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Judges and Juries in DC Federal Drug Cases

When there are trials in federal court, they are almost always conducted with a jury. The jury pool in federal court in the District of Columbia is pulled from the same pool of people as that of the local court. However, there are also trials that are conducted by federal judges.

If an individual is facing a drug charge in which they must report to court, it is important that they understand the difference between having their case heard in front of a jury and having their case heard in front of a judge. An experienced federal drug attorney can assist in preparing an individual for what they should expect at trial.

Selecting the Jury Pool

The District of Columbia operates differently than other jurisdictions. In DC, the jury pool in federal court is pulled from the same pool of people as that of the local court. That is important to note about the DC federal drug jury process.

In Maryland, there are two courthouses that make up the District of Maryland. One courthouse is located in Greenbelt, Maryland and one is located in Baltimore. The two courthouses pull from different counties for their respective jury pools. The demographics of the jury are dependent on the counties that make up the jury pools.

For example, Greenbelt pulls its juries from counties in Western Maryland. That constitutes a different socioeconomic and ethnic demographic than Baltimore City, which is one of the counties that the Baltimore federal court pulls from.

Appointing Federal Judges

In the local court in the District of Columbia, the judges go through the same confirmation process as federal judges.

Federal judges are appointed through a particular process in which they are approved by Congress, but they are nominated by the President. Federal judges are not elected.

Federal judges are appointed for life where most other judges are appointed for a period of years. For example, in the District of Columbia, judges are appointed for a 15-year period and must be renewed for a second term. There are some judges that are elected and they must run for re-election whenever their term is up.

Federal judges usually have a variety of cases on their docket. They handle civil cases and criminal cases. Local judges rotate from one subject matter to another. For example, in the District of Columbia, judges handle all criminal cases for a year or two then go to all civil litigation, then go to probate, and to family court.

Magistrate Judges

Magistrate judges handle a variety of tasks in federal court. They are not full United States District Court judges but they handle a number of proceedings. They often deal with preliminary hearings and can take guilty pleas, if necessary.

Sometimes, a magistrate judge will handle low-level trials like misdemeanor trials in federal court. For example, DUI cases that occur and allegations of a DUI that occur on federal land are often handled by a magistrate. They may also deal with criminal cases in its initial stages. Handling these sorts of proceedings is the magistrate’s role in the DC federal drug judgment process.

They often make decisions at initial hearings on whether a person should be released or held in jail during while their case is pending. This is an extremely important role the magistrate judge plays. That decision can be appealed to the district court judge who is handling the case.

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