Advantages of An Attorney with Local Experience
The following is an excerpt from an interview with Maryland criminal defense attorney Seth Okin.
What are the advantages of having local experience in criminal cases?
Seth Okin: People are actors on the stage when you’re in a courtroom. If you’re familiar with the judge and the State’s Attorney, you know all the actors that are in play and you almost know what to expect.
Having certain familiarity with courts is also a bonus to your client. I appear in Baltimore County on a regular basis. I know the Towson District Court and I know all the judges. I know the Kingsville District Court and all the judges, also. The same could be said for Prince George’s County, especially Upper Marlboro, where I’ve probably spent 60 percent of my career. I know all the judges and all the State’s Attorneys. I know if I have a good case going in there, and I know if a case is stronger on the other side. When you have a client in a position where there’s very little to argue, you have to know who to deal with and when. You want to know which judge is in front of you, and what they’re likely to do. Clients always ask, “What do you think is going to happen to me?” In a lot of cases, I tell them, “Definitively, I can’t give you an absolute answer, but in front of this judge and this State’s Attorney, this is more likely the result. This is more likely what we’re going to face.” You can’t pick your punishment, but you can kind of steer it a certain way.
You also know in front of certain judges that certain [evidence can] not get in, and if the case is relying on that information, then this judge with the good proper argument will not let it in. There is comfort in going in front of a judge and be able to argue exactly what you know needs to be argued. There are some judges on the opposite side who you know aren’t going to buy it even though you have a good argument. Then you know that you need to prepare for other things, and that’s where you really get into the preparation. It’s nice to know that you can expect certain results, but you always still want to be prepared. Just because expect certain thigns from the right judge and the right State’s Attorney, that’s not necessarily always the outcome. It’s never a promise. But the ability to know your area helps. Prince George’s County is very different from Baltimore City, which is very different from Baltimore County, which is very different from Harford County.
You have to know, walking into certain places, what to do next. If your client was called to a pre-jury trial at the district level and they take it up to the circuit court, and they’re facing more than 90 days incarceration, you have to know to get your client out of harm’s way and put them in a better position to succeed. From the onset, being able to do that and give them that, it provides them a safety net. You have to be able to protect them as best you can, and being familiar with your surroundings is the number one place to start.