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Preparing for a Maryland Federal Court Date

Following an arrest for a federal charge, it is expected that an individual will have their day in court. There are many steps a person could take when preparing for a court date. The attorney could devote the time and resources necessary to mount a solid defense for them. If you want to know more about the process of preparing for a Maryland federal court date, speak with a seasoned federal criminal attorney that could build a solid case for you.

Process of an Arraignment

The first time the person appears in court is the initial arraignment that occurs within 24 hours after the person is arrested. In some cases, the government has three days to prepare for the initial arraignment hearing. At the arraignment, the judge advises the person of their constitutional rights including their right to have an attorney. It is almost like a mini-trial wherein the government offers evidence to show probable cause to proceed with the case. The judge advises the accused of the charges against them and gives them information about their next court dates and what to expect.

The judge considers bail, and the government may ask that the person be held in custody pending the rest of the court case. The judge may hold the person without bond which means they cannot be released for any circumstances, or they could set a bond amount that the person must pay to be released.The judge can impose conditions of release that are separate from a money bond when the judge believes it is appropriate given the nature of allegations and the individual’s personal circumstances. The conditions could include travel restrictions, reporting to a pre-trial agency at specific times, having no contact with certain people, or staying away from certain places. Following an arraignment, an individual could begin the process of preparing for a Maryland federal court date.

How Does the Government Present Evidence

The government presents evidence, much like at a criminal trial when preparing for a Maryland federal court date. The evidence may include testimony from witnesses, exhibits, documents, and video or audio recordings. Usually, the government’s presentation focusses on testimony from the lead investigator. The defense has the opportunity to cross-examine each witness and challenge the government’s argument. Unlike at the trial, where the government must prove the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in order to obtain a conviction, at this hearing the government is only attempting to show probable cause exists and the case should proceed.

If the evidence is reliable and it is more likely than not that the person committed the crime for which they are charged, the judge will allow the case to proceed. At trial, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person is guilty, which is a much higher standard. While some evidence may be presented at the preliminary hearing, it does not have to amount to proof. It is easier for the government to show probable cause at the preliminary hearing before the case proceeds, even if the case is not strong and it is unlikely the prosecution will prevail at trial.

Motions to Close the Courtroom

When preparing for a Maryland federal court date, it is also important for individuals to protect their own safety and privacy. Federal criminal cases are usually open to the public. As with all court cases in the United States, there is a presumption that court cases are open to the public. Each local and federal court has their own specific rules about access by the public and by the media. A motion to close the courtroom to the public might be granted when there is a compelling reason to do so. A gag order can prevent people, the government, or other parties from making statements to the public about the case.

With a closed courtroom and a gag order in place, information about the case will not enter the public sphere. This can be done on the motion of either party, the government or the defense. The party must make a good showing to the judge as to why a gag order is necessary. The government may issue a gag order for national security reasons or when the subject matter is sensitive, such as an ongoing criminal investigation. Sometimes a witness may have special concerns that warrant extra protections and the judge finds a compelling reason to issue a gag order or seal the court.

Protective Orders and Suppressing Evidence

A judge can also issue a protective order that prevents the disclosure or disbursement of different items and can include documents, photographs, witness statements, other pieces of evidence to be used or potentially used in a trial. Either side can request a protective order. When there is a good cause showing from either party, a judge can order a protective order. Neither party may reveal or disclose information from the discovery. Harsh sanctions could be imposed if either party shares information that is covered by the protective order.

The evidence may be suppressed or excluded from the trial if one of the party discloses some of that information. When there is information related to the case that may be important for the litigation but is something the defense attorney does not want to come out in the public, they can get a gag order and also get a protective order from the court that limits what is allowed to be disclosed to the public and imposes harsh penalties when someone violates the order. It is rare for either side to violate those orders and judges take any violation of their orders quite seriously. When a judge puts an order like that in place, the orders are effective in keeping the information private. If an individual wants to know more about preparing for a Maryland federal court date and how a protective order could help, they should consult a knowledgeable defense lawyer that could advocate for them.