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Kush Arora on Criminal Cases in Other Counties of Maryland

The following is an excerpt from an interview with Maryland criminal defense attorney Kush Arora.

What makes defending criminal charges in Montgomery County unique from other counties?

Kush Arora: There is a difference between representing somebody in Montgomery County versus representing someone in Prince George’s County or Baltimore City. With the way that criminal activity is seen in the state of Maryland, there is a different attitude towards certain kinds of criminal activity in Montgomery County than other parts of Maryland.

When dealing with criminal activity in Prince George’s County, there is a lot more push for resolution of cases. Particularly because of how busy the court system is. The Prince George’s County court system is dealing with more than three times as many cases as Montgomery County’s courts. They don’t have the time to prosecute every single case with the same sort of intensity that the State’s Attorney’s office in Montgomery County does. It’s only logical considering there are fewer cases, more prosecutors to work on those cases and more resources available to prosecute them. The way that a possession of marijuana case or a DUI case might be handled in Montgomery County is very different than in a place like Prince George’s or Baltimore, simply based on the fact that a busier county with less resources might have to focus those resources on crimes of violence as opposed to non-violent misdemeanor offenses.

Is there a difference between representing individuals charged with criminal offenses in Hyattsville, as opposed to the Upper Marlboro courthouses?

Kush Arora: Yes. What you see more of in Hyattsville is representation of college students, because the University of Maryland at College Park is just down the street from the Hyattsville courthouse. With that come the kinds of crimes that you would expect to happen on a college campus; underage drinking violations, misdemeanor possession of controlled dangerous substances, acts of violence from time to time, and, unfortunately, sexual offenses that might take place on campus. Other than that, there’s not a tremendous difference. The types of people that you’re representing are more associated with that university lifestyle than the people who you might be representing when you are handling a case in Upper Marlboro.

What is unique about handling cases in Baltimore County?

Kush Arora: They’re not all that different in Baltimore County than they are in any other county in the state of Maryland. When we’re dealing with Baltimore County individuals, we’re dealing with a court system that is full of very capable prosecutors and judges, all of whom are well-versed in criminal justice and criminal procedure, but there is not a great deal of difference in the way that their dockets are structured. They do have the same kind of District Court docket, not to the volume that you see in Baltimore City or Prince George’s County, but there is a common thread there of attempting to come to as much resolution as possible and to try to get the less serious cases out of the criminal system as soon as possible.

How do court proceedings differ in Frederick County?

Kush Arora: Frederick County is what I would call our “small town” in the state of Maryland. Frederick County and Washington County, which are neighboring counties in the state, both sort of have a small-town feel in the way that they conduct their court proceedings. All the prosecuting attorneys and judges are extremely capable, but you do get the sense that everybody there knows each other very well, which stresses how important it is to speak and work with an attorney who’s familiar with the particular county where you’re charged.

Frederick County is a place where there are a small number of officers, who you see on a regular basis, handling the same kinds of cases. A defense attorney’s relationship with those officers and the State’s Attorney and the judges is more important in a place like Frederick County or Washington County than almost anywhere else because of how much more easily you’re able to get resolution on a particular kind of criminal case. Police officers begin to open up to defense attorneys once they’re comfortable, once they know you well, once they know that you’re capable, once they know that you know how to do your job, and once they know that you respect that they know how to do theirs.

What is the toughest place to go to trial?

Kush Arora: Montgomery County is one of the toughest places to have a trial. There’s a demographic of people in Montgomery County that is upper-income with a very high level of education. When we’re talking about trials, a lot of times we’re talking about trials by jury, where 12 members of the community are tasked with deciding whether a person is guilty or not guilty of a particular offense. With the jury pools in Montgomery County, sometimes it’s difficult to find somebody who is able to relate in any way to the kinds of criminal charges that a defendant is facing. It doesn’t always feel like the person has a jury of their peers judging them when they’re sitting at trial table and there are12 people sitting in a jury box across from them that may have never had a life experience that related to one that a criminal defendant had in that county. Montgomery County is probably one of the toughest places for trial, for that particular reason.