Arkansas Federal Criminal Lawyers
Federal criminal charges in Arkansas can be extremely serious, carrying substantial penalties and collateral consequences. That’s why it’s critical to have an experienced federal criminal defense attorney on your side if you are facing charges. This article provides an overview of federal criminal law in Arkansas and how a knowledgeable lawyer can defend your rights.
The Benefits of Hiring Local Counsel
While people often think of hiring a big national law firm for a federal case, there are advantages to retaining an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer local to Arkansas. These include:
- Knowledge of Local Courts – A local lawyer will have insight into the prosecutors, judges, and procedures specific to federal courts in Arkansas.
- Relationships with Prosecutors – An Arkansas-based attorney is more likely to have connections with federal prosecutors, which can help in negotiating pleas or bonds.
- Convenience – It’s easier to meet and communicate with a lawyer located in the same area rather than out of state.
- Lower Rates – Local lawyers tend to offer more reasonable rates than large national firms.
- Dedicated Representation – A local lawyer is more likely to give you personalized attention rather than pass you off to junior associates.
- Community Standing – A lawyer known and respected in the local legal community can hold more sway.
So don’t assume you have to hire a lawyer from DC or New York to get the best representation. There are plenty of extremely talented federal defense attorneys right in Arkansas.
Common Preliminary Steps in Federal Cases
Once federal charges are filed, there are many preliminary steps in the criminal process that your lawyer can guide you through:
Initial Appearance – This hearing is typically held within 24 hours of your arrest. This is where bail terms and conditions of release are determined. Your lawyer can argue for the least restrictive release terms.
Preliminary Hearing – For felony cases, this must be held within 14 days of your initial appearance. This is where prosecutors must show probable cause that you committed the crime. Your lawyer can argue there is insufficient evidence to proceed.
Grand Jury – Federal prosecutors will present evidence to a grand jury to seek an indictment formally charging you. Your lawyer can testify before the grand jury and argue against indictment.
Arraignment – This hearing is where you are formally advised of the charges against you and enter a plea (guilty, not guilty, no contest). Your lawyer will guide you on the strategic advantages of different pleas.
Discovery – Your lawyer will file motions compelling prosecutors to turn over all evidence collected in the investigation, including items that may help your defense.
Pretrial Motions – Your lawyer can file motions challenging the validity of the charges, the evidence, or the grand jury process. If successful, charges could get dismissed before trial.
Plea Negotiations – Your lawyer will meet with prosecutors to negotiate a plea bargain that reduces charges and limits your sentence.
Having an experienced attorney in your corner during these initial stages can set the tone for the entire case.
Potential Benefits of Pleading Guilty
While pleading guilty means giving up your right to trial and accepting conviction, there are potential benefits your lawyer may advise you to consider:
- Lesser Charges – Pleading guilty can be leverage to get more serious charges dropped or reduced.
- Lighter Sentence – Prosecutors may recommend a lighter sentence or agree not to oppose a request for a variance.
- Avoid Mandatory Minimums – Pleading guilty and cooperating can qualify for exceptions to mandatory minimums through things like the “safety valve.”
- Eliminate Uncertainty – Pleading guilty eliminates the uncertainty of trial and likelihood of a harsher sentence if convicted.
- Show of Remorse – Expressing remorse and accepting responsibility through a guilty plea can earn favor with the judge.
- Avoid “Trial Penalty” – Judges often hand down tougher sentences after trial to defendants who don’t accept responsibility.