If a loved one has recently been arrested by federal law enforcement officials, you understandably may be overwhelmed by stress. Stress may be combined with feelings like frustration, concern, fear and more. While it is reasonable to feel a cascade of conflicting emotions, it is important to maintain a level head. Your loved one will benefit from your full support at this time, but what can you do to help? The reality is that your actions at this point in the legal process could impact the case in critical ways.
Research Lawyers Carefully
The first step to take after a loved one has been arrested for a federal criminal offense is to hire a lawyer. In some cases, your family member may have been aware that he or she was the target of a criminal investigation, and an attorney may already be contracted. If so, you should connect with the criminal defense lawyer to discuss the most recent development. If your family member used his or her one phone call to reach you, your attention to this matter is crucial. Keep in mind that the initial court appearance after an arrest should take place no more than 72 hours afterward. The attorney needs as much time as possible to prepare.
If a criminal defense attorney has not yet been hired, it may fall on your shoulders to research the options carefully. Because an attorney needs to be engaged promptly, your research should begin as soon as you learn of the arrest. There may be numerous federal criminal defense attorneys serving your area, but be aware that they are not all the same. Most criminal defense attorneys specialize in a specific type of crime. You do not want to hire a DWI defense attorney for an armed bank robbery case because the attorney simply would not have knowledge of relevant case law and defense strategies. Because of this, you should initially narrow down your search for a defense attorney to those individuals with a relevant specialization.
You may have now narrowed down the options to a handful of attorneys. To further hone in on the right professional for the job, focus on specific work experiences. You can often learn about a professional’s background online, but you may need to make specific inquiries about relevant cases. You may also consider any related organizations the lawyer is affiliated with that could benefit the case.
Before making a hiring decision on behalf of your loved one, you should focus on a few additional factors. For example, does the individual have an excessively long track record of accepting plea bargains? Plea bargains offer value in some cases, but there are other times when a trial by jury may produce the most optimal outcome for the defendant. The attorney should not shy away from a courtroom battle. You may also inquire about the experiences of additional staff members who may be assigned to work on your family member’s case.
Request a Legal Consultation
At this point, you may have a handful of criminal defense lawyers in mind. You should immediately contact them to schedule an initial consultation. Many lawyers offer free consultations, so you should not shy away from using these opportunities to interview them before making a hiring decision. During an initial consultation, you can discuss the specific details of the case as you know them. This is also the time to inquire about the lawyer’s specific experiences that may be relevant to your loved one’s case.
A legal consultation also gives you the chance to get a feel for the lawyer’s personal skills. Is the lawyer a good communicator? Is he or she trustworthy and supportive? Keep in mind that some lawyers may try to earn business by telling you what you want to hear, but you should be wary of this approach. Your loved one is caught in a serious situation. You need a lawyer who will be honest with you even if the facts are hard to hear.
Learn About the Federal Criminal Process
Once a lawyer’s services have been engaged, you should let the lawyer take the lead. The lawyer will meet with his or her new client and will assume control of the situation. At this point, you will take on a supportive role. If you are not familiar with the federal criminal process, learning more about it is a great place to start. The process can be lengthy. The first steps after an arrest are usually an initial court appearance, the establishment of pretrial release terms and a review of the charges that the individual faces. This is followed by phases like discovery, filing initial motions and possibly plea bargaining. After potentially several months and if a plea bargain is not structured, the case will go to trial. This may be followed by sentencing and appeals if a guilty verdict is reached.
Has your loved one recently been arrested? Raiser & Kenniff Law Group is a team of criminal defense lawyers with a wide range of specializations. To request a consultation with one of our defense attorneys, contact the office today.