Jon Katz mainly defends in Northern Virginia for those charged with criminal offenses and DWI. In keeping with Jon’s approach of defending without mental nor geographic borders, his court appearances occasionally include the nearby Maryland courts, mainly in the neighboring counties of Montgomery and Prince George’s.
Jon started his criminal defense career in 1991 with the Maryland Public Defender’s Office. Ideal ways to become an excellent criminal defense lawyer are starting as a public defender lawyer or prosecutor, handling criminal law on a daily basis. Not having the stomach nor interest in prosecuting, Jon chose public defender work, defending over 1,500 indigent criminal defendants for five years. Jon returned to private practice in 1996, joined the Virginia bar in 1997, and primarily practices in Virginia, where he is based.
Sadly, some Virginia prosecutors like to belittle Maryland as a source of crime seeping into Virginia, based on claimed overly liberal approaches to prosecution and sentencing in court. My view is different, seeing Maryland as a less harsh place for criminal defendants, generally, but for good reason, in that merely throwing harsh sentences at defendants is not the right solution to crime. It is easier to cast stones than to look at the real reasons for crime, which includes an over-criminalized set of laws that should not, but do, prohibit marijuana and prostitution; overfocusing on criminalizing illegal drugs rather than offering useful drug education and treatment; societal dysfunctions; poverty, and disparities in employment, educational, financial and social opportunities; social disconnection; and personal and psychological dysfunctions. In the short run, it may feel good for many people to enact harsh penalties for criminal offenses and to inflict harsh sentences. However, unless a convict receives a life sentence or death sentence, s/he will one day return to the streets, and is not necessarily going to be any better upon leaving jail or prison than when s/he entered.
On the flip side, many Marylanders do not recognize until it is too late that the Virginia criminal law tends to be harsher than Maryland criminal law, except when it comes to guns, where Maryland law and prosecutions for handgun offenses often are harsher than in Virginia. Unlike in Virginia, Maryland law does not impose mandatory minimum jail sentences for repeat DWI/DUI offenses nor for convictions for driving with a minimum breath/blood alcohol content of 0.08, 0.15, or over 0.20. Unlike in Virginia, Maryland does not make unlawful possession of a Schedule I or II drug a felony, rather than a misdemeanor. Unlike in Virginia, probation before judgment dispositions often are available in Maryland for first-time misdemeanor offenses.
Unlike in Virginia, Maryland and federal law assures the defense access to more pretrial discovery, including opposing witness statements, which are not required to be disclosed in Virginia unless exculpatory under Brady v. Maryland.
In Virginia, the opposing lawyers are permitted to ask direct questions to potential jurors before exercising their handful or two of peremptory jury strikes. Maryland caselaw allows the trial judge to run that entire jury questioning show, except that Maryland judges often will permit the parties to ask some follow-up questions to individual potential jurors.
Jon Katz will be delighted to speak with you about your case, at (703) 383-1100.