27 Nov 23

What to Do When You Are Charged with a Federal Crime in NYC

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Last Updated on: 15th December 2023, 11:10 am


What to Do When You’re Charged with a Federal Crime in NYC

Being charged with a federal crime is scary. Even if you’re innocent, the Feds have lots of power and money to come after you. Don’t panic though! This article will walk you through what to do step-by-step, so you can protect yourself.

Get a Lawyer ASAP

The very first thing you need to do is get a lawyer. Seriously, call one right now! Federal cases are super complicated, so you need someone in your corner who understands all the rules and laws. A good federal defense attorney can analyze the charges against you, build a defense case, and negotiate with prosecutors for you. They’re basically your guide through the whole messy legal process.

If you can’t afford a private lawyer, don’t worry! You can get a public defender appointed by the court to represent you for free. Public defenders are real lawyers with a lot of experience in federal cases. The only downside is they have a lot of clients, so may not be able to focus on you as much. But it’s still better than facing federal prosecution alone!

Understand the Charges Against You

The next step is to sit down with your new lawyer and have them explain exactly what you’ve been charged with. Some common federal crimes in NYC include:

  • Drug crimes – selling drugs, trafficking, distribution, etc.
  • Financial crimes – tax evasion, wire fraud, identity theft
  • Public corruption – bribery, extortion, kickbacks
  • Civil rights violations
  • Cybercrimes – hacking, computer fraud

Your lawyer can tell you which specific laws you allegedly broke. For example, maybe you’re looking at charges under 21 U.S. Code § 841 for drug distribution. Knowing the exact charges helps you understand how serious your situation is, and start building a defense.

Don’t Talk to Anyone But Your Lawyer

This one is crucial – do NOT talk to anyone about your case except your lawyer! Not friends, not family, no one. Something innocent you say could come back to haunt you. So keep your mouth shut!

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In particular, never speak to police or investigators without your lawyer present. That’s an easy way to accidentally confess something you shouldn’t. Just politely decline to answer questions. You have the right to remain silent!

Consider Taking a Plea Deal

Over 90% of federal cases end in plea deals, not trials. That’s because the Feds win over 80% of trials! The risks of losing at trial and getting a long sentence are usually so high that making a deal is the safer choice.

Of course, whether to take a plea or go to trial is a big personal decision you need to make carefully with your lawyer. Make sure you understand exactly what you’re pleading guilty to, what rights you have to give up, and what sentence recommendations you get in exchange.

Don’t Miss Court Dates

Once you’re charged, the court sets various hearings and deadlines for your case. It’s super important to make it to every single one – otherwise you could get your bail revoked or even get a warrant for your arrest! So mark those court dates in your calendar and don’t be late.

If there’s some emergency that will make you miss court, tell your lawyer immediately so they can inform the judge and try to reschedule for you. But this should only happen in rare serious circumstances (like a hospitalization), not just because you feel like skipping.

Get Your Finances in Order

Federal criminal cases are extremely expensive. Just having a lawyer represent you through the process can cost >$100k! Then if you go to trial, get ready to pay hundreds of thousands more.

Very few people have that kind of money laying around. So start figuring out your financial situation early – can you or your family afford the legal fees? Will you need a loan or to cash out assets like a house? Understanding the costs will help you make informed choices when building a legal strategy.

Oh, and don’t try to hide assets or money from the Feds! That’s another crime and you’ll just dig yourself deeper into trouble.

Don’t Panic! Stay Strong Mentally

Being prosecuted by the full force of the federal government is scary. Like losing sleep, not eating, stressed to the max kind of scary. But you need to do your best to stay calm and focused, so you can make smart choices about fighting your case.

Lean on friends and family for emotional support during this difficult time. Take deep breaths when you start feeling overwhelmed. Try exercising or meditating to clear your mind. And keep reminding yourself that people get through this ordeal every day – you will too!

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Having an optimistic mindset and strong mental health is just as important as having a good lawyer when facing federal charges. So take care of yourself while you navigate the legal process.

Be Truthful with Your Lawyer

Being accused of a crime makes people scared and defensive. You might have the instinct to minimize what you did wrong or even lie about it to your lawyer. Don’t give in to that urge! Your lawyer can only build the best defense for your case if they know all the truthful details.

What you tell your lawyer is confidential due to attorney-client privilege. That means they can’t repeat it to anyone without your permission, no matter what you admit to. So be 100% open and honest with them when explaining your actions – it’s the smart way to protect yourself.

Don’t Violate Bail or Do Anything Illegal

If you’re allowed pretrial release from jail, follow your bail conditions closely! That likely means not leaving New York City, staying off drugs or alcohol, avoiding weapons, and having no contact with victims/witnesses. Violating any of those terms means your bail will get revoked and you’re back behind bars.

And of course, don’t commit any new crimes while awaiting trial! Getting arrested again makes you look really bad to the judge and prosecutors. Then they fight even harder to get you a harsh sentence. So be on your absolute best behavior.

Having federal charges over your head is super stressful. But handle your business properly, listen to your lawyer, and with some luck maybe you’ll get a good outcome. We’re all rooting for you!

21 U.S. Code § 841
Federal Criminal Trials and Convictions | Pew Research Center