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How are arrest, charge and conviction different?

On Behalf of | Feb 26, 2023 | Criminal Defense

The terms arrest, charge and conviction are commonly used in the legal field. But how are they different? It’s essential to learn the language used in law enforcement to be in the loop when you have a legal problem, and in turn, make the right call. 

Here is what you need to know about an arrest, a charge and a conviction:


If the police have probable cause to place you in custody or under restraint, you are under arrest. You can be arrested for different reasons, from violating traffic laws to murder. 

The police can arrest you when they have reasonable suspicion that you committed a crime or are about to. Such arrests can happen without a warrant. But in some instances, the police can arrest you without reasonable suspicion, provided they have an arrest warrant for you.


After being arrested, you will be taken before a Maryland District Court commissioner who can charge you with a crime based on the information presented. 

A charge is an accusation – you are innocent until proven guilty. The commissioner will ensure you understand the charges and penalties against you, your rights to an attorney and your responsibilities in obtaining an attorney. Further, they will decide whether you qualify to be represented by a public defender.


The court will schedule hearings after you are charged. If a judgment is entered upon acceptance of your plea of guilty, nolo contendere (I do not wish to contend) or a conditional plea of guilty, you will be convicted. You can file an appeal after this judgment.

Understanding these terms can help you make the right moves when dealing with law enforcement. It may help to get guidance in all these stages.