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Trial Process in Maryland Federal Drug Cases

The length of time needed to resolve a case depends on the kind of case. More serious felony cases, such as federal drug cases, require a series of hearings that take place before the court date called motions hearings and pre-trial conferences. At these hearings and conferences, a variety of things are discussed including what evidence might be presented during the course of the trial, what the jury is or is not supposed to hear, and which witnesses can and cannot testify. These things are all taken into account by the judges to make sure the court and the Maryland federal drug lawyer are ready to move forward with the trial with as little delay as possible once a jury is seated. However, the case will likely require many more hearings before a resolution is ultimatly reached.

Preparing For Court

Generally, clients prepare for court by dressing in an appropriate manner. With that said, sometimes the proper attire to wear to court draws too much attention to the person and makes them appear guilty or like they are trying to hide something. Sometimes, overdressing can be as bad as under dressing.

For people appearing in court for a minor traffic case such as a DUI or a simple drug possession, wearing something business casual such as slacks and a button down shirt is more appropriate than a suit. While it does not draw too much attention to the person, it does not make a bad impression. For jury trials or things more serious such as felony drug possession cases, a suit or something more formal is more appropriate and makes the right impression for that kind of setting.

Beyond informing clients of what to wear, attorneys do a significant amount of preparation especially if their client is testifying. The attorney will give the client an idea of the kinds of questions they will be asked so they have an understanding of how to respond to them, and inform the client on the proper etiquette for responding and addressing the court, judges, and prosecutor. However even if the client is not testifying it is important for them to be aware of what their demeanor in court should be.

High Profile Drug Cases

When a person is a high profile client and they come to court, their privacy is of utmost concern to them. Oftentimes, when our attorneys are in a position to work with prosecutors and judges that we have worked with before, they are sympathetic to those circumstances. They try to schedule a hearing in such a way that it does not advertise to the media or any other public body that a high profile person is being scheduled. More importantly, our attorneys try to schedule during more quiet times of day at the court. For example, mornings at 8:30 are very busy times at the courthouse. That is when the court rooms open and the first set of cases are heard.

As the day progresses, particularly in federal court, closer to three or four o’clock in the afternoon, the courthouse is very quiet. Most people have concluded their business with the court for the day and the courthouse is getting ready to wrap up. Being the last hearing scheduled for a particular day in the courthouse is much better than being the first hearing. A person is likely to have more privacy and less of an audience following their case in court.

Are Federal Drug Cases Open to The Public?

Federal drug cases are open to the public. The cases can be found on Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER). If an individual wants to go to the courthouse and ask the court for a copy of the file, they can see them there.

Constitutionally speaking, unless cases deal with minors involved as victims or as actual offenders are always public when they relate to criminal matters.

Federal Grand Juries

Federal grand juries are seated in a room to consider evidence from the government to determine whether the government has enough information to proceed on criminal charges or an indictment. When the government investigates someone with a criminal offense that is serious enough in nature, they go to a grand jury that hears from witnesses and hears other evidence so they can decide if the prosecutors have enough information to charge a person with a crime.

A person can have an attorney, but that attorney is usually not permitted to go into the grand jury proceeding. The attorney can be outside and a witness is permitted to go outside to talk to their lawyer and then come back and answer questions, but the lawyer cannot be in the grand jury proceeding.

Subpoenas and Grand Juries

Usually a grand jury subpoena is enforceable and a person is required to talk to them, but that person maintains their constitutional rights. If someone believes that coming before a grand jury to answer the questions would in some way have a negative impact on that person, they can invoke theirFifth Amendment privilege in the grand jury room and not be forced to testify unless the person is immunized in some way.

Grand jury testimony can affect a person negatively. As a result, it is important to talk to an attorney if someone is required to testify or gets a subpoena from the grand jury to make sure they are protected in that process.

Jury Instructions in a Federal Court Procedure

At the beginning of the trial, many judges in federal court ask for a proposed set of jury instructions from both sides. Those are the jury instructions that both sides intend to ask the judge to give the jury at the close of trial. After the trial is concluded or very close to its conclusion, the judge usually meets with the defense and the prosecution, goes through the proposed jury instructions, and asks which jury instruction each side still wants the judge to give to the jury.

The judge makes a decision about which jury instructions are appropriate and reads them to the jury, usually before closing arguments. Oftentimes, prosecutors and defense attorneys make direct reference to the jury instructions the judge reads in an effort to argue to the jury that they have proven what is required by the jury instruction to be proven for the jury to make a particular decision in the case.

Length of Federal Drug Cases

The amount of time needed to hear a federal case depends on the kind of drug case. Kingpin cases take longer than murder cases to resolve because witnesses are brought in from different locations. The trials can last for several weeks so the preparation to get to trial and the number of pretrial hearings can also be numerous and can take six months to a year or more to come into a courtroom.

When the case is simple, there are just a few witnesses. If the evidence is extremely strong, the cases could be much shorter. There might be fewer issues to resolve before the judge about the facts of the case before trial. There may not be as much need for delay for preparation of the case.