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Facing a courtroom trial? It may look different than you expect

Drug charges can affect anyone, from a group of teenagers accused of selling marijuana to a working mother charged with narcotics possession. And no matter who you are, drug charges and the criminal justice system can be very intimidating and confusing.

For instance, if you have been charged with a serious drug offense in Pennsylvania, you may be scared that you’ll go to trial to face a judge and possibly a jury. However, it likely is not going to be what you expect.

  • TV is not reality. People can mistake what they see on television and in movies as an accurate depiction of real life. Do not expect a theatrical, expeditious case that ends with a tearful confession or dramatic reveal on the witness stand. In reality, trials can involve more legal jargon, motions and gray areas than you might see on tv.
  • Coronavirus demands accommodations. In recent months, many courts have shut down or dramatically decreased the cases occurring, especially those that involve the public and a jury. Now that they are starting to operate more regularly, courts must change several components in light of the ongoing COVID-19 risks. This Associated Press article details some of these changes and discusses how they could affect those on trial.
  • Every case is different. Few people have been through a criminal trial. They may know others who have, but the fact is that every case is different. Trials depend on the nature of the charges, whether they are state or federal charges, the judge, the prosecution’s case and the defense strategy. As such, do not assume that everyone has the same experience.
  • Going to trial is less common than you might think. Finally, know that a trial is not inevitable. Often, cases are resolved long before this stage, either through dismissal or plea negotiations. In fact, according to Pew Research, just 2 percent of all federal drug cases get to the trial phase.

The legal system is complicated for many reasons. If you have questions or concerns about a trial for drug charges, you can talk to an attorney about what to expect from the road ahead.