The spectrum of federal crimes is expansive. It includes everything from conspiracy to overthrow the government and airplane hijacking to armed bank robbery, arson of a federal building, a slew of white-collar crimes and more. Regardless of the potential charges that you may be facing, the punishments for the conviction of a federal crime can be severe. Specific punishments vary, but many charges are associated with a decades-long prison sentence. Some also have huge monetary fines and other substantial ramifications. Are you wondering what you can expect in the weeks and months to come?
The Investigative Phase
In the case of robbery, murder and other violent or aggravated crimes, an arrest may take place without a lengthy investigation. For many federal charges, however, the authorities could spend months or longer developing a case against you. The investigative phase often includes a series of interviews. Questioning may be in conjunction with search warrants and subpoenas. Once the investigating agency has enough evidence to support a strong case against you, you may be arrested and formally charged with one or more crimes. Because your statements and actions during the investigative phase may be self-incriminating or may have other ramifications, it is crucial to hire a defense attorney as early in the process as possible.
After Your Arrest
Once an arrest warrant has been issued, you will be detained until after your first court appearance. Your initial court appearance is a time when charges are officially filed against you. You will be required to enter your plea for the charges against you. Your plea may be influenced by the possibility of a plea bargain with the prosecution. Bail will also be established at this time. If bail is not set, you must stay in jail until your trial. Your defense attorney will play a critical role in the proceedings at this time.
After the initial hearing, your attorney will represent your interests through discovery and the motions process. In some cases, a plea bargain may be reached. This means that the defendant may plead guilty and forgo trial in exchange for a more lenient sentence or another more favorable outcome. Keep in mind that the court must approve of the plea bargain. If the court does not agree, the case will proceed to trial.
Your Criminal Defense
Just as it can take months for the prosecution to build a case against you, it can take a long time for your attorney to prepare a solid defense. The defense must be prepared while the attorney is also representing your interests during the initial hearing, through the discovery and motions phases and more. The specific defense strategy that is used will be dependent on the charges against you and the evidence that the prosecution has against you. Even when a case seems insurmountable and a guilty verdict seems inevitable, an experienced attorney may present a strong defense to generate the outcome available under the letter of the law. However, it is important that you hire an attorney early in the process so that he or she has time to develop your defense.
Protecting Your Rights
You may be aware of your right to be assumed innocent unless and until you are proven guilty in court. However, you also have a number of other rights as a defendant. For example, you have the right to a speedy trial where you are judged by your peers. You also have the right to learn about the charges against you and to have legal counsel appointed if you cannot afford an attorney. There are also various rights regarding bail, search warrants, seizure of property and more. While law enforcement officials are obligated to work within the realm of the law and to ensure that your rights are upheld, this does not always happen. Your attorney will work closely with you from the investigative stage and through the end of pre-trial motions to ensure that your rights are upheld.
Given the potential outcome of a conviction, it is understandable that you would feel stressed and anxious even before you have been arrested. While some people assume that hiring a lawyer serves no purpose until after an arrest has been made, this is not the case. As soon as you are aware of an investigation, it is beneficial to begin your search for a reputable, qualified defense attorney.