What To Do First If a Loved One Is Arrested by Federal Agents
One of the scariest experiences in the world is having federal agents show up at your home with an arrest warrant and take your loved one into custody. No one wants to get caught up in a federal criminal case and seeing a loved one arrested on a federal charge is something you will probably never forget. It is natural to feel powerless in the face of federal criminal charges, but you should know that there are certain steps you can take post-arrest, to put your loved one in the best possible position moving forward. This page discusses what to do first if a loved one is arrested by federal agents, beginning with obtaining qualified legal counsel.
For more information about the federal criminal process and what it means to be arrested on a federal charge, or to enlist our criminal defense lawyers to help with your loved one’s case, contact Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers today. Our legal team has decades of combined experienced in federal criminal defense and we can help you get the defense process started right away.
What Does it Mean to be Arrested by Federal Agents?
If your spouse, sibling, child or anyone else in your family is arrested by agents from the FBI or another federal agency, it means the government thinks he or she has committed a federal crime. When a federal law has been violated and there is enough evidence to indicate who may be at fault for the crime, a federal judge or magistrate has the authority to issue a federal arrest warrant. In most cases, a person does not know that a federal arrest warrant has been issued for them until federal agents show up at their home or work to arrest them, which is exactly what they are hoping will happen.
What Happens Next?
After being arrested by federal agents, your loved one will be brought before a federal magistrate for an initial appearance, also known as an arraignment. According to federal law, this initial appearance must be held within three days of the arrest. During the arraignment, several things will happen. Your loved one will be told what the charges are and will be informed of his or her rights.
The judge will also decide whether he or she will be held in jail or released before trial. This will depend a great deal on the nature of the criminal charge and whether your loved one is considered a flight risk or a danger to the community. In serious federal cases, the defendant will remain in jail until trial, including those involving crimes of violence, felonies involving the use of a firearm, felonies involving a minor victim, drug offenses punishable by 10 years or more, and offenses with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment or death.
Follow These Steps to Protect Your Loved One’s Rights
Consult a federal defense attorney right away.
You may be wondering if your loved one will need legal counsel. The answer is yes. The very best thing you can do to protect your loved one’s rights following an arrest by federal agents is to retain the services of a skilled criminal defense attorney. Even if you don’t know exactly what the criminal charges include yet, start researching defense lawyers with experience handling federal cases.
It is never too early to get an attorney working on your loved one’s defense, but not just any attorney will do. In other words, don’t assume the lawyer who handled your divorce will be equipped to represent your loved one in his or her federal case. Your loved one needs an attorney who is familiar with federal criminal laws and has a proven record of success defending clients against federal charges to help him or her navigate the court system.
Find out where your loved one will be taken.
Chances are, you were too shocked during the arrest to ask many questions. However, if the federal agents gave you any information about the charges or if you were able to find out where he or she would be taken, you can have the defense attorney you hired on your loved one’s behalf make contact and find out what crime he or she is accused of committing.
Instruct your loved one to tell agents that she or she will only speak to investigators in the presence of an attorney.
Depending on the specific case, it may be beneficial for your loved one to speak to federal agents, investigators or the Assistant United States Attorney (federal prosecutor) investigating the crime. However, it is never a good idea to do this without an attorney present. Federal investigators are highly skilled in interrogating suspects and gathering information to help them with their case, and your loved one could end up inadvertently admitting guilty or incriminating himself or herself in a criminal matter.
Anything said during an interview with federal investigators can be used against your loved one in court and agreeing to answer questions without an attorney present could end up hurting his or her case. If you are present during the arrest, or if you are able to visit your loved one in jail, advise him or her to avoid speaking to anyone about the case without an attorney present.
Ensure that your loved one understands his or her right to remain silent.
Federal investigators can be intimidating and your loved one may feel compelled to answer their questions, especially if he or she is innocent of the crime. The investigators may even try to convince your loved one that they are on his or her side and only want to help. Ensure that your loved one understands that he or she has important rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, including the right to remain silent, and that he or she cannot be punished for refusing to answer questions.
Prepare for the initial appearance.
Within days after your loved one’s arrest, he or she will be brought before a federal judge or magistrate for an initial appearance and detention hearing, during which it will be decided whether your loved one will remain in jail (be detained) or be released until trial.
If your loved one is considered a flight risk or a danger to the community (i.e. if the alleged offense is a serious or violent crime), it is likely that he or she will remain in jail. However, if you can provide evidence that your loved one has strong ties to the community, relatives in the area, a job and a play to stay if he or she is released, you may be able to secure your loved one’s release.
Familiarize yourself with the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.
Although the specific punishment handed down by the court for a federal offense will depend on the specific charge, the defendant’s criminal history and other factors, federal penalties are generally far stiffer than penalties in state criminal cases. In federal cases, sentencing is largely dictated by the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, a series of rules that set forth a specific sentencing range for judges in federal criminal cases to consider when sentencing defendants found guilty of certain crimes.
These sentencing guidelines are no longer mandatory, but judges in federal criminal cases are required to consult the guidelines and most sentences still fall within these guidelines. Given the significance of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines in federal cases, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with them and discuss with your loved one’s attorney how they may apply to his or her case.
Contact Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers for Legal Help
Being arrested in connection with a federal criminal case is not something that should be taken lightly. The federal government aggressively investigates and prosecutes suspected violations of federal law and being accused of a federal crime is an extremely serious charge. Knowing what it means to be arrested by federal agents and what you can do to protect your loved one’s rights can help alleviate some of the stress and confusion that typically accompanies an arrest on federal charges.
Every criminal case at the federal level is different, but this page is a good starting point to help you understand your loved one’s legal rights and know what you can do to help following an arrest by federal agents. In any federal case, to sit back and wait to see what happens is to leave your loved one’s fate in the hands of the government.
Instead, you can be proactive and improve your loved one’s chances of obtaining a favorable result. To learn more about how our skilled defense attorneys at Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers can help, or to schedule a free case evaluation, contact our firm as soon as possible. We specialize in federal cases and we will work tirelessly to answer any questions you may have about the federal criminal process, protect your loved one’s rights and fight the criminal charges.