Federal indictment/charges (criminal case)

Asked over 1 year ago - San Francisco, CA

When a defendant is charged in a criminal matter in federal court by an ausa does the charging document/indictment allow the defendant to have a good idea of the evidence against them so that the defendant along with their counsel could adequately decide whether to plead guilty or not based on the strength of the case?

Attorney answers (7)

  1. Michael Kevin Cernyar

    Pro

    Contributor Level 20

    16

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . I started in the federal court system and was exclusively a federal criminal defense attorney for many years. The length of the indictment will depend on the number of counts and whether or not a conspiracy was involved. The acts to justify the counts will be listed in the indictment. The indictment will not contain the evidence to support itself. The evidence will be disclosed later.

    The very first day in court is important and is not like the typical state case. It is important because release conditions will be determined. Prior to the hearing the defendant will meet with pre-trial services to determine release conditions.

    If the client is considering an early plea it may be to the clients advantage to waive the indictment and go forward on the information. This typically occurs when there is a resolution prior to the indictment or when there is only one count and the client is pleading guilty but there has been no agreement in the penalty.

    As you see there are many things to consider. Not every attorney practices in the federal court so make certain you find an attorney that does.

    www.YourCriminalDefenseLawyer.com
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    The response above is not intended as legal advice since it’s impracticable to provide thorough, accurate advice... more
  2. Anthony Michael Solis

    Pro

    Contributor Level 20

    12

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . It depends: the US usually proceeds by indictment which can be very short or very detailed. I've had two page indictments, I have also had 150 page indictments (usually RICO cases). Some are very, very detailed. No one decides whether to plead guilty on an indictment alone (or a complaint alone). The defense always requests a great deal of discovery (evidence) and the government usually provides a great deal without even asking.

    No legal advice is given here. My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must NOT... more
  3. Vijay Dinakar

    Pro

    Contributor Level 17

    11

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . The charging document lists the allegations of statutory violations. The discovery provides the meat of the evidence. Simply looking at the charging document won't tell you how weak or strong a case is, you have to examine the discovery as well as conduct your own defense investigation to size up a case. Best bet is to consult your attorney about the strength of the case against you. If you don't have an attorney hire one asap. Good luck

    For a Free Consultation Call: 408.313.5607
  4. Christine C McCall

    Pro

    Contributor Level 20

    10

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Federal defendants have considerable rights of discovery. In every conceivable circumstance the defense attorney (whether private or a federal public defender) would insist on obtaining from the prosecutor the evidentiary material required to be produced in discovery before even considering a guilty plea.

    No legal advice here. READ THIS BEFORE you contact me! My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended... more
  5. Daniel Aaron Horowitz

    Contributor Level 10

    9

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . You asked a good question. There are two answers. 1. The indictment is supposed to limit the scope of the proof at trial. 2. A defendant is presumed to know what he/she did so that once charged a decision can be made whether to plead early. However, in reality, in federal court one of two things happens. Either the defendant very quickly tries to "cooperate" and either testify against others or make restitution or plead guilty .. or, if the case is overcharged or if the defendant is truly innocent, a very lengthy process of obtaining information, interviewing witnesses precedes any serious resolution discussions. Each case is different and there is a standard pattern for certain cases (like drug conspiracies or embezzlement cases), so, at best you're going to get a general answer. If you're in San Francisco you're in luck. Both the federal public defender and the federal defense bar is superb - maybe the best in the nation. Daniel

  6. Dan Eugene Chambers

    Contributor Level 20

    8

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . My colleagues are correct. Indictments, even if lengthy, are barebones documents when it comes to listing evidence to support the charges. Discovery tools are available to build your defense. Good luck.

  7. Joseph J. Wiseman

    Contributor Level 5

    8

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . In my experience, it depends on the nature of the charge and federal district where the indictment was issued. For example, indictments alleging fraud usually spell out the charges in detail, describing the nature of the scheme and the ways in which the defendant(s) carried it out. On the other hand, federal drug and gun charges are usually alleged in general terms, requiring the defendant and his or her lawyer to get the specifics from the discovery.

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