Michael J. Onifer, III, PA


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Practice Page: Criminal Law

Maryland Criminal Law Attorney

Many people who have been arrested or are being investigated for a crime are concerned about how Maryland law may affect them. I can answer your questions and advise you of your legal rights. At the Elkton, Maryland, law office of Michael J. Onifer, III, I am a lawyer with ten years of experience representing clients in criminal law matters. Contact me at 410-398-3075. My office is located right across the street from the district courthouse.

Michael J. Onifer, III, PA
Attorney and Counselor at Law
147 E. Main St.
Elkton, MD 21921

Phone: 410-398-3075
Fax: 410-620-2401

The law office of Michael J. Onifer, III, PA, Attorney and Counselor at Law, is located in Elkton, Maryland, and represents clients throughout Cecil County Maryland including people from all over Maryland, from places like Elkton, Chestertown, Snow Hill, Ocean City, Centreville, Bel Air, Aberdeen, Havre de Grace, Newark, Cecil County, Harford County, Worchester County, and Queen Anne's County.

Criminal Defense - An Overview

Criminal law is the body of law that relates to so-called "public wrongs." Criminal law does not concern itself with disputes between individuals but also to offenses against the public order. The federal government, along with cities and states, define and prosecute people who commit crimes that range from minor traffic violations to serious, violent offenses, like rape or murder. People who are charged with a crime are called defendants, and they are represented by criminal defense attorneys. The governmental body that pursues the charges against the defendant is represented by a lawyer called a prosecutor. If you find yourself charged with a crime, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney, to protect your rights now and in the future.

The United States Constitution prohibits taking a person's life, liberty, or property without the due process of law. In order to meet this standard, a criminal statute must clearly set out the conduct that will be considered criminal. The statute must be more than a vague description that leaves a person without notice of exactly what conduct is prohibited. A criminal statute must set out the state of mind of a guilty person, called the mens rea, as well as the unlawful action, or actus reus. If you accidentally step on someone's toes when you enter a crowded elevator, that is not a crime because there was no guilty mind. Fantasizing about stomping on your boss's toes is not a crime because there is no guilty act. Crimes of attempt, like attempted murder, are not an exception to this rule. Attempt crimes require doing something toward the commission of the crime. A criminal defense attorney will be able to explain these terms to you and to take away some of the mystery of an unfamiliar situation.

The Defense Process

Every lawyer involved in the criminal justice system must adhere to a complex set of rules of procedure to ensure a fair trial. The rules apply to both prosecutors and defense attorneys. This complicated procedure means that the criminal justice system is best dealt with by an experienced criminal defense attorney. A defense attorney should get involved in a case at the earliest stages, even before interrogation, if possible. The arresting officers have the obligation to inform the person in custody that he or she has the right to an attorney and the right to have an attorney appointed if he or she does not have the resources to pay for an attorney. Most of us are familiar with these warnings - called "Miranda" warnings, after the name of the US Supreme Court case that first required the warnings -- from crime dramas and television shows.

Crimes committed by children are handled by a separate criminal justice system, known as the juvenile justice system. Juvenile courts typically have less formal procedures and a less formal manner of adjudicating cases. While many defense lawyers handle both juvenile and adult cases, some focus their practices on only one type of representation.

Negotiating a Plea Agreement

Some criminal charges are dropped after a defendant's defense attorney negotiates with the prosecutor. In some cases, the defendant pleads guilty to a less serious charge in exchange for the prosecutor's agreement to drop the more serious charges. The final decision on whether to accept a proposed plea agreement always rests with the defendant.

Depending upon the severity of the crime committed, a defendant who is found guilty may be sentenced to serve some period of probation, to pay a fine, perform community service, make restitution or pay for the monetary losses caused by the crime, or to serve some time in prison. In some states, the most severe crimes are punishable by death. A veteran criminal defense attorney will know how to work with a prosecutor to fashion a deal that provides for the least severe punishment possible. If no deal can be made, the attorney can mount an aggressive defense in court to convince the jury that the prosecutor cannot prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant committed the crime.


When you are accused of a crime, you find yourself in a frightening and stressful situation. No matter how minor the charge may seem, you should be represented by knowledgeable, competent counsel, who can work through the criminal justice system, give you zealous representation, and minimize the impact of the proceedings on your life. If you have been accused of a crime, or if you know someone who has been accused of a crime, do not delay in contacting an experienced criminal defense attorney.

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DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.

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Since 1992, the likelihood of an arrest leading to a conviction has generally risen. Although some defendants think that they can "beat the system" on their own, having an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side is the best way to prevent becoming another statistic.

Sixty-eight percent of those convicted of a felony in 2000 were sentenced to incarceration. That's over two-thirds. If you want to reduce the chances that you'll go to jail, a skilled and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney is your best ally.

State courts convicted about 925,000 adults of a felony in the year 2000. If you have been charged with a felony, do not delay in seeking the help of an experienced criminal defense lawyer.

Felons sentenced to prison in 2000 received an average sentence of four and one-half years. To give yourself the best chance at avoiding or minimizing a prison sentence, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as you are questioned about or accused of a crime.

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.

Copyright © 2007 by Michael J. Onifer, III, PA. All rights reserved. You may reproduce materials available at this site for your own personal use and for non-commercial distribution. All copies must include this copyright statement.