All federal adult cases are open to the public. If there is a person who has a high profile case or a high profile in the community prior to the case being brought against them, they need to understand that there will be some public scrutiny. Someone who is involved in a high profile case, or has a reputation they’d like to protect, should avoid speaking with the media. They should not blog, tweet, Facebook, or use any other kind of social media to discuss their case. There have been cases where a celebrity or high profile person speak publicly about their case only for their words to harm them in the long run.
When discussing your case with a Virginia federal criminal lawyer, one of the main pieces of advice they will give a client is to avoid speaking with the media.
The first court date is going to be an initial appearance where the parties make their appearance for the first time in front of a judge. These proceedings are usually just procedural in nature. They are what is called a non-confrontational proceeding, which means there is not going to be anything of substance discussed there. The only thing that happens at the original initial appearance is an advisement by the court as to the nature of the charges. If there is no attorney, the court will advise that person they have the right to obtain one. They will also be advised that they have the right to seek court-appointed counsel if they feel they cannot hire counsel themselves. The judge will then set another date for a status hearing to determine the status of the attorney involvement in the case.
Federal procedure is similar but different from Virginia court in several ways. In Virginia, a person has an arraignment, which is generally similar to the initial appearance in federal court. In that instance, Virginia procedure is very similar to federal procedure. However, in Virginia state court the next step for misdemeanors is often a trial, whereas in federal court there might be other steps in between a trial date and your initial appearance date. Where things become more different is in felony cases. In a felony case in Virginia, you will have a preliminary hearing in some cases. In other cases, a preliminary hearing does not occur in Virginia. In federal cases, if a person is arrested, they always have a preliminary hearing. It is called a probable cause hearing in federal court.
There are occasions in federal court where the case can be resolved on the initial court appearance, but those cases are almost always limited to minor traffic cases. It is very rare that a serious federal felony case will be resolved at an initial court hearing. For one thing, in the federal system the court does not have the ability to resolve a felony at the initial hearing.
In some cases, Virginia federal criminal cases can take years. But as a general rule, judges are not known to let cases drag on that long. They do not like for cases to linger. They want the parties to get rolling, for things to happen quickly, and they try to set quick trial dates. In many cases if the ends of justice seem to require it, the court will not object much if the parities move to continue the case. However, the court will require some good reasoning before automatically agreeing to extend a trial date.