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Criminal prosecutions in the United States can be started at both the state and federal level. Each state has their own statutes, penal codes, and criminal proceedings for different infractions. However, the federal government system remains the same throughout all fifty states. All federal criminal legislation is employed the same way in each state, regardless of whether it’s rural or densely populated, culturally religious or interested in technology. The United States has hundreds of different individual cultures spread throughout its geography, but the federal criminal justice system is the same no matter where you are.
There are a number of different ways that you may find a government entity or attorney showing interest in you. In fact, when you’re being approached by a government agent in response to a federal investigation, it’s generally because of any one of five circumstances. Of those five circumstances, an arrest warrant is the worst way to be approached.
An arrest warrant is, as the name implies, a warrant for your arrest. To secure an arrest warrant, the United States Attorney’s Office building the case against you must have gone to a federal judge to be given a warrant. This means that you can be arrested, charged, and brought through the prosecution process. If you’re arrested, you should immediately invoke your right to counsel. It’s imperative that you have your lawyer there as fast as possible. Your defense attorney is the only person throughout this process who will be working for your best interests. Law enforcement officials may use manipulation tactics to try to convince you that they care about your best interests, but they don’t.
Being arrested and charged in federal court isn’t necessarily the end of the world, especially if you have a skilled lawyer. But what should concern you is the number of steps that had to be taken to secure that federal arrest warrant.
Federal investigations are conducted by one or more federal law enforcement agencies. The most well-known is the FBI, but the IRS and Secret Service and other federal regulatory bodies are also capable of criminal investigations. When the agents believe they’ve gathered notable evidence of a crime, they’ll bring their findings to the United States Attorney’s office. The attorney’s office and the law enforcement entity will work together to investigate and formulate a case. It’s the same way that local police and the local District Attorney’s office will work together when conducting criminal investigations on a state level.
Depending on the circumstances, you might have had some warning about the investigation prior to the arrest warrant. A government agent might have approached you with questions. They may have been inquiring about your witness potential for a case they were putting together, discussing your potential as a person of interest in a current investigation, or informing you that you were the subject of a federal investigation. Subjects of investigations are required to be notified by law about the investigation before the case is taken further in court.
The fourth way that law enforcement may have approached you is to inform you that you are the official target of an investigation. Being a target is one of the worst possible outcomes, and it’s a sign that you should talk to your lawyer immediately. When a person is the target of an investigation, it means that the prosecution and law enforcement both believe that they are the perpetrator of serious criminal activity. A person is usually only considered a target if the law enforcement officials want to arrest them but don’t believe they have enough compelling evidence to make the charges stick.
The final tier is the arrest warrant. That’s what happens when you’ve gone from being the target of an investigation to being actively prosecuted. Arrest warrants will not be issued unless the prosecution has already created a case with compelling and devastating evidence against you. Typically, the evidence will be more than circumstantial facts and conjecture.
Not only is an arrest warrant only issued after the prosecution has created a serious case against you, but there’s an involved process to securing one. On the state level, arrest warrants can often be secured by presenting criminal evidence to a judge. But for a federal arrest warrant to be issued, the prosecution must have shown a federal judge or a grand jury enough evidence to convince them that you might well have committed the crime in question.
A federal arrest warrant doesn’t mean that you’ve been proven guilty. This is just the first step in the process. But it does mean that a judge or a jury of your peers has seen enough evidence to believe that you had cause and motive to commit the crime in question. If you’ve been arrested for a federal criminal prosecution, wheels are already in motion. You need your federal defense attorney to protect you.