If you don't sign the plea agreement, the feds will seek a grand jury indictment. True. That is how every case begins. You may be getting some break in terms of sentencing for pleading early. Only your attorney can tell you that. But you are under no obligation to enter into a plea agreement at this early point in your case, or ever. It could be you have possible defenses--you didn't know, your dead partner did it, etc. If you don't sign the plea agreement, it is extremely unlikely you will be held without bail. To be detained pending trial, the government has to prove that if released you are likely to flee or be a danger to the community. Given that the government has been willing to negotiate with you up to now without arresting you, and you didn't run, that seems extremely unlikely. Whether you end up with more time after indictment and trial is another matter. Impossible to say--you should discuss that with your lawyer. But if your lawyer is strong arming you into a plea based on scare tactics that you won't get bail, you might want to think about a new lawyer.
This answer is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended as the practice of law in any jurisdiction in which I am not licensed. The answer does not constitute legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. The answer is based only on the information provided, and may be inaccurate in the context of additional facts that have not been provided. The questioner should be aware that I am only licensed to practice law in the state and federal courts of Minnesota. Accordingly, before taking any action or refraining from taking any action, the questioner should consult with an attorney licensed to practice in his or her jurisdiction.
Only an attorney who is very familiar with the facts, circumstances, and US Attorney's Office in your district could tell you...but the question I have for you is, why don't you believe your lawyer? If it's just a matter of not liking what he's telling you, you need to get over it. If you don't trust him, you need to find another lawyer, fast.
Federal law and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines are incredibly punitive. For example, simply lying to an FBI agent about whether you've spoken with a suspect, even when you are not under oath, and even if you've never even had a parking ticket, will easily get you jail time. For the most part, the hands of federal judges are tied when it comes to sentencing, and the US attorney has all the power. Worst of all, if you're found guilty after pleading not guilty, it's pretty much a given that you will spend more time in jail then if you just plead guilty to start with. You have some tough choices ahead.
There is no way to intelligently (or correctly) answer your question without knowing more about the facts of your particular case. However, only you can decide whether or not to enter into a plea agreement with the Government; no one (including your lawyer) can force you to do so. Although your entering into the plea agreement may be in your best interest (I do not know), it is extremely unlikely that you will be arrested (you likely will be issued a summons) and detained pending trial (defendants in these type of case routinely are granted release) unless there are extremely extenuating circumstances of which I obviously am not aware.
Joshua Sabert Lowther, Esq.
NATIONAL FEDERAL DEFENSE GROUP
Based on your question, I assume you already have an attorney. If so, you should be meeting with your attorney and asking these questions. If you cannot get the answers from him/her, you need to find another attorney. This is too personal and too fact specific a question to be asked and answered on a public forum. If you do not have an attorney, then you should hire one, or ask the federal court to appoint you an attorney.
Federal prosecutors are notorious for strong-arm plea tactics: the best plea deal they offer is usually the one before they file the indictment on formal charges; then the next (worse) deal they offer is after the indictment; then each successive stage of the proceedings approaching trial, the deal gets more and more draconian. All with hard and fast deadlines. Take it or leave it. Take your chances at trial, and risk conviction on all counts, you get sentenced under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines applicable to each and every offense. What they are offering now is based on a plea to a single or a limited number of offenses, which will limit the time the judge will have to sentence you to under the sentencing guidelines. The worst prosecutors (from a defendant's standpoint) then file the indictment on every conceivable charge possible, which drastically runs up the potential mandatory sentence you will face under the guidelines, and then offer to let you plea to a certain number of the charges and drop the others; each new plea offer will include more charges to plead to, less dropped, and more mandatory sentencing time under the guidelines. Being told that you have to agree by to tomorrow is pretty extreme. Is this the first day you heard of this deadline? Get your lawyer to obtain more time for you to evaluate and come to "peace" with the plea offer. Go see another defense lawyer who handles, specifically, federal criminal defense. Many, many criminal defense lawyers do not regularly practice in the federal courts. Get a second opinion if you can. Either way, you need to have a heart-to-heart with your current lawyer on why he believes you have no real choice but to accept the deal: is the evidence so overwhelming and slam-dunk against you that it would be foolhardy to proceed and risk a huge jail sentence? Unlike state sentences, federal sentencing has no provision for parole: you must serve 90% of your time, with only limited "good time" credits getting it reduced.