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District Court vs Circuit Court

A criminal case may be tried in either District Court or Circuit Court.   The penalty associated with the crime with which a defendant is charged determines which court may hear the case.

In both Circuit and District Courts, the decision of guilty or not guilty is based on the evidence presented by the prosecution and the defense. The prosecution case is presented by the State's Attorney or an attorney in the State's Attorney's Office. A defendant may have a defense attorney or represent him/herself. Evidence is presented through testimony from witnesses.   Both the State and the Defendant may call and cross-examine witnesses.

District Court

Trials, misdemeanors and some less serious felonies are held in District Court before a Judge only.   If a defendant is charged with a crime for which the punishment may be for more than 90 days, the defendant may request a jury trial, and the trial is moved to Circuit Court where a jury can decide the case. If a defendant decides to be tried in District Court and doesn't like the decision and/or the punishment of the judge, the defendant can appeal that decision and is given a new trial (de novo) in the Circuit Court. The whole process starts all over again as if nothing ever happened in the District Court. Only the defendant has this right; the State (prosecution) cannot appeal.

Circuit Court

Circuit Court is where the more serious offense trials are held, along with all requests for jury trials and appeals from District Court. Trials may be before a Judge only or before a Judge and jury.  

After trial in the Circuit Court, the defendant has additional rights if convicted. He/she may appeal to the Court of Special Appeals.. Maryland has two levels of "appellate" courts. Cases in "appellate" courts are heard "on the record" and on the arguments of the attorneys (unlike District and Circuit Courts, which are "trial" courts). If the case is appealed, the Maryland Office of the Attorney General then represents the State. The appellate court decides if all the rights of the defendant were properly afforded him/her. If so, the judgment of the lower court is affirmed. If not, the court orders the case back to the Circuit Court with instructions.

Depending on the error found by the appellate court, it may be impossible to retry the case. For example, if the case is a drug case and the court rules that the evidence (drugs) was obtained in a fashion that violated the defendant's rights, that evidence cannot be used in the new trial. In such a case, the State would have to dismiss the case since it could not use the seized drug evidence.

For links to more information on Maryland's Court System and Cecil County's District and Circuit Courts, click here.

Cecil County State's Attorney's Office
Support Staff

Circuit Court

  • Robert E. Sentman - Chief Investigator/ IAD/Governor's Warrant Coordinator
  • Carrie Flaugher - -Legal Admin. Ass't. to the State's Attorney
  • Rita M. Buckland - Legal Secretary/Juvenile Desk
  • Kelly Bertrand - Legal Secretary/Jury Prayers & Appeals Desk
  • Stephanie Jones - Legal Secretary /Discovery
  • Allison Aubry - Legal Secretary/Receptionist
  • Valda Rotolo - Victim/Witness Coordinator

District Court

  • Kyle Rollins - Investigator
  • Mary Walmsley - Legal Secretary
  • Elizabeth Turek - Legal Secretary
  • Renee Dunn - Victim Witness Corridinator

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