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Maryland Federal Court Process

Federal offenses are often regarded more seriously and can have equally severe consequences for an individual. If you have been charged with a federal offense, speak with a skilled federal criminal defense attorney. An experienced legal advocate could help you navigate the Maryland federal court process and could devote the time and resources necessary to achieve a positive outcome for you.

Differences Between the Federal and State Court Processes

The Maryland federal court process is significantly different from the regular court process. In Maryland, especially in the district court, it is not uncommon for the case to be resolved at the first court date. The first court date is usually a trial date and the case can be resolved in several ways. The case might be dismissed by the government when there are weaknesses in the case or the government cannot prove their case. The case could be resolved through a diversion program where the person agrees to complete community service or another program. In exchange, Maryland drops the case at a later date. The case might be resolved through a plea where the person pleads guilty and the judge imposes a sentence at that time and the case is over or, the case might move on to a trial.

First Court Date

In Maryland district court, the first court date is usually a trial date. When both parties come to an agreement, the trial can be heard in front of a judge on that day. It is not uncommon in Maryland district court for the case to be resolved on the first court date. The Maryland federal court process is like circuit court process. The first court date is usually a preliminary hearing where the government needs to show probable cause. When the judge finds that the government met their burden and demonstrated probable cause, the case proceeds and the parties select the next date for preliminary motions.

If the judge is not convinced that there is probable cause, they can dismiss the charges and the case could be resolved. That is uncommon, especially in federal court. When a case is initiated through an indictment in federal court, there is likely to be some evidence of probable cause, even if it is not the strongest case. When the government has some evidence to proceed with the charges, it is likely that the judge will find the evidence sufficient to support probable cause at this stage of the judicial process. However, if the judge is not convinced by the government’s evidence that there is probable cause to charge the accused, the case can be dismissed and resolved at that phase. While uncommon, it is not unheard of that a case is resolved at the preliminary hearing, even in federal court.

Length of a Federal Case

Generally, cases in federal court move more quickly than in state court. It is not uncommon for the first trial date in circuit court in Maryland to be scheduled as late as six months after the person was arrested. The case goes to a district court and then moves to a circuit court.

The initial trial date can be up to six months from the time the person was arrested and might be postponed further if the Maryland government needs more time to prepare their case. There might be issues with witness availability or discovery. In federal court, the timeline is shortened due to the Speedy Trial Act, a federal law that establishes time limits for completing the stages of a federal criminal prosecution.

The Speedy Trial Act

The Speedy Trial Act states that an indictment must be issued within 30 days of arrest. When someone is arrested, the federal government has 30 days to take their evidence to a grand jury and obtain an indictment. When the government is unable to get an indictment within 30 days of the person’s arrest, the person is released and there is no case. The same law stipulates that a trial date needs to be set within 70 days from arrest or the indictment.

The date can be moved by a judge when either party requests a postponement for various reasons. Sometimes both sides can agree that they need more time to investigate, especially when the person is not being held in jail. There could be an issue with the availability of witnesses for a trial date. There might be a voluminous amount of discovery and both sides need more time to review it for a large and complex case. If an individual wants to know more about the Speedy Trial Act or the Maryland federal court process, they should consult a skilled lawyer that could advocate for them.