Finding the Right Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer in Maryland
When facing federal charges, it’s crucial to have the right lawyer with experience in federal court. Here are important factors to consider when retaining a federal criminal defense attorney in Maryland:
- Find an attorney focused on federal defense – Some criminal defense lawyers handle mostly state cases. You want someone who specializes in federal cases and knows the system inside out.
- Look for years of experience – Handling federal criminal cases takes extensive experience and specialized skills. Find a lawyer with at least 10 to 15 years of federal criminal defense work.
- Make sure they have trial experience – Even if you end up taking a plea deal, your leverage in negotiating depends on your lawyer’s ability and willingness to take your case to trial. Look for a lawyer with many federal jury trials under their belt.
- Consider credentials – Board certification in criminal law, membership in legal associations, awards, and other credentials indicate an attorney is highly regarded in the legal community and up to date on the latest criminal defense strategies.
- Find someone you’re comfortable with – You need an attorney you can be fully open with and who makes you feel confident they will fight relentlessly for you. Trust your gut when interviewing lawyers.
- Understand the fees – Federal criminal defense can involve high fees, but also potentially high stakes. Make sure you understand the fee structure and what services are covered.
The Benefits of Early Intervention by a Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you believe you are being investigated for a federal crime or may soon be contacted by federal agents, it’s critical to involve a defense lawyer immediately, before charges are filed. A lawyer can help in key ways:
- Avoid questioning – Your lawyer can interact with investigators on your behalf so you don’t have to submit to questioning. Anything you say can be used against you.
- Negotiate a declination – In some cases, your attorney may be able to convince prosecutors to decline filing charges by arguing weaknesses in their case.
- Gather evidence – Your lawyer can start gathering evidence and witness statements early to rebut any allegations against you. These can be lost over time.
- Send a message – Hiring counsel shows prosecutors you are taking the investigation seriously and will vigorously fight any potential charges. This can deter them from pursuing prosecution.
- Build a defense – The earlier you hire a lawyer, the more time you have to build a comprehensive defense in the event you do get charged.
- Avoid arrest – In some cases, involving counsel early can prevent an arrest from happening in the first place, sparing you this trauma.
- Mitigate penalties – Even if charges do get filed, early intervention greatly improves the chances of negotiating reduced charges and penalties.
The most successful federal criminal defense outcomes start with early retention of an experienced attorney. Don’t wait until after you’ve been charged – get experienced legal counsel on your side immediately if you believe federal investigators are targeting you.
Overview of the Federal Criminal Process in Maryland
If you do end up getting charged with a federal crime in Maryland, here is a basic overview of the process:
- Arrest and initial appearance – If arrested, you will be brought before a judge promptly, informed of charges, and have bail set. Don’t say anything without your lawyer present.
- Preliminary hearing – Within 14 days, the judge will determine if there is probable cause to support the charges and require you to stand trial. Your lawyer can argue against this finding.
- Grand jury indictment – The prosecution will present evidence to a grand jury to try to obtain an indictment affirming the charges. Your lawyer can testify before the grand jury on your behalf.
- Arraignment – You appear in court, are informed of the formal charges against you, and enter an initial plea of guilty or not guilty.
- Pretrial motions and discovery – Your lawyer will file motions challenging the validity of the charges, and both sides exchange evidence and witness lists.
- Plea negotiations – Your attorney will negotiate with the prosecutor on a potential plea deal to reduce charges and/or penalties.
- Trial – If no plea agreement, your case will proceed to trial before a judge and jury. Your lawyer will zealously argue for acquittal on all charges.
- Sentencing – If found guilty at trial, or you plead guilty, your lawyer will advocate for the lowest possible sentence under the federal guidelines.
Having an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer to guide you through this complex process is not optional – it’s mandatory. The legal advocacy and expertise of an attorney well-versed in federal law and procedure can make the difference between a lengthy prison term and maintaining your freedom.