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Building a Defense Against Federal Drug Charges in Maryland
A Maryland federal drug lawyer prepares for your federal drug trial by reviewing all of the evidence provided to him or her during discovery. That means the lawyer has all police reports, surveillance video, witness reports, and things of that nature to assist in understanding why you were charged, and how the investigation led the police to you.
Additionally, your lawyer prepares you for trial by explaining what arguments will be made and what demeanor you should have in court. Most importantly, if you make the decision with your attorney to testify, he or she will prepare you on the appropriate procedure for testifying.
Generally, your attorney practices testimony with you, makes sure that you understand how to answer questions in the courtroom, how to properly address attorneys and the other parties in the courtroom, and how to speak in a clear voice so that everyone in the courtroom can hear you and understand your perspective on the particular situation you are being questioned about.
There is generally no deposition in criminal court in Maryland.
Refuting the Prosecution in Federal Court
A federal drug lawyer refutes evidence in a number of different ways. In drug cases, one of the most important ways an attorney can contest evidence is not necessarily to argue that the drugs were not in their client’s possession. Instead, if the charge is one of possession, the attorney can argue that the manner in which the drugs were found was unlawful.
This is called a motion to suppress. In a motion to suppress, the argument is that the client’s rights under the Fourth Amendment, specifically the right to not be subjected to an unlawful search or seizure, were violated in whatever way the drugs, or other illegal items, were found to be in his or her possession.
One of the best examples of that is if an officer pulled someone over for a traffic violation, and after pulling them over for a traffic violation, subsequently conducted a search of the vehicle, and found something illegal in that vehicle. If the search of that vehicle was not based on some probable cause, was not based on consent, or there was no warrant for it, the attorney would make a motion before the judge to suppress that search and the findings of that search from evidence. A finder of fact, whether it is the judge or jury, cannot take it into consideration in the criminal trial itself.
Important Factors to Remember
The most important thing for the attorney to look for is how or why the government decided to charge their client. Generally, if it is because the authorities found a large amount of drugs somewhere, the attorney will want to know how they got to them. Was it based on a valid warrant that a judge signed, or was it based on some other probable cause that permitted them to search under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution? Evaluation of those factors and looking for flaws in the procedure that the officer employed are the strongest ways to build a defense in a federal drug case.
Contesting Eyewitness Testimony
Eyewitness testimony is interesting because the government is obligated to share with the defense exactly what the witness saw and when they saw it. The most important thing the attorney will want to know about the eyewitness is whether or not their client knew this eyewitness. Their knowledge and what they saw can be challenged based on a number of things, the most important being whether they have any bias or could have made a mistake in the case. If they have reason to make up a story about the client, that is important for the attorney to uncover.
Additionally, if that is not the case, the defense will also want to know the validity of this eyewitness’s testimony. Was it dark outside? Was the eyewitness’s vision compromised? Were they under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time they claim to have seen what they saw? These kinds of things are important to analyze when it comes to any eyewitness to determine whether they are credible and what weight a finder of fact should give to their testimony in court.
Impact of Constitutional Issues
Federal drug cases may have any number of constitutional issues. First Amendment issues related to free speech can come up in federal cases. Issues under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution as they relate to illegal searches and seizures occur in federal cases all the time. At that point, defense attorneys try to suppress evidence like drugs, bank records, or things that were seized that might be used against their client in a courtroom.
Fifth Amendment issues associated with a client’s right to testify, or with their right to remain silent come up as well. Attorneys try to suppress statements made by their client that were not properly taken by law enforcement upon the person’s arrest or when they were taken into custody.
Sixth Amendment issues associated with a person’s right to a speedy trial come up in the federal system when the federal case continues too long or it takes too long to charge the client and the client was prejudiced by that delay.
All kinds of constitutional issues come up during the course of any criminal case, whether it is at the federal or state level. An attorney who understands these constitutional issues can make appropriate arguments in a courtroom depending on what kinds of issues are presented by each criminal matter.