Do Witnesses Ever Fail to Show up At a Criminal Trial?
Nov. 20, 2022
It’s very common in our system that witnesses fail to show up for trial. Police officers often don’t show up for trial. It can be for a variety of reasons. Police officers get transferred and they don’t want to come up for a short trial. Police officers get fired, police officers get in trouble for one thing or another, so there are many reasons that a police officer doesn’t show up for court. If you are lucky on that, that’s almost like hitting the lottery, because without a police officer, in most cases the state has no case. Unless they have a really good reason for that police officer not to be in there, most judges won’t continue the case; they will just say not guilty and the criminal client is free to go.
Would Counseling Affect The Outcome Of The Case If The Case Has Gone To Trial?
Counseling and treatment, especially in drug and alcohol cases, can be critical as far as what a court does to you. Typically if you have a DUI in Maryland, you are going to be ordered either to a 6-week education course or 26-week treatment course for addiction. Doing those in advance can be a big help. I have counselors that I work with. I provide evaluations in both of my offices in Maryland, and we can get you evaluated and get a client started on their treatment. Generally, judges favor treatment. If I have a DUI who has done an in-patient treatment before a trial, the judge is generally going to be impressed that somebody was proactive and they did something ahead of trial. I would recommend that treatment to many clients of mine, especially in DUI and drug cases, because that can be a big benefit when it comes down to the final sentencing.
Are Most Trials Jury Trials Or Bench Trials?
Most trials are bench trials. You start with the District Court of Maryland. District Court is basically the workforce in the state of Maryland. It gets a large volume of cases. It handles all the misdemeanors, and several minor felonies also. If you are in District Court and you want to try a case, you don’t have a jury to try that case in front of. If your penalty is over 90 days, you can request the jury trial and the jury trial is held at a later stage in the circuit court. But since most cases are within the district court’s jurisdiction, most trials are handled in the district court and are handled by just the judge. More of the serious cases, serious felonies with long jail sentences, are generally handled in front of the circuit court. If you were in the circuit court, generally more practitioners would recommend doing a jury trial over a bench trial in these cases. Sometimes it depends on the facts. You may have a very egregious looking case where somebody is actually not guilty, and you would rather have this in the hands of the judge who is going to look at it to apply the law, as opposed to a jury who could be inflamed by the facts. Those are choices but I think the trials that you would have in circuit court will end up being held in front of a jury because they are very serious cases. When you have a jury, you have 12 people that need to be convinced beyond the reasonable doubt that you are guilty. All it takes is one juror to find you not guilty. If you can persuade one person on there, then at the minimum, you are going to get a hung jury. In many cases, it is preferable to a judge.
But more likely if you are trying something in the circuit court, you are asking for a jury trial. When you do try a case in district court, the judge comes down with the decision and the sentence. If you don’t want that decision and sentence, you can appeal this to the circuit court and you can request the jury trial. You can have two bites of the apple on this. One trial in district court, and if you’re found guilty, you can have a second trial in the circuit court in front of a jury, which does happen in several cases.
Is The Original Plea Offer Off The Table If Somebody Is Convicted At Trial?
Typically, you will see worse punishment if convicted at trial. One of the big reasons is if you are taking a plea agreement, more likely than not the state has multiple charges against you, and they are going to drop several of the charges and accept one of the charges. A lot of times, those plea agreements come with a recommendation, and the state’s attorney is well within the authority to remove that recommendation if you decide to go to trial. If you are going to trial and you have 10 charges, you can have a plea where you plea one charge, and you end up with 10 different charges where you are guilty on all of them, and the judge will give you a sentence on each of those charges. Typically, when you try and you have other charges, at the minimum you are going to be paying fines in the case.
Some cases may be different, because if you have one charge and the state offers you guilty on one charge and you try that, you only have one thing to beat. You may end up getting the same thing if you are found guilty at trial as opposed to taking a plea agreement. Those are very fact-specific. The police are very good at overcharging people, stacking up several different charges to assist the prosecutors in making plea deals. Would you rather plea to something that can put you into jail for 4 years or would you rather plea to something that could put you into jail for 60 days? A lot of people will take something that they can get out of in 60 days rather than face the larger potential punishment.
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