Appearance before a magistrate judge
At the initial court appearance, the US magistrate judge informs the accused persons about the charges’ scope and nature against them. Following 18 USC § 3142, the magistrate judge will review the case’s circumstances and look at the accused’s background. The judge will then decide whether the accused qualifies for release on conditions pending the hearing.
Who should appear at the hearing
There are several scenarios where you are required to appear before a federal judge.
In this scenario, you, as the accused, will learn about a pending investigation against you through the so-called target letter. The federal prosecutor informs you about an alleged federal crime and invites you to appear for testimonials before a grand jury. This scenario allows the defendant to consult with an attorney and almost always voluntarily appear accompanied by a lawyer.
In this scenario, the accused person gets arrested by federal law enforcement officers such as DEA agents, FBI agents, ICE agents, or agents from the Inspector General Office. In most cases, the arrest happens with the help of local police, and later the accused is arraigned before a federal judge.
Role of the lawyer
For the above scenario, an experienced criminal defense lawyer’s role is to convince the federal judge that the accused person presents no danger to the community and that he or she has no plans to flee the country or the residential district. The lawyer also has to convince the judge that the defendant will comply with all required registration and reporting requirements, and for that, the defendant deserves to remain free.
Factors that the court considers
The due process clause of the Fifth Amendment in the US Constitution, the Bail Reform Act of 1984, and the Excessive Bail Clause of the Eighth Amendment of the US constitution control the release or the detention of an accused person during trial.>
The judge considers several factors to determine the defendant’s pretrial custody status under 18 USC § 3141 and 18 USC § 3142.
These factors include:
- Nature of the offense
- Accused persons previous arrests and convictions
- Accused persons probation or parole status
- The potential danger to other people and the community at large
- Accused person financial resources to flee
- Defendants foreign ties
- Defendants likelihood to hide or destroy evidence
- Defendant citizenship
- Defendants age
- Defendants lawful or unlawful residence in the country
- Defendant medical condition
- Defendant likelihood of committing a future crime pending continuation of the case
Conditional releases bond
The judge grants conditional releases with several restrictions to the accused and scheduled monitoring by a US probation officer.
The conditional releases mean that you, as the defendant, you have to surrender your passport, domestic and foreign. You will also have to cooperate by regularly visiting a US probation officer assigned to your case.
Additionally, the defendant is expected not to communicate in any form with co-defendants and victims or known criminals. The defended must also pass a random alcohol and drug test and provide employment proof and documents related to mental and physical health.
Vacations of condition
If the defendant is on this condition, he/she is free to leave and remains a free citizen pending further orders. Violation of the situation, guilty pleading on re-arraignment, found guilty at trial, and incarceration judgment may alter a court release order.
Offenses that involve possession or misuse of firearms, crimes against children, violence, or dangerous weapons may attract pretrial detention. Also, crimes that attract a maximum term of imprisonment of ten and above years, offenses with a potential life or death sentence, and crimes involving the violation of the Controlled Substances Act are likely to result in pretrial detention.