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The Spodek Law Group understands how delicate high-profile cases can be, and has a strong track record of getting positive outcomes. Our lawyers service a clientele that is nationwide. With offices in both LA and NYC, and cases all across the country - Spodek Law Group is a top tier law firm.

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I’ve Been Charged with a Federal Crime – What Are the Steps After Arrest?

By Spodek Law Group | October 19, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 20, 2023)

Last Updated on: 20th October 2023, 04:35 pm


What Happens After You’re Arrested for a Federal Crime?

Being arrested for a federal crime can be an incredibly stressful and confusing experience. Unlike state charges, the federal criminal justice system has different rules, procedures, and potential penalties.

If you’ve been charged with a federal offense, it’s important to understand the steps after an arrest and how to navigate the complex federal legal system. Having an experienced federal criminal defense attorney on your side can make all the difference.

The Booking Process

After being arrested, the first stop is usually the local police station or county jail where you’ll be photographed, fingerprinted, and officially booked. This involves documenting your charges and personal information. You may also be subject to additional searches and have your personal belongings confiscated.

Within 48 hours of your arrest, you’ll go before a judge or magistrate for an initial appearance. This is where the judge ensures you understand the charges against you, that you can afford an attorney, and makes decisions about bail.

Understanding Federal Bail

For federal crimes, bail conditions and requirements tend to be more stringent than state charges. The bail reform act of 1984 lays out factors judges consider for federal bail:

  • The nature and circumstances of the offense charged
  • The weight of the evidence against you
  • Your history and characteristics, including criminal record, employment, family ties, etc.
  • Whether you’re viewed as a flight risk or danger to the community

Unlike state courts, federal law requires you to post at least 10% of the bail amount upfront. Bail can be denied altogether if the judge views you as a flight risk or threat. For example, bail is often denied in federal drug trafficking, terrorism, and capital cases.

Jail Time Before Trial

After the initial appearance, you may be held in jail pending trial. Federal defendants can be detained pre-trial if the judge views them as a flight risk or danger. Jail conditions for federal pre-trial detention are generally better than state jails.

However, pre-trial incarceration can last months or even years in complex federal cases. This is because the Speedy Trial Act requires federal criminal trials to begin within 70 days of an indictment or initial appearance. But this deadline can be extended for many reasons, like co-defendant scheduling conflicts, pre-trial motions, or delays in evidence analysis.

Understanding the Federal Charges

Federal indictment charges will outline the specific federal statutes you’re accused of violating. It’s critical to carefully review the charges with your attorney to understand:

  • The nature of the offense – felony, misdemeanor, regulatory, etc.
  • The potential penalties you’re facing if convicted
  • The facts and evidence the government intends to prove
  • Any sentencing enhancements that may apply

Unlike state laws, federal statutes often carry lengthy mandatory minimums and enhanced sentencing ranges even for first-time offenders.

Considering a Plea Deal

The vast majority of federal cases end in a plea bargain rather than trial. After thoroughly examining the evidence, many defendants decide to negotiate a plea deal to reduce the charges and potential sentence. But the decision to plead guilty involves weighing many factors:

  • The strength of the government’s case and likelihood of conviction at trial
  • The potential penalty if convicted versus the plea offer
  • Collateral consequences like deportation, loss of benefits, etc.
  • Time already served pre-trial

An experienced federal criminal lawyer can advise if a plea is advantageous versus risking trial and advise on negotiating the best deal possible.

Preparing for Trial

If no acceptable plea agreement is reached, the next step is preparing for trial. Your attorney will file pre-trial motions to suppress evidence, dismiss charges, or request other rulings from the judge. This is also when defense investigations, witness interviews, expert analysis, and other trial preparation occurs.

Less than 3% of federal defendants go to trial, but those who do face additional risks. Federal trial convictions often result in significantly longer sentences than pleading guilty. The stakes are high, so having an aggressive trial lawyer is critical.

The Sentencing Process

If convicted, the final stage is criminal sentencing. Federal sentences tend to be longer than state sentences and the rules are complex. Here’s what to expect:

  • A pre-sentence report is prepared analyzing your background, criminal history, and advising a guideline range
  • Your lawyer argues for the lowest sentence based on mitigating factors
  • The judge analyzes sentencing guidelines and statutes to impose a final sentence

Federal judges must consider the sentencing guidelines but have discretion to depart from the recommended range. An experienced federal sentencing attorney can thoroughly analyze the guidelines and argue for leniency.

Understanding the Appeal Process

If you disagree with your conviction or sentence, you can appeal to a higher federal court. The notice of appeal must be filed within 14 days of judgment. Appeals raise legal errors like:

  • Violations of your constitutional rights
  • Prosecutorial misconduct
  • Incorrect rulings on pre-trial motions
  • Incorrect application of sentencing guidelines

However, legal errors must be preserved on the record during trial to be appealable. And statistically, federal criminal convictions are rarely overturned. So having an experienced trial and appellate lawyer is key.

Takeaways After a Federal Arrest

The bottom line is a federal arrest starts an uphill legal battle with high stakes. The federal system has unique rules and procedures, harsh sentencing practices, and skillful prosecutors. So protecting your rights requires an attorney with specialized federal criminal defense experience. Don’t hesitate to call a lawyer after an arrest – early intervention can often achieve the best results.

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