Maryland Federal Criminal Trials
Federal criminal trials are not that different from other trials in Maryland in terms of the burden of proof required of the government. They still have to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Defendants in most cases have the option between having their case heard by a judge or heard by a jury.
Federal cases are different because of the kind of trial that can take place. Usually, federal trials involve more lengthy investigations, particularly with white collar criminal cases. State trials, which sometimes last a few days to a week for some very serious violent offenses like murder cases, are much shorter in length than federal trials. That is because federal trials involve voluminous amounts of discovery and far more witnesses than at the state level. These things often create a need for lengthier hearings and more involved court proceedings. Because these cases are so lengthy and complex, it is essential to work with an experienced Maryland federal criminal defense attorney for these cases.
The Prosecution’s Approach
Prosecutors approach a federal criminal trial in ways that are far different than state cases. Prosecutors in federal cases deal with more lengthy investigations on a far larger scale than cases receive at the state court. At the federal level, the investigation continues for a long time before a case is charged. Most federal cases that are criminal in nature are investigated completely before the government elects to charge a person. That is because the government, especially in large felony cases, is not under any obligations by way of a statute of limitations to bring charges within a certain amount of time. For that reason, the authorities can take their time to conduct their investigation. They can take their time to bring a case and ensure that all of the investigative work is done before they make a determination about filing criminal charges against a person.
Important Aspects of Federal Criminal Trials
One of the important things to know about Maryland federal criminal trials is that they are rarer than state criminal trials. That is because federal criminal trials are handled by the Department of Justice. If a case is in trial posture, the government likely has a very strong case. There is no question from the government’s perspective about the facts and what the resolution of that case is going to be. Federal criminal trials rarely take place in Maryland because the success rate for the prosecution is so high.
State criminal trials are much different. There is often more in question and more to argue as it pertains to reasonable doubt. Because federal criminal trials involve more advanced investigations like bank records; federal criminal trials are far less likely to reach a pre-trial resolution with the government, based on the information leading up to the case going to trial.
Publicity of Federal Criminal Cases
Federal criminal cases are open to the public. They are open in a way that is a somewhat different than state cases because state cases are available on a public access website that does not require a fee to use. Federal cases are still public, but they are only available on a website called Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER).
PACER is an online searchable service that allows an interested individual to obtain case and docket information on many federal cases. They have to pay a fee to use parts of the website to download certain materials and gain access to specific information. However, as with state cases, information in federal cases is available for public viewing.
Trials Involving Multiple Defendants
There are cases in the federal system involving multiple defendants. That is because in large scale drug trafficking cases or white collar crime cases, there is not just one act that instigates an investigation. Instead, there are multiple acts where the government follows multiple people’s behavior, through banking records or various drug transactions, to develop criminal charges. Usually, when one person is charged, that may lead the government to the arrest of other people.
Often, for judicial economy, the courts try these people together when the matters involve the same set of facts, victims, and witnesses. This makes it less costly for the court than trying the case multiple times for each individual defendant.
Most defense attorneys make arguments to the court to separate their case from other defendants. This is because defendants who are tried together suffer the consequences that the other defendants face. For example, if the jury hears a negative fact about one party, they might automatically assume that the other defendants are also responsible for similar actions, which could be prejudicial.
Because of these possible situations, defense attorneys make motions to sever their defendants from other criminal defendants. However, it is not unusual for co-defendants to be tried together if the judge finds no prejudice would occur by doing so.
Impact on a Case
When trying co-defendants together, the case generally progresses more quickly because the case does not need to be tried multiple times, so witnesses do not need to be called a number of times. However, it could also slow down the actual trial because each party has an opportunity to ask each witness their own questions; and each defendant puts on his or her own case in the courtroom and calls their own witnesses.
The trial could be longer in the effort to try to shorten the number of trials or minimize the number of trials that must take place. However, there are drawbacks for the defendants because one criminal defendant may be held responsible for negative acts of their co-defendants even though they had nothing to do with them.
Additionally, there could be drawbacks for the prosecutors. For example, if a witness for the prosecution is cross-examined and is impeached on the stand, each defendant is able to get the benefit of that impeached witness. With separate trials where the witness has to be called in separately, they might have an opportunity to clean up their testimony if they were impeached in the first trial.
They could fix errors they made in the previous trial when testifying at the second one. Overall, there are benefits and detriments for both sides when trying multiple defendants at the same time.