUI offenses do not exclusively apply to alcoholic impairment. Any substance that can impair a driver's ability to safely operate a vehicle can earn a driver a DUI. These substances include (but are not limited to) medications like drowsy cough syrup and drugs like marijuana or cocaine. A police officer can stop you in traffic if you appear visibly impaired, regardless of whether it's because of alcohol, drugs, medication, or other substances.
Maryland Criminal Statute of Limitations
Not all crimes can be pursued in a lawsuit at any given time. A statute of limitations places a time limit in which a criminal can be prosecuted for a certain crime. Once that time limit expires, the criminal cannot be legally charged with that crime.
Every state sets its own statute of limitations. Here are some of the crimes and their time limits as defined by Maryland's criminal statute of limitations:
- Misdemeanors punishable by imprisonment: no time limit.
- All other misdemeanors in general: one year.
- Crimes involving the unlawful use of a driver's license or fraud involving application for a driver's license: two years.
- Crimes of drunkenness or breaking Sabbath: 30 days.
- Murder: no time limit.
- Manslaughter or vehicular homicide: three years.
- Assault, libel, or slander: one year.
Capital Punishment in Maryland
Maryland abolished the death penalty in 2013 following several previous attempts since 2002. The most severe penalty a felon can face for capital homicide is life imprisonment without parole.
Contact a Maryland Criminal Defense Attorney
Anyone facing criminal charges in Maryland has the right to mount a vigorous defense. A qualified Maryland Criminal Defense Attorney familiar with local criminal procedures and laws can be a crucial advocate.
Make sure you talk with an attorney about your case and your needs before hiring one. Most criminal defense lawyers should be able to handle any misdemeanor or low-level crime. Not all attorneys are qualified to handle serious charges.
A qualified criminal defense attorney could mean the difference between going to jail and going free.