Facing a criminal investigation?

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What To Do First When Faced With a Federal Criminal Charge

What To Do First When Faced With a Federal Criminal Charge
Nobody wants to face a federal criminal charge. If you find yourself in this serious legal situation, you’ll need to have a plan of action in place in order to protect your rights, understand the legal process and defend yourself in court. Your first step when faced with a federal criminal charge is to hire a criminal defense attorney with experience and the right to argue in a federal court case. Use this list of next steps to take once you have hired an attorney to defend you and represent you in court.

Find Out Who Is Leading the Investigation

According to the Department of Justice, one or more federal agencies may be involved in the investigation of charges in federal crimes. Agencies tasked with investigating crimes at the federal level include

The ATF investigates crimes related to the illegal distribution, manufacture and use of alcohol, tobacco, explosives and firearms. The DEA investigates illegal drug manufacture and distribution that crosses state lines or international borders. Crimes investigated by the FBI include child pornography, white collar crime, organized crime, cyber crime, public corruption and more. The HSI investigates domestic terrorism and threats. Crimes investigated by the USSS include financial crimes and threats against people who are afforded the right to Secret Service protection, such as the President of the United States.

Understand the Charges Against You

The federal court system and United States Code are complicated. For a layperson, it’s almost impossible to understand the intricacies of the court process. Once an agency decides to file formal charges against you, it’s your right to hire a lawyer to defend you against those charges. Your attorney will explain the charges against you in a way that you understand. A full understanding of those charges is essential to your ability to protect your rights.

Fulfill Your Legal Obligations

Once charges are filed against you, the court will subpoena you or issue a warrant for your arrest. Your attorney will advise you on how to respond to these court demands. Failure to comply with the court’s requirement to appear at a hearing is also a crime, so it’s in your interest to follow the advice given to you by your attorney. Your lawyer will be there with you for all court hearings. In most situations, it’s wise to allow your attorney to speak on behalf. Keep in mind that anything you say in court can be used against you by the prosecution.

Enlighten Your Attorney

The discovery phase of federal charges is long. During this time, you may be at home on bail or incarcerated. You will be allowed to meet with your attorney. In order for your attorney to defend you against federal criminal charges, they need to know the evidence and details of the situation. Your attorney will spend a lot of time reviewing and gathering evidence, speaking with witnesses and reviewing documentation presented by the prosecutors. Your attorney may ask you for character witnesses who can testify on your behalf. Your legal representative will do their own due diligence in order to find expert witnesses and lay witnesses who can advance your defense of federal criminal charges.

Cooperate With Your Legal Team

Whether or not you committed the crimes in the federal criminal charges against you, your legal team’s job is to defend you. Cooperating with your attorneys ensures that they have the chance at achieving a reduction of your sentence in the case of a conviction or of presenting enough quality evidence that a judge or a jury has doubt that you committed the crimes for which you are charged.

Determine Whether Additional Charges May Be Filed

In addition to federal charges, you may face state criminal charges. Your attorney can explain whether or not you are likely to face any additional charges. If the government realizes that it cannot prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that you engaged in criminal activity meeting the United States Code, it may present lesser federal charges to the court. It may also defer prosecution to the state attorney for the jurisdiction where the supposed crimes took place. Prepare yourself for a plea bargain, and understand the defense strategy your attorney plans to use.

Let Your Attorney Run the Defense

You may be tempted to speak out, interrupt or otherwise try to defend yourself in court. These disruptions may cause more problems for you. Allow your attorney to run every aspect of your defense in a federal trial. Your attorney’s experience and knowledge of the federal court system gives you the chance of exoneration.

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