Practice Areas

Practice Areas

Criminal Defense

Experienced Maryland Criminal Defense Lawyers

Traffic • Drugs • Misdemeanor • Felony • Juvenile

Willis Law Firm, P.A., has extensive experience defending Maryland citizens against all criminal charges. The legal system can seem complicated and sometimes mysterious. You owe it to yourself to have a competent legal representative who has the experience to navigate through the system while protecting your rights and your future.

Contact us immediately to protect your rights or those of a family member charged with a crime. E-mail us or call us at 410-461-9400.

For more than 30 years, our law firm has served people in Howard County and the surrounding parts of Maryland. Our veteran attorneys know the law. We know the tendencies of individual judges and prosecutors. We know deadlines and procedures.

The system has little sympathy for those accused of crimes, rightly or wrongly. As your advocate, we will stand up for your rights and mount a vigorous criminal defense. We practice in all state and federal courts of Maryland. We act swiftly and aggressively to defend against all felony and misdemeanor charges, including:

  • DUI/DWI (drunk driving)
  • Traffic Violations (speeding, careless driving, driving with a suspended license)
  • Drug Crimes (sale, possession, trafficking)
  • Theft and Property Crimes (shoplifting, damage to property, bad checks, burglary, robbery)
  • Juvenile Crimes
  • White Collar Crimes (embezzlement, fraud, money laundering)
  • Violent Crimes (assault)
  • Sex Crimes (sexual assault, rape, lewd conduct)
  • Domestic Violence
  • Stalking and Harassment

In addition to criminal defense proceedings, we can also represent you in administrative hearings regarding your driver’s license.

How Willis Law Firm, P.A. Can Help

As your defense attorneys, we want to keep you informed about the criminal justice process. We want you to know what can be done to fight the charges or minimize the consequences of a plea or conviction.

If you are charged with a crime, you will be either arrested or sent a criminal summons to appear in court. If you receive a criminal summons, you should consult a lawyer as soon as practical afterward. Your lawyer may not be able to provide meaningful assistance to you if you seek representation shortly before the trial.

If you receive a notice that there is a warrant for your arrest, you will need to turn yourself in. You should be able to arrange with the police a time and place to do so, to avoid having them show up at your workplace or home. Contact a lawyer first.

What To Do When You Are Arrested

  • Rule No. 1: Say nothing. Everything you say can and will be used against you. These are words that everyone knows, and they are words to live by. The police will try to sweet talk you into confessing. They may promise that things will go easier for you; that if you tell everything you did, they will not charge you with any new crimes; that they will put in a good word for you, and other such lies.

They will try to get you to sign a waiver of rights, and to write out a confession and sign it. Or the cop will write it for you, have you read it, make corrections that you initial, and sign it. (The corrections and initials part is an old cop trick to show that you read it and knew what was in it, and that it was voluntary — the errors are intentional.)

Remember, when the police arrest you, they firmly believe you are a criminal and that you are guilty of the alleged crime. Although they may act nice and polite, they think very poorly of you, and wish only to have you confess so their job is easier.

Don’t say anything and don’t sign anything (except routine administrative documents). Politely tell the police that you would like to cooperate, but that you need to talk to your lawyer, and wish to have your lawyer present during any questioning. Then don’t say anything else.

The fact is, the police have no power or authority with respect to working out a deal for you. That is the sole realm of the State’s Attorney. Will you see a State’s Attorney in the interrogation room? No, there will just be cops. They are not there to help you, and they are not your friends. They are there because they believe that a crime was committed and that you did it. That makes you a dirt bag in their eyes. If you do confess to anything for which you have not yet been charged, you will be charged, no matter what they tell you.

Don’t cop an attitude or be rude to the police. Be courteous, respectful, and polite. Call them “sir” or “ma’am.” Do what they tell you to do (except confess), and behave. They are mean and they will hurt you. You have enough trouble.

If you have already been arrested, unless you have some experience with that process and knew to be quiet, or to “lawyer up,” you probably already confessed. You can at least limit the damage by not saying anything else. Call a lawyer, pronto.

  • Rule No. 2: See Rule No. 1.
  • Rule No. 3: Be cooperative, polite, respectful, and do as you are told (except confess). Do not argue with the police, or fight them. You will lose.
  • Rule No. 4: Do not waive your rights. You will be given several papers to sign. They are generally routine documents that you should read and then sign. But look for a document that says you know your rights, that you have been advised that you don’t have to answer their questions, that you have a right to a lawyer, etc., but that you waive these rights. DON’T DO IT! You are not required to sign away your rights.
  • Rule No. 5Contact us as soon as possible.

Bail

When you are arrested, you will be brought before a commissioner, who will determine the terms of your release, which will factor in your criminal background, your ties to the community, and the nature of your crime. If you were arrested for something small and have no criminal background, you will probably be released on your own recognizance. If you are accused of something serious, have a serious criminal record, or have a history of skipping court dates, your bond will reflect the commissioner’s assessment of your flight risk.

Sometimes you may be able to get a 10 percent bond, where you only need to pay 10 percent of the total bond into court. Ask for this. If not, you either need to come up with the whole thing, or go to a bail bondsman, who will charge you 10 percent of the bond as his fee, which you will not get back.

If you can’t afford the bond the commissioner gives you, you will stay in jail until you raise the bond, or it is reduced. Usually there is a bail review hearing within a day or so (i.e. when the court is in session), in which a judge will determine whether to reduce your bail or not. This is a good time for you to have an attorney. Sometimes the judge will feel better about letting you out when you have a lawyer. If you get locked up and can’t make bail, call a lawyer.

If you pay the bond and fail to appear at your trial, or for any court date, there will be a bench warrant for your arrest issued, and you will forfeit the bond. If this happens, and you have a reasonable excuse, a lawyer may be able to help get the warrant quashed (taken off) and the bond reinstated.

Preliminary Hearing

At your appearance before the commissioner, you will be told that you have 10 days to request a preliminary hearing if you are charged with a crime outside the jurisdiction of the district court. Most felonies (with some exceptions, such as felony theft) are outside the jurisdiction of the district court, and will need to go to the circuit court.

The purpose of the preliminary hearing is to determine whether there is sufficient evidence (probable cause) that you committed the crime. That is a low standard and will almost always be met. You are not allowed to present evidence or testify at the preliminary hearing, but you have the right to cross-examine witnesses. Generally, if a preliminary hearing is requested, the State’s Attorney will indict you, at least in some counties. Contact a lawyer if your think you may want a preliminary hearing, or you have requested one and it is already scheduled.

Felonies Vs. Misdemeanors

In Maryland, as in most places, crimes are broken down into these two categories. Generally, felonies are more serious crimes than misdemeanors. For example, in Maryland theft or property valued over $500 is a felony, and less than $500 is a misdemeanor. That doesn’t mean, however, that the penalty for a misdemeanor is light. Some carry sentences of 10 years or more. Whether a crime is a felony or a misdemeanor is spelled out in Maryland statutes.

Most misdemeanors are within the exclusive original jurisdiction of the district court, and felonies are in the circuit court, although there are some exceptions. A misdemeanor that starts out in the district court may end up in the circuit court if the defendant requests a jury trial, or if there is an appeal.

Jury Trial

Anyone charged with a crime (felony or misdemeanor) that carries a potential penalty of 90 days or more is entitled to a jury trial. If the case started in the district court, it will be transferred to the circuit court upon requesting a jury trial. If you do not request a jury for your district court case, it will be heard by the judge (a “court trial” or “bench trial”), and he or she will decide your guilt or innocence.

Juries consist of 12 people chosen at random from the motor voter registration rolls of Howard County or whichever county the case is being tried in. You and your lawyer will go through a process of jury selection on the day of trial.

Appeal

All criminal defense cases have a right to an appeal, which must be requested in writing within 30 days of sentencing.

  • If the case was heard in the district court, your appeal will be to the circuit court, where you will have a whole new trial.
  • If the case was in the circuit court, the appeal will be to the Court of Special Appeals, and will be heard on the record. That is, there will not be a new trial, but the appellate court will look at the record and decide whether any mistakes were made and, if so, whether it warrants return or remand to the circuit court. If you wish to appeal a judge’s or jury’s verdict, you need to tell your lawyer right away.

Learn More About Your Case

Contact us today to find out more specific information about what our criminal defense attorneys can do to resolve your case.

Estate Planning

Howard County Estate Planning Attorneys

Experienced In The Creation Of Wills, Trusts And Other Tools

The lawyers of Willis Law Firm, P.A., have more than 30 years of experience in wills, trusts and other estate planning tools. We are available to assist people in Howard County and the surrounding parts of Maryland in planning for the financial well-being of loved ones by constructing estate plans that allow families to keep assets and avoid probate.

Contact us to learn about how our lawyers can help you design an estate plan that works for you. E-mail us or call us at 410-461-9400.

When you choose our law firm, we will work closely with you to ensure your wishes are carried out after death with minimal tax consequences. By using sophisticated techniques, such as the establishment of various types of trusts, our knowledgeable attorneys can enable you to preserve wealth for future generations and plan for incapacity due to illness or failing mental health.

Wills

Transfer of your assets after death is governed either by your will or, if you don’t have a will, by statute. In order to prevent the state from deciding how your property is disbursed upon your death, you will need a will. If your estate warrants it, you may need to augment your will by using other estate planning tools.

A last will and testament can be a very flexible document, disposing of your assets as you wish, setting up trusts to take care of family members after your death, and taking advantage of any federal death tax exclusions or credits to which you may be entitled.

A will must be probated, however, resulting in some delay in the disbursement of assets. Also, your will becomes public record when it is probated. If your assets are sufficient to warrant it, and expediency and privacy are concerns, you may want to consider a living trust.

Living Trusts

If you have substantial assets, and you are interested in avoiding probate or maintaining privacy, a living trust may be appropriate for you. Your property is conveyed to a Maryland revocable living trust and is managed by the trustee (which will be you until your death or disability). Upon your death, the successor trustee named in the trust disburses the assets as specified by you in the trust. A trust is not admitted to probate, meaning that its terms are private, and the trustee does not need a court order to convey any of the property.

A living trust also offers an advantage for those who own real estate in another state. Your personal representative will not need to open an ancillary estate in that state in order to transfer the property. Of course, the property must be properly transferred to the trust.

Although a trust may save some probate costs, the value of the trust is still part of your gross estate, meaning you do not save any taxes. Also, the trust does not protect your assets from your creditors, and any income from trust assets flows directly through to you.

In Maryland, a revocable living trust allows you to revoke or change the terms at any time while you are still alive.

Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust

If the amount of tax paid by your family upon your death is a consideration, an irrevocable life insurance trust may be appropriate for you.

This type of trust holds life insurance policies, and the trust (rather than a spouse or individual) is the beneficiary of the policies. Upon your death, the trust receives the proceeds. This provides a source of ready cash to pay taxes or to buy assets from your estate (or your trust) at fair market value, and then sell them in due course, rather than placing your estate in the position of selling the assets in a hurry to raise cash.

Power Of Attorney

A durable power of attorney allows you to appoint someone now who will take care of your financial and personal affairs if you become incapacitated in the future. Your family would otherwise need to go to court to have a guardian appointed, and that person would be answerable to the court.

The person you name is called your attorney-in-fact, and has whatever powers you grant him or her in your will. All estate plans created by Willis Law Firm, P.A. include creation of power of attorney as part of the price.

Advance Directive For Health Care

An advance directive, sometimes known as a living will, is necessary to instruct your family and your doctors what to do in the event you are hospitalized and are unable to make medical decisions for yourself.

This document appoints a person to make those decisions for you. It provides information to the doctor and your appointee about your wishes for life support, pain medication and related matters. Every estate plan created by Willis Law Firm, P.A., includes an advance directive as part of the price.

Personalized Estate Planning

Contact us today to learn more about how we can build a customized estate plan for you.

Estate Administration

Howard County Estate Administration Lawyers

Experienced In Estate Litigation And Administration

When a person dies in Maryland, a personal representative — often referred to as the executor — is given the task of settling the affairs of the estate. The personal representative may be a person named in the will. If the deceased did not have a will, the personal representative will be appointed by the probate court. The duties given to a personal representative can be challenging, especially during such an emotional time when grieving should be the first priority. Willis Law Firm, P.A., is here to help you through the process.

Contact us for more information about how we can help with the process of estate administration and probate. E-mail us or call us at 410-461-9400.

Based in Ellicott City, our law firm has more than 30 years of experience helping people overcome the most serious legal challenges. We are able to assist you with all estate administration tasks, including:

  • Preparing the documents for opening an estate
  • Inventory and valuation of assets
  • Managing the sale or liquidation of assets
  • Paying taxes and debts of the estate
  • Distributing remaining assets to heirs
  • Filing tax returns and probate documents

We will work closely with you. Not only do we want to help you achieve your goals and those set for your family, and to see that your loved one’s final wishes are carried out, but we want to do so in a timely and cost-effective manner.

Disputes Over Estate Administration

During the estate administration process, disputes are not uncommon. Problems can arise over mistakes in wills, allegations of fraud, issues of undue influence, breach of fiduciary duty and more. Often, will contests, also known as caveats, and similar issues can lead to estate litigation. Our attorneys have the experience to handle these emotional disputes.

We can handle cases involving people being left out of wills, people exerting undue influence to get themselves special treatment in estate plans, people taking money from trusts improperly and more. We know how to sort through these complex matters to see that the true wishes of your deceased loved one are carried out.

Ready To Assist With Estate Administration

Contact us today for more information about how our team can assist with estate administration or litigation.

Business Law

Ellicott City, Maryland Business Attorneys

Formation • Contracts • Litigation • Mechanic’s Liens • Collections

Next to your family, your business is the most important thing in the world to you. It is your livelihood, and you and your family depend on it. Every business, large or small, needs competent legal representation throughout its life.

Serving Howard County and surrounding Maryland since 1975, Willis Law Firm, P.A. has many years of experience representing small and mid-sized companies in virtually every matter that affects a business:

Our Maryland business attorneys are admitted to practice in all Maryland State and Federal Courts, and are admitted to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. As a small firm, we can offer prompt response and swift action. As experienced business lawyers, we have the knowledge and skills to resolve your legal issue and prevent future conflicts.

Business Formation

The attorneys at Willis Law Firm, P.A. are experienced at forming corporations, limited liability companies, and other business entities. In addition to advising on the most advantageous entity to start a business, we draft the associated operating agreements (LLC) and shareholder agreements or buy-sell agreements (corporations).

Most circumstances will require either a limited liability company (LLC) or an “S” corporation. For the most part there is very little difference between the two, and tax treatment is similar for both. The most obvious difference is that an S corporation cannot get a substantial portion of its revenue from passive income (such as rental income). Thus most clients use an LLC if they intend to rent out real estate. Otherwise, an S corporation is generally adequate.

When we form your corporation or LLC, we make sure the proper documents are filed, that you get a federal tax ID number if you need it, that requirements are met for a “subchapter S” corporation status, and that all the documents and stock certificates are in place.

Contracts And Agreements

Willis Law Firm, P.A. can prepare and review all contracts required to do business:

  • Drafting of standard contracts
  • Specific contracts with vendors or between merchants
  • Employment contracts (non-compete agreements and other employee agreements)
  • Construction contractor agreements
  • Lease agreements (commercial or residential tenants)

We draft contracts in clear and precise language to minimize disputes, and can identify loopholes or ambiguities in contracts presented to your company that could lead to potential conflicts.

Commercial Collections

Frequently the person for whom you have done work is slow to pay, or simply refuses to pay. The longer a receivable sits without being collected, the smaller the chance of collecting it. You need to take concrete action soon after the debt is past due.

The lawyers at Willis Law Firm, P.A. have experience collecting unpaid bills for businesses, and will take the matter to court if necessary. Once we obtain a judgment, we aggressively pursue collection of it by garnishment and through seizure of assets. Our skilled advisors can make sure you do not run afoul of the Fair Debt Collections Act while maximizing your recovery.

If your circumstances allow, you may be able to obtain a mechanic’s lien (discussed below).

Litigation And Dispute Resolution

Whether you are being sued, or need to sue someone else, our attorneys can help. We handle all types of breach of contract disputes, whether it with a customer, a vendor, a contractor, or another business.

There are times when your business needs competent legal representation to defend a lawsuit. If you or your business is sued, you need to seek representation immediately. There are tight deadlines for responding, particularly in the District Courts. If you miss a deadline, you may end up with a default judgment. You also need to know your rights and your obligations, and have an understanding of what the likely outcome of the lawsuit is.

If you need to bring a lawsuit, there is usually a statute of limitations associated with the action. If you do not bring the suit quick enough, you may be barred from doing so. Our lawyers will evaluate your case and help you analyze the cost of litigation compared to the probable recovery. If it makes economic sense, we will prosecute the case for you.

We have pursued such cases in Howard County, Baltimore County, Baltimore City, Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Montgomery County, and Prince George’s County.

Many contract disputes can be resolved short of litigation. Our attorneys have resolved many issues for clients through mediation or arbitration.

Mechanic’s Liens

Mechanic’s liens are powerful tools for collecting your fee when you have acted as a contractor or a subcontractor for work on or about real property. With a mechanic’s lien on a piece of property, you can sell the property through what is essentially a foreclosure. The most typical scenario for obtaining a mechanic’s lien is a tradesman doing work on a remodel or new construction.

The problem as a subcontractor is that you cannot sue the person with whom the contractor has his contract if you are not being paid. The original purpose of a mechanic’s lien was to allow subcontractors to attach the property on which he had done work in spite of not having a contact with the owner of the property. In Maryland, a contractor or subcontractor can obtain a mechanic’s lien.

There are, however, stringent time requirements and notice requirements for obtaining a mechanic’s lien. You should act as soon as it becomes apparent that you are not going to get paid when you should. Often the threat of a mechanic’s lien will get you paid, particularly when the contractor does not own the property.

Representative Business Clients:

  • The Miller Land Co.
  • The Insiders’ Guides, Inc.
  • Electronics, Inc.
  • Mid-Atlantic Steel Contractors, Inc.
  • Security Development Group

We hope you will join the list of companies receiving quality legal representation from Willis Law Firm, P.A. Contact us to arrange an initial consultation to discuss your start-up goals or legal problem.

Real Estate Law

Real Estate Lawyers In Maryland

Commercial And Residential Transactions And Litigation

The Willis Law Firm, P.A. has many years of experience representing clients in real estate matters of all kinds, including sales, purchase, property disputes, planning and zoning, among others.

Since 1975, our real estate attorneys have provided trusted, professional legal representation to buyers, sellers, developers and landowners in Maryland. Based in Ellicott City, we provide knowledgeable counsel for clients in Howard, Anne Arundel, Baltimore and surrounding counties. Call us at 410-461-9400 or describe your issue on our online form.

Contracts

Whether buyer or seller, you are required by Maryland law to sign a contract for any real estate transaction. In most cases the real estate agent will supply a form to the purchaser, who fills in the blanks. Those contracts tend to be long and complicated, and chiefly are written for agents by agents with the purpose of covering the agent’s skin. Whether you are signing such a contract as purchaser or seller, you need to understand what the contract requires on your part. We can review the contract, explain it to you, and make sure you know your obligations, when you must perform them, and what happens if you don’t.

If you are selling a house on your own, we can draft a contract that meets county and state law while protecting you from legal consequences. Even if you are using a real estate agent, we can draft a contract that reflects your interests and not those of the agent. If you are purchasing a home, including a For Sale by Owner (FSBO) house, we will review the contract to ensure the terms are fair, clear and in your best interests.

Property Disputes

Willis Law Firm, P.A. has litigated or helped to resolve many different types of property disputes, including boundary disputes, nuisance disputes, and easement or right of way issues.

We have the experience and knowledge of state and municipal laws to resolve virtually any real estate issue, including litigation when necessary. We represent clients in civil disputes with neighbors, landlords, utility companies, and local government entities.

Zoning

We offer vast experience in resolution of all zoning matters:

  • Special exceptions and variances
  • Representation for an alleged zoning violation
  • Zoning and rezoning applications

Leases

Willis Law Firm, P.A. has substantial experience drafting and reviewing commercial and residential leases, and in litigating issues arising from them. A lease is one of the most important documents you will ever sign. Unfortunately, most people don’t read them before signing. We protect the rights of tenants and lease holders, including eviction actions. We draft leases in clear terms that avoid future conflicts by spelling out the rights and obligations of parties to the lease agreement.

Experienced, Knowledgeable, Professional Legal Services

Contact real estate lawyers in Maryland with the acumen and skills to resolve disputes or assure a smooth transaction.

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