What To Do First When Faced With a Federal Criminal Charge
If you or someone you love is facing federal criminal charges, you are likely under a tremendous amount of stress. Being accused of a federal crime is a very serious matter and you don’t always know what to do and where to turn for help when you are caught up in the federal criminal justice system.
Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney is an obvious first step, but there are several other things you can do to put yourself in a better position when you or a loved one is faced with a federal criminal charge. To learn more about how to protect your rights when under investigation by the federal government or when facing criminal charges at the federal level, contact Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers today.
Our defense attorneys have extensive experience defending clients in both state and federal courts and we know what it takes to raise a winning defense against federal charges. When faced with a federal criminal charge like fraud, embezzlement, misappropriation, drug distribution or drug conspiracy, there is no time to waste, so don’t wait to call.
What is a Federal Crime?
In the United States, a federal crime is any act or conduct that is made illegal by U.S. federal legislation. Prosecution in the U.S. happens at both the federal and state level, and while most crimes committed in this country are prosecuted under state criminal law, the most serious offenses are prosecuted under federal criminal law.
The federal government also has jurisdiction over criminal acts that involve a federal agency or agent, take place on federal property, or cross state lines or international borders. Some of the more common federal charges in the U.S. include:
- Federal Drug Cases
The federal criminal justice system is very different from the state criminal justice system in California, and if you are found guilty of a criminal offense in federal court, you could be at risk for serious, potentially life-changing penalties, possibly including a federal prison sentence. Whether you are currently under investigation by the federal government for suspected criminal activity, you are accused of committing a federal crime, or you have been convicted of a federal offense and need to appeal your sentence, it is never too late to consult a criminal defense lawyer who can protect your rights, advise you on what to do next and ensure that your side of the story gets told.
What Happens Next?
The federal court process can be complicated and confusing and it is always a good idea to have a trusted legal advocate on your side who can help you navigate the process and make the best decisions based on the circumstances of your case. So, now you know that retaining the services of a knowledgeable federal criminal defense attorney is the first step in protecting your rights when faced with federal criminal charges. What happens next will depend on your specific situation. For instance:
• If you learn that you are under investigation by the federal government because you received a target letter or federal agents showed up at your home with a search warrant, you will need to find out your status in the investigation, i.e. whether you are a target, a subject or a witness, so you know exactly how to proceed.
• If you are arrested by federal agents, you will have to appear before a magistrate judge, who will consider the nature and circumstances of the federal crime you are accused of committing and determine whether you will be detained or released pending a criminal trial.
• If you have been indicted by a grand jury, that means the grand jury decided there was probable cause to believe that you committed a crime in violation of federal law. Your case will go to trial unless your attorney negotiates a plea deal with the federal prosecutor.
• If you have been convicted of a federal crime or you plead guilty, your case will go to sentencing. Federal sentencing is complicated and strict, and the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines give federal judges little discretion when sentencing defendants convicted of federal offenses. If you are convicted of a federal crime at trial, you have the right to appeal the conviction.
Follow These Steps to Protect Your Rights
Consult a federal criminal defense lawyer right away.
Most people assume that they will never have to worry about being charged with a federal crime and going to prison, but the fact is, the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world and the federal government continues to aggressively prosecute federal offenses and impose unreasonably harsh penalties upon convicted offenders.
If you do find yourself faced with a federal criminal charge, the best advice we can give you is to work as quickly as possible to find a federal defense attorney who can represent you. In many federal cases, the government investigates suspected criminal activity for months or even years before making an arrest and filing charges, which means your attorney may have some catching up to do. The earlier you retain a skilled federal criminal defense lawyer to represent you, the better your odds at beating the charges or mitigating the penalties associated with a guilty plea.
Exercise your right to remain silent.
No matter what kind of federal charges you are facing, it is in your best interest to exercise your right to remain silent and refuse to answer questions in any interview or interrogation with federal agents without your attorney present. Anything you say to federal agents or investigators can end up being used against you, whether you are under investigation for a federal crime or you have been arrested for suspected criminal activity. If you make any statements without an attorney present, you could end up incriminating yourself.
Federal investigators are trained to get confessions from criminal suspects, and they will likely use intimidation tactics to make you feel like you have no choice but to answer their questions. Knowing your rights ahead of time and exercising those rights when questioned by federal agents is crucial to the potential success of your case.
Determine whether you should cooperate with the authorities.
Depending on the specific facts of your case, it may be beneficial to you to cooperate with the authorities. For instance, if you have been accused of violating federal law and you have information about someone else who committed a federal offense, you may be able to trade that information for a reduced sentence as part of a plea deal.
However, cooperating with the federal government can be tricky and it is not something you should ever attempt to do on your own. If you aren’t able to provide the government with the information it needs to catch that person, attempting to cooperate could backfire and you could end up in an even worse position than you were in before. Once you have consulted your criminal defense attorney and examined the risks and benefits of cooperating with federal authorities, you can determine which option is right for you.
Decide whether you want to go to trial or negotiate a plea deal.
One of the most important decisions you will make in your federal criminal case is whether you want to go to trial or negotiate a plea deal with the federal prosecutor. A plea deal may help minimize your exposure to more serious criminal charges or penalties, but it means you would be pleading guilty to the federal crime and you would likely end up spending at least some time in prison.
If you go to trial, you could be convicted, but the prosecution will have to convince the judge and jury that you are guilty of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. At Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers, we are familiar with the pros and cons of pleading guilty and going to trial and we can advise you of the best option for your situation. We also believe in protecting our clients’ rights and being prepared for every possibility, and if a plea agreement is not in your best interest, we are prepared to take your case to trial.
Contact Our Criminal Defense Attorneys at Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers
If you are facing criminal charges at the federal level, your freedom and your future are on the line, so don’t hesitate to seek qualified legal counsel. The federal government will do everything in its power to prevail in your case and get a conviction, and if you want to beat the charges, you will need a steadfast legal advocate on your side, someone who has an in-depth understanding of federal law and extensive experience going head to head with federal prosecutors, or Assistant U.S. Attorneys.
At Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers, our federal defense attorneys are closely acquainted with the federal criminal justice system as well as the legal, personal and professional costs of a federal charge. We know how devastating a conviction would be for you and your loved ones, and we will do everything in our power to minimize your exposure to federal criminal charges and the resulting penalties.