Although federal trials are similar to state trials in some regards, they still present a unique process that warrants attention from an experienced Maryland federal criminal lawyer. An experienced attorney can prepare those charged for what to expect and ensure that the legal process goes as smoothly as possible.
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The court process in federal court versus state court is not all that different in that there is a phase of indictment for charging, a phase of bail review if that is required, and then motions, hearings, and trial dates are set.
The main difference between federal court and state court is that there are not quite as many cases heard in federal court as there are in state court. Oftentimes, the proceedings are allotted much more time for review and hearing than would be allowed in state court systems, where they are often dealing with a much heavier docket and many more cases.
Federal criminal cases are available to the public in a way that is more difficult to navigate than state criminal cases which are accessible on a public website. Federal criminal cases can be accessed via the website called PACER, which is a database that holds all federal information on cases including filings.
Some things are available to the general public like reviewing the charges, the background information, and details. However, other information is available for access only when someone pays for it. There are different things available depending on the kind of case.
One thing that people should be aware of is that federal courts are still public forums. Someone who has concerns about privacy should know that anyone can watch a federal trial or proceeding because all court rooms are open to the public.
Anyone concerned about privacy, should discuss with their attorney the possibilities of scheduling their hearing at times that are not necessarily busy times in the courthouse, times when courtrooms might not be shared with other people who are waiting for their hearings.
Typically, hearings that are scheduled for later in the day have less of an audience than hearings that are scheduled for first thing in the morning.
Whether a case is resolved on the first court date depends on the kind of case. Typically, in federal court, minor cases like driving under the influence of alcohol or speeding charges can be resolved on the first court date.
More serious felony cases like drug trafficking or fraud can take a few months or up to several years to resolve. This depends on the scale and magnitude of the criminal allegations, discovery, and evidence of a particular case. There is more evidence to consider and for that reason, there are often many hearings scheduled before a case comes to resolution.
Factors that determine whether a case takes longer include the amount of evidence in a particular case, the level of discovery involved in that case, how many witnesses must be interviewed, and how extensive the investigation must be. Those are factors that are taken into consideration when determining the length a case might be in federal court.