also what rights do you loose when you have a federal offense?
I agree with my colleagues. Without knowing whether you plead guilty (and WHEN you plead guilty) it is not possible to advise you completely. Also, you say you have "no choice" but to plead guilty even though you were an "innocent bystander." Again without knowing all the facts, I cannot say whether this would be wise or not, but, as a criminal defendant you NEVER have "no choice" but to plead guilty to a crime. The burden is on the government to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt to the satisfaction of 12 citizens chosen from the community to hear the case. Of course, it is also a reality that, even though you may be innocent, the government may believe you to be guilty and may have the evidence necessary to convince a jury of your guilt, and, thus, you are faced with a tough decision - accept a plea bargain or risk an uncertain outcome and take your case to trial. Again, I cannot comment on the wisdom of either option with the limited information I have.
Sadly, I have seen plea agreements where the US Attorney's Office seeks to have the defendant waive his or her right to challenge the conviction even in the case where the defendant's attorney has provided ineffective assistance of counsel.
There is a practical aspect of this as well. You mention an "appeal" of your federal criminal court case based upon ineffective assistance of counsel. Understand that, pursuant to Fed. Rules of Appellate Procedure, Rule 4(b), you have 10 days to file a notice of appeal from the date judgment is entered against you. It is highly unlikely that you would be able to discover evidence of your attorney's ineffectiveness within that time (unless maybe if your attorney commits some form of malpractice at the sentencing hearing itself). This would not cover a situation where, for example, an attorney failed to interview a witness to a crime that exonerated the attorney's client and the witness surfaced six months after sentencing. In such a case, the law does provide a remedy under 28 USC § 2255 - commonly referred to as a habeas corpus petition - which generally can be filed so long as the defendant's liberty is restrained (jail, prison, etc.) as a result of a conviction.
If you have not accepted your plea bargain, I would strongly recommend you seed a second opinion from a reputable federal criminal defense lawyer in your area and discuss the issues presented in your case and be HONEST with this lawyer and make sure you tell the lawyer everything - the good, the bad, and the ugly - about your case. If your doctor was recommending brain surgery, you'd seek a second opinion, and, with your liberty at stake, the course of action should be no different. I wish you well.
DISCLAIMER: This posting is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice or establish an attorney-client relationship.
Unfortunately, what has been happening in federal court, is that the US Attorneys offices are now asking the defendants to specifically waive the right to appeal, as part of a plea agreement. In some districts, the plea agreements even include a waiver to collaterally attack the conviction.
Although it is common, you must still verify with your lawyer the benefits of the plea agreement such that it is worth waiving a right to appeal. This is a difficult issue to discuss through an internet post, because there are so many variables.
The fact that the Government is asking for these appeal waivers does not make it right. However, it is impossible to discuss the importance of the appeal waiver in your particular case. For example, in some cases, it means that a defendant might not be able to appeal a federal sentencing caculation to the appeals court. If the plea and sentence is in North Carolina, the appeal would be to the Fourth Circuit court of Appeals.
I would encourage you to ask the same questions you are asking, but also ask the attorney what do you get by entering into the plea agreement.
I agree with the assessments of both of my colleagues, and especially with the types of issues/questions mentioned by Ms. Ramirez, which need to be discussed with an experienced criminal attorney licensed to practice law in NC. Since you posted the question without indicating whether you are charged and considering entering a guilty plea, it is only possible to answer your questions in the general terms I have used. Good luck.
This answer is provided solely for informational purposes, for you to use as a starting point when speaking directly with a lawyer in your State. I do not practice law in your State, and this answer does not constitute legal advice, create an attorney-client relationship, or constitute attorney advertising. I urge you to immediately contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer admitted to practice law in your State before you make any decisions about this case.
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