If you’ve been charged recently with one or more federal crimes, it’s important to understand that the prosecuting attorneys have likely already built a fairly solid case against you. This also means you probably won’t have a lot of time to prepare your defense once the charges are filed. This has to do with the way the federal system works. Because federal law requires a grand jury indictment for most federal charges (especially felonies), the investigators sometimes work for months or years beforehand, gathering evidence in order to convince the grand jury to formally charge you. For you, the defendant, this means you’ll need to act quickly to prepare a good defense. Here are some important steps to take to improve your chances for a positive outcome.
HIRE AN EXPERIENCED CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY
Because time is not on your side when preparing a defense against federal criminal charges, it’s very important to hire a skilled defense attorney, preferably one with plenty of experience in handling federal cases. An experienced attorney will know how to take quick action on your behalf, improving your chances of avoiding a trail. If possible, don’t wait until you’re indicted before taking this step: you should seek an attorney’s advice as soon as you find out you’re being investigated, to allow as much time as possible.
GATHER YOUR EVIDENCE
With many types of federal charges (fraud, for example), the government must prove not just that you committed a crime, but that you intended to commit the crime. Any evidence you can provide to help prove your innocence (e.g., paperwork, phone records, favorable witnesses) may be able to cast reasonable doubt on the charges. In some cases, this can result in charges being dropped or reduced (the government doesn’t like to try cases it’s not reasonably certain it can win), or at least improve your chances at a jury trial. Your attorney will advise you on what types of evidence you can produce to support your defense.
CONSIDER ALL YOUR OPTIONS
The truth is, many federal cases never make it to trial. This is because a good federal defense attorney can negotiate before the trial for mitigated charges, plea bargains and other pre-trial strategies. Because prosecutors have worked on your case for awhile before an indictment is filed, in some cases the evidence is strong enough that a conviction is likely, regardless of your guilt or innocence. In cases like these, your attorney may advise you to consider a plea bargain, in which you plead guilty to lesser charges in return for a more lenient sentence. This may or may not be the right choice in your case, but it’s important to consult with your attorney in considering all options so you can decide together which strategy is most likely to produce a positive outcome.
When defending yourself against federal criminal charges, the last thing you want is to be unprepared. To learn more about how to position yourself for the best outcome in a federal case, contact the attorneys at the Federal Criminal Law Center.