E. Ellis Rollins, Chief
The District Court Unit prosecutes all minor traffic citations, serious traffic violations, criminal citations, and misdemeanor offenses. Most criminal cases begin in District Court. District Court and Circuit Court share “concurrent” jurisdiction over many criminal cases in Maryland though most felonies can only be tried in Circuit Court. District Court does not have jurisdiction over juvenile cases.
Victims and witnesses
If you are victim or witness for the State, you will receive paperwork about your case prior to trial. A summons to appear in court for the scheduled trial date and time will be issued to you. You will be contacted by a representative of the Office prior to the court date.
Filing charges through the commissioner
If you are a complainant and have applied for criminal charges through the Commissioner in the District Court, you must report to the Office of the State’s Attorney within two weeks of filing charges to fill out a questionnaire. If you do not fill out the questionnaire, this Office may choose to dismiss the case or trial could be delayed.
The questionnaire is available in the lobby of the Office of the State’s Attorney located in the Circuit Courthouse. The Courthouse is open to the public from 8:30 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. The questionnaire is also available under Links. A completed copy of the questionnaire must be submitted to the Office in-person. No emailed or faxed copies are accepted.
Cases are tried in the District Court before a Judge in a bench trial. A trial consists of a State’s prosecutor calling witnesses to testify. The State always has the burden to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Prosecution witnesses can be cross-examined by defense. Defendants may represent themselves or obtain defense counsel. Defendants may call witnesses or choose to testify themselves, but do not have to do either. The Judge ultimately decides if the defendant is guilty or not guilty. There are no jury trials in District Court.
Any defendants charged with a crime that carries a maximum penalty of more than ninety (90) days in jail has the right to request or “pray” a jury trial. Neither the Judge nor the prosecutor can prevent a defendant from praying a jury trial. When the jury trial is prayed, the case is automatically rescheduled for trial in Circuit Court. Defendants are notified in writing of their new court dates for the Circuit Court. If a defendant is found guilty of a crime in District Court, the case can be appealed to the Circuit Court for a new trial also known as a trial “de novo”.