What To Do If You Are Charged With A Federal Offense
Proceedings in Federal Court are vastly different than what normally occurs in a State case. Persons accused of a federal offense should be aware of what will happen and how they can be prepared for it.
What Happens After The ArrestIf you are arrested and charged with a federal offense, you will be brought before a Magistrate within 24 hours. In the time between your arrest and this appearance in Magistrate Court, you will be interviewed by Probation and Parole to establish a basic background on you. This includes, criminal history, job history, financial information, family details, education and other pertinent details. This data is compiled into a report by the Probation and Parole office to help them determine your chances for release on bail and the bail amount, if applicable. Also, the report helps establish if you are able to hire private counsel or need the court to appoint a lawyer for you.
What Happens In Your First Court AppearanceWhen you appear in front of the Magistrate, the Government, through the office of the U.S. Attorney will likely have an Indictment that lists the specific offenses you are charged with. This list of charges along with the report from Probation and Parole will offer the basis for arguments to allow you to be released on bail or remanded for trial. At these proceedings, your case will be assigned to a District Court and your representative counsel will be advised that he has a specified time to file pretrial motions. Also, defense counsel and the Assistant U.S. Attorney will discuss the transfer of discovery information pertinent to your case.
What Happens After The First AppearanceAfter the initial appearance, your case moves to a District Court. Your lawyer then begins to work on your defense. His first course of action is to contact the AUSA (Assistant United State Attorney) to arrange for a transfer of discovery documents, tapes, DVDs, and other evidence the government intends to use against you at trial. If your lawyer has filed pretrial motions, a date is set for an evidentiary hearing wherein both sides argue the issues of the motion and the Judge makes a ruling. After all pretrial motions are heard, a pretrial conference is set where lawyers from both sides meet with the Judge to hash out any pretrial details before a definite trial date is set.
The Importance Of Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer with Federal Court ExperiencePractice in the Federal court system and State court system is very different. Most rules are essentially the same; however, some specific rules apply in Federal court and if your lawyer is unfamiliar with the process it will work to your detriment.
This is a confusing and anxious time for the accused. While his lawyer will generally meet with him several times during the proceedings, the accused must totally trust that his lawyer is feverishly working for him. This is why it is extremely important to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer who has experience in the Federal Court system.