Do Most Federal Criminal Cases Even Go To Trial?
In all of our legal training, and continuing education courses across the nation, most federal cases do not proceed to trial. The Eastern District of Virginia follows the same trend. That is largely attributable to the fact that most federal prosecutions vary from state prosecutions in one major way. Most federal prosecutions are instigated, or commenced by an investigation. Law enforcement, whether it is DEA or ATF, receive information that starts an investigation, and because they have the resources backed by the federal government, they can investigate bank records, or computer records. They are able to set up surveillance for days, weeks, and even months at a time. They are able to offer money to cooperating witnesses, snitches, and informants to gain information.
Once they have been able to do that for any length of time that is appropriate, then they are able to bring whatever charges against the defendant. Therefore, what you will see in a federal prosecution is going to be usually a lot more evidence than what was gathered prior to the charges. In comparison, in a state case, most of our drug related offenses, or weapons related offenses in state court start at traffic stops. For example, if a person is driving, and does not have their headlights on, runs a stop sign, then that traffic stop leads to an arrest for drugs, it is usually done there at the scene, and if there are any statements made it is done right there. The evidence has to be collected, and the case has to be put together pretty much on the spot.
Very often in state court, there are many areas for defense for you to pick, and in the federal defense system, it is much more labor intensive. Your counsel needs to be in tune with all federal laws, and all applicable federal defenses, and frankly, be willing to put in the time and effort to review the voluminous discovery that comes in most federal cases. They need to help you build your best possible defense.
What Is The Best Advice That You Can Give To Someone Facing federal Charges?
Talk to an attorney, a federal criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Chances are in most of these investigations, if you are facing a federal crime, the United States government already has a two to three year head start. We are working on cases now that are about to be indicted, and the investigation started in 2013. Therefore, our client just now finds out about this. We are very far behind the eight-ball in terms of what evidence they possibly needed to preserve this case from 2013. As soon as you have any inclination that there may be a federal investigation, you need to call a federal criminal defense attorney, and have an open and honest consultation with them. You need to discuss all of your possible options, so you can make your best-informed decision and move forward.
Because we are situated in the Eastern district of Virginia, and the EDVA is the rocket docket, once litigation is instituted against you, and charges are formally brought, things are going to move very fast, much faster than most other districts in the United States. Perhaps in the Southern District of New York, they can get a target letter, and put it on the backburner for six to nine months just because of how fast cases move there. If you get a target letter from the Eastern District of Virginia, you can be facing an indictment within the next three to four weeks in some circumstances.
Do I Still Need A Federal Criminal Defense Attorney If I Haven’t Done Anything Wrong?
You should still at least consult with an attorney. Most federal criminal defense attorneys will offer a first initial free consultation. The problem is even though you have not done anything wrong there is a huge issue when it comes to communicating with federal agents. A section relates to defrauding the federal government and this applies to people who make any kind of fraudulent misrepresentation, or statement to any federal agent. The perfect example would be a federal agent asks you some boilerplate questions about whether you have any knowledge of anyone involved in the trade of heroin in your neighborhood. At the initial meeting, you tell the agent, you cannot think of anyone, and they leave.
Afterwards, if you have a friend that you think might be involved in heroin distribution, and you are not one-hundred percent sure, but you just give that friend a heads up, as most people would do for their friends, and say hey, whatever you are involved in you may want to stop that, because the FBI just came around asking questions. If the FBI is able to figure out that when you made that original statement, you were not aware of anyone involved in drug distribution, and that statement was not truthful, then you yourself could be in federal court facing a felony with a mandatory minimum sentence. All for one statement, you still have not done anything wrong, but you did not give a fully truthful statement to this agent. Therefore, it is very important before you speak with them that you at least consult with an attorney.
Go through anything that could be potential areas of inquiry, and get some advice on how to proceed. The best case scenario would be that you engage the services of an attorney to be present during your interview.
Can Someone Who Is Not A Federal Criminal Defense Attorney Represent Me In a Federal Case?
First, you have to be licensed to practice before the federal courts in any given district. Therefore, not every attorney can handle a case in a federal court. There are ways for attorneys that are not licensed in a federal district to be what we call Ad-Hoc, or Pro-Hoc into a case. They can affiliate with local counsel, someone who is licensed in their district to do that, but it is very important that you make sure that you have somebody who has experience handling these types of cases, especially in that district. Remember, the Eastern District of Virginia is one of the fastest moving districts divided into four divisions. There are particular rules for each specific division, and each specific judge. You have to have someone who is familiar with these.
If you are in Alexandria before a particular judge, and that judge likes courtesy copies of anything that you file dropped off to their office, something as simple as that, or missing that critical step can put you, the defendant behind the eight-ball, because you picked an attorney that does not have federal criminal defense experience.
For more information on Going To Trial On Federal Cases, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (703) 552-2462 today.
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