You may be notified there are federal criminal charges against you by a letter from the government advising you to appear before a United States Magistrate or you may be arrested without any prior notice.
In either case, without delay you should contact a thoroughly experienced and knowledgeable federal white-collar criminal defense attorney such as Art Leach. In the federal system, rules are many, often complicated and strict, and failure to act in a timely manner on many issues can eliminate the use of those issues at a later critical juncture in the case.
If you receive notice, Art Leach can begin conversations with federal prosecutors on such issues as a bond to allow you to retain your freedom during the legal process. The most important thing for you is to be able to stay free to work with Art on your case or to get you out of detention if you are already behind bars. Art’s 19 years of experience as a federal prosecutor give him extensive knowledge of how to best apply the federal law in your favor and federal law dictates judges must retain or release individuals based only on the federal statutes and rules of law.
Depending on the circumstances you may have an initial appearance before a United States Magistrate and a separate arraignment or the two may be combined. Art will use his years of experience on both sides of the process to guide you through this process, explaining all your options and the pros-and-cons to each.
Federal law requires the government to get you an initial appearance before the appropriate authority “without unnecessary delay,” which in many cases is the next business day, but must occur within 48 hours of the arrest. At your initial appearance the law requires the judge to inform you of the following:
(1) the complaint against you and any affidavit filed with it;
(2) your right to retain counsel or to request that counsel be appointed if you cannot obtain counsel;
(3) the circumstances, if any, under which you may secure pretrial release;
(4) any rights to a preliminary hearing; and
(5) your right not to make a statement, and that any statement made may be used against you.
The law clearly states: “The judge must allow the defendant reasonable opportunity to consult with counsel.”
The bond issue will be taken up during the initial appearance and if Art has been involved in the case early on, this issue should be basically settled before your appearance. If not, Art will use his federal law expertise to argue the law forcibly and demonstrate to the judge why you should be free to assist in the preparation of your defense. As stated above, this proceeding is critically important to the overall success of your case.
You cannot be asked to enter a plea at an initial appearance unless this is joined with the arraignment proceeding. You will be asked to enter a plea to the indictment during your arraignment. The standard procedure is to preserve all your rights by the entry of a not guilty plea. Federal law also mandates the arraignment be conducted in open court (though not in front of a jury), that you be provided a copy of the indictment or information, and that the indictment or information be read or the statement to you of the substance of the charge(s).
Though a formal proceeding, the arraignment process is typically short. From this point forward the charges may not be amended by the government without your appearing before the judge again.
In some cases you may be able to waive appearing personally at an arraignment if a written waiver has been filed and the court accepts the waiver. Art will discuss this option with you.
Art Leach is pleased to answer any questions regarding how he can assist you during your initial appearance and arraignment on federal white-collar charges.