DC Prosecutors And Court System

The Washington, DC court system has many unique aspects including the process by which cases are heard and prosecuted. A DC criminal defense attorney can help a person understand the unique qualities associated with the DC court system.

To learn more about how your case may be treated by judges and prosecutors in DC, call today and schedule a free consultation.

How DC Prosecutes DUIs

Penalties for driving under the influence have increased over the years due to substantial political pressure from advocacy organizations and residents. Consequently, the Attorney General has eliminated many favorable options for resolving first-offense DUIs and narrowed the circumstances in which people with no criminal record may be able to have their DUI charge dismissed.

DUI defendants with high blood alcohol content are eligible for mandatory jail time even if they have never been arrested before, and prosecutors are seeking greater incarceration periods for those with prior DUI charges. While marijuana prosecution has become more lenient, DUI prosecution will most likely continue to move in the exact opposite direction.

Unique Aspects of Defending Criminal Cases in DC Courts

DC procedure grants judges very little power over the outcome of cases prior to a trial. In some jurisdictions, judges have the power to unilaterally reduce charges and sometimes even dismiss charges before a case goes to trial. DC provides prosecutors with exclusive control over charging decisions, so that all pretrial negotiations happen only between defense attorneys and prosecutors.

DC’s procedure can result in very lengthy cases, even for minor misdemeanor charges. A person may be required to attend several court appearances over the course of many months before a resolution.

Problems with how the Criminal Justice System Currently Operates

One of the most serious problems with the way criminal cases are handled in DC involves how prosecutors hand over information to the defense. In DC, prosecutors are not required to turn over the names of government witnesses to the defense. In addition, certain evidence is not required to be turned over until very close to the defendant’s trial and sometimes not even until the morning of the trial.

In some cases, evidence is not required to be turned over until after a government witness has testified and before that witness is about to be cross examined by the defense. Prosecutors in DC are entrusted with determining what they believe they are required to disclose to the defense and when they are required to disclose it. Sometimes, this can result in a lengthy battle over whether the government withheld important information or did not disclose information in a timely manner.

Solutions for the DC Criminal Justice System

Many states have established open file discovery. This means that the government is required to disclose substantially more information to the defense earlier on in the process as opposed to picking and choosing information to release at various points. Open file discovery helps defense attorneys conduct a more thorough investigation, allows for better preparation, and can prevent unnecessary delays for a case. In other states, defense attorneys and prosecutors have both supported open file discovery. In addition, judges very often have supported open file discovery to prevent unnecessary delays in cases.