When someone has committed a crime, the justice system is designed to assume they are innocent until they have been proven guilty. The process of proving guilt is a complex web of laws and procedures that must be followed so the person under suspicion does not needlessly lose their civil rights. Qualified attorneys not only work to prove guilt in criminal cases, they also make sure that the rights of those under investigation are preserved and help prove the innocence of those who are accused of wrong-doing.

How are Criminal Law and Civil Law different?

Law is divided into two broad categories – criminal and civil. Both are tried in court, both require a knowledge of the legal system, both have prosecution and defense. The biggest difference between the two categories is what they intend to do. Civil law is focused on redress, or getting back something that has been taken. Criminal law seeks to punish someone who has done something wrong. Punishing someone who has broken a law serves two purposes. First, it enforces the law that has been broken. Second, it sends a message to those who would break the same law that they will be punished.

While there are many aspects of criminal law, Jana Ponczak focuses her efforts on defending criminal traffic offenses and misdemeanors.

What is a criminal traffic offense?

In Maryland, traffic offenses are considered criminal offenses. However, there is a difference between “payable” and “must appear” traffic violations. “Payable” offenses, including speeding tickets, parking violations, or failing to stop for a school bus, carry a fine that can be paid without appearing in court. Driving under the influence (DUI), driving while intoxicated (DWI), and driving with a suspended license are among the most common “must appear” offenses. “Must appear” traffic offenses require the defendant to appear before a judge.

When faced with a payable traffic violation, the person has three options.

  1. Pay the fine
  2. Plead “guilty with an explanation” and request that the fine be reduced.
  3. Request a trial date and appear for a trial.

When faced with a “must appear” criminal traffic offense, legal representation is recommended. Not only does an attorney have your best interest at heart, they can also help you navigate a complex legal proceeding that, in some cases, can result in jail time.

What is a Misdemeanor? How is it Different From a Felony?

Misdemeanors are generally crimes punishable by less than a year of jail time. In many cases, this time is served in a county jail rather than in a maximum security prison. They are further divided into two degrees. First degree misdemeanors are considered the more serious offenses while second-degree misdemeanors carry the least amount of punishment in the state of Maryland. Some examples of misdemeanors are:

  • Driving with a revoked license
  • Petty theft
  • Reckless driving
  • Vandalism
  • Resisting Arrest
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Trespassing
  • Failure to appear in court when summoned

Felonies, on the other hand, are more serious crimes that carry more than a year of jail time, usually served in high-security state prison. These crimes are tried in court, with legal representation on both sides, because of their legal complexity. Felonies may include rape, burglary, murder, arson, or grand theft among others and are widely considered to be severe crimes.

If you or a loved one faces a criminal traffic offense or misdemeanor charge, contact Jana L. Ponczak for a legal consultation. As a matter of course, Ms. Ponczak does not work on murder cases, but instead chooses to help those charged with lesser crimes navigate the complex legal system. A Baltimore native, Ms. Ponczak has argued cases before both District and Circuit courts while focusing her energies on defending the defenseless.