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Seth Okin on the Most Challenging Cases to Defend

The following is an excerpt from an interview with Maryland criminal defense attorney Seth Okin.

Most Challenging Cases to Defend

The most challenging cases to defend are cases involving drugs. Drug cases are very definitive cases. The officers, they might have a right to search, they might have a good search warrant, or a good wiretap. If you were involved in a petty little nine bag purchase, but they’re coming down looking for the big person at the top, you get caught in the middle. I’ve also dealt with cases where someone was found with a pound of marijuana or 600 gel caps of heroine. It’s very difficult to beat a drug charge because they’re going to capture you either attempting to make the purchase, making the purchase, or in possession of an actual drug. There are so many ways to get caught. Minor possession under ten grams is minor possession, but when you get into the bigger stuff, it’s no longer about the actual possession; it’s about the conspiracy to possess. There are so many players on the field in the drug trade, and you never know when there’s a sting in play.

You have to be smarter than that, and simply not do drugs. But if you are someone who does drugs, why? Is it an addiction? Can we treat that? If you are caught in a drug sting and you have an addiction, we can get you treatment, or we can get you into a program. It goes back to the question of whether jail is the right place for you. If they have a search warrant and they find the drugs, and they test the drugs, as long as they keep that chain of title from the very beginning to end, [drug cases] are very difficult cases to beat. Police officers are very smart, and if it involves a major offense, you’re going to get caught up in what could then become a federal case. From there, the feds don’t make mistakes. They have been working on these cases, they take their time, and there’s a reason that they bust them.

Other cases that are incredibly challenging would be cases involving statutory language. If you are involved in any form of sexual relation with someone under the age of 14, you have a big problem. They’re exacting, they know what’s happening, and if you’re caught, they’re tough to beat. The laws are strict, and there is no defense against strict liability issues like that. Now, if you were tricked in a unique way that you could prove, then that might be one in a million.

Those [two types of] cases, they are the most difficult and the most challenging ones because of the stigma associated with drugs and acts against children. Once the media gets their hands on it, you’re convicted before you even go to trial. It’s tough to find a jury of 12 that doesn’t know what’s going on. When you’re interviewing potential jurors and you start asking them questions, a lot of them know about drugs, offenses against children, offenses against animals, etc. They come in with an opinion, so it’s tough to wipe the slate clean and have them judge you only based on the facts of the case. We’re human, we’re always listening, we’re watching the news, and we’re on the Internet. Everything is so accessible today – more accessible than ever – so the stigmas that are attached to these types of cases now are stronger than they’ve ever been.

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