- Evaluate My Situation
- File a Case
- Prepare My Case
- Appeal a Decision
- Find a Form
How Do I
The legal process
This section gives you information you need to help you resolve your conflict through a Maryland District or Circuit Court. Unlike the other parts of the site that focus on the law itself, this section focuses on the legal process. It addresses the steps you need to go through to evaluate your situation, file and prepare your case, collect a judgment, and appeal, as needed. It covers many key topics that you will need in order to be successful, such as how to draft complaints, locate the parties to include in the suit, find out more facts about the case, research the law, and present your case.
Understanding different types of legal proceedings
Knowing what type of case or issue you have will help you determine how to proceed.
Civil Cases: Civil cases involve a disagreement between two parties. One party, called the plaintiff, brings a lawsuit against another party, called the defendant. Often, if the plaintiff wins the lawsuit, the defendant must pay money to the plaintiff. Family law cases are included in the category of civil cases.
Criminal Cases: Criminal cases involve the violation of a criminal law. In a Maryland criminal case, the State of Maryland brings charges against a defendant. A defendant who is found guilty will be punished by the State, often with fines or incarceration. Traffic cases are included in the category of criminal cases.
- Often, criminal cases involve victims who have been harmed by a crime. Victims and defendants both have important rights. For example, defendants have a right to counsel, and victims generally have a right to seek restitution for their losses.
Juvenile Cases: Juvenile cases involve children. Juvenile cases include cases where a child is accused of breaking a law, as well as cases of child abuse.
Most of the information in the People’s Law Library is about the types of civil cases most frequently handled in state courts by self-represented parties. However, we also provide some very basic information, including links to other information sources, regarding
Criminal Law and Victim’s Rights, as well as Youth Law.
Much of the remaining information is about civil cases.
This section is only a very general guide and does not and cannot cover everything that might come up in every case. If you choose to go forward with your case, you will likely need to continue to research both the law and process for your case. Law libraries, self-help centers, and attorney advisors can help you with information and advice as your case progresses.
A word about lawsuits: pursuing a case can be a very time and energy consuming process. Before you file, pay careful attention to the suggestions for resolving your conflict outside of the courts. Be realistic about how much time you are willing to put into pursuing your case. Finally, use all of the information on this site to learn as much as you can about both the law and procedure to prepare.
In addition to this section, we have an additional section specifically for District Court, “Get Ready for Your Day in Court @ Your Library.” Funded by the Eastern Shore Regional Library, this resource guide helps you decide whether you will be effective representing yourself and provides information to help you be a good advocate for yourself in Maryland’s District Courts.
Is this legal advice?
This site offers legal information, not legal advice. We make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information and to clearly explain your options. However we do not provide legal advice - the application of the law to your individual circumstances. For legal advice, you should consult an attorney. The Maryland State Law Library, a court-related agency of the Maryland Judiciary, sponsors this site. In the absence of file-specific attribution or copyright, the Maryland State Law Library may hold the copyright to parts of this website. You are free to copy the information for your own use or for other non-commercial purposes with the following language “Source: Maryland's People’s Law Library – www.peoples-law.org. © Maryland State Law Library, 2013.”