DC Theft Criminal Trial

A criminal trial for theft in Washington DC is much like many other criminal theft proceedings across the country. However, these proceedings are generally difficult for the average public to properly understand. Being tried for theft in court can often be an overwhelming, emotionally taxing experience. A knowledgeable attorney can assist you in reducing any unwanted burden or stress in dealing with your case. The proper lawyer can help craft the best defense, with the particular elements of your case in mind.

Initial Proceedings

In the District of Columbia, a misdemeanor theft case has an initial arraignment. The same hearing on a felony case is called a presentment. There is one or more status hearings set where the individual parties inform the court of how the case is progressing. When a DC theft case is not settled prior to trial, there is a bench trial in front of a judge rather than a jury.

A felony theft trial is a lot like any other felony trial. With a felony DC theft criminal trial, there is often a jury, unless everyone agrees to waive the jury. However, that is exceedingly rare. When there is a jury trial, it begins with both parties calling in dozens of prospective jurors, going through the process of voir dire to select a jury panel of 12 jurors, plus at least two alternates.

Court Process

First, an individual is officially informed on the record of the charges against them, and they can have their attorney plead not guilty. In most cases, an individual can receive some amount of discovery, or information about the accusations. In a misdemeanor case, a person will typically receive more discovery at first than they would at a felony case presentment. At that time, the judge will set the release conditions.

In a misdemeanor case, there is a status hearing two to four weeks after the initial hearing. With a felony case, a preliminary hearing is set for as little as two days or as many as 20 days later, however, that can change. There is another hearing as well, so an individual does not proceed directly to trial. They will have one or more hearings before any trial date is set.

It is very unusual for a case to be resolved on the first court date. It is presumed that a person will plead not guilty at the very first court date, because they must have an opportunity for their attorney to analyze the case, discuss the case with the prosecutor, and properly advise their client.

On average, a misdemeanor theft case can last anywhere from one to six months. A felony case can last from between one to 12 months. If an individual is charged with a felony theft and they are out of custody, the government has up to nine months to secure an indictment that comes before trial. A misdemeanor trial is almost always a bench trial, meaning it takes place before the judge. For a felony, unless the defendant agrees, there is a jury trial.

The Arraignment

Before the first court date in a DC theft criminal trial, a person should know that when they come to DC Superior Court for an arraignment, they should be prepared to give a urine sample that is drug-tested. All defendants in DC Superior Court are drug-tested on the first day. If they test positive for drugs, including synthetic drugs, they can expect to be ordered to do weekly drug testing for some amount of time.

The person should bring proof of address in the form of mail that they have received at that address dated within two weeks of the court date. The court requires this in almost every case.

The person can expect to be at the courthouse all morning, starting when the case begins at 10 a.m. When an individual was kept in custody by the police and are brought to court, the hearings start at 1 p.m. There is no way to know exactly when a case is going to be heard because they are not heard sequentially by number or alphabetically. It may seem that there is no rhyme or reason as to when cases are called, but that is not the case. The timing has to do with paperwork, and when the different agencies are ready with the case. However, an individual should expect to be there for several hours.

Importance of a Positive Demeanor

DC theft criminal trials, like all other criminal cases in DC Superior Court, are open to the public. When an individual goes to court, they want to look and act their best. An individual should assume that anything they do or say may be seen by someone who might be testifying against them or making a decision about their well-being. The accused person should realize that there is the potential of prospective jurors walking up and down the halls of the courthouse and that they do not know who may be listening.

The judge is easy to spot in the courtroom. However, when a judge takes the black robes off and walks down the hall of the courthouse, an individual may very well not recognize him or her. It is a mistake for a person to act negatively in front of a judge or a prospective juror when they are a criminal defendant in the courthouse.