Understanding the Federal Court Process
In the United States, criminal prosecutions can be held at either the state or the federal level. Federal criminal cases can begin when one of two scenarios occurs. The first is that an individual files a criminal complaint. The second is that an individual is indicted for a crime.
Criminal complaints are documents prepared by the United States Attorney’s office alongside whatever federal law enforcement agency conducted the investigation of the case. Some of the most common entities are the Secret Service, FBI, and IRS. The complaint will be presented to a federal judge. When the judge reviews the facts outlined in the complaint, they will decide whether there is an indicator that a federal crime has been committed by the person being charged.
It’s impossible to convict a person based purely on a criminal complaint. The complaint isn’t a case against them, and the judge’s determination of probable cause isn’t the same as a guilty verdict. The judge is merely determining whether there’s enough evidence that the person might have committed the crime to investigate further. When the complaint has been approved and filed, the defendant will be notified, and the government is given thirty days to present their findings to a grand jury. If the grand jury decides there’s probable cause, they can indict the person.
When an entity or individual is indicted, a formal criminal charge has been brought against them. Indictments are handed out by grand juries. Grand juries are twenty-three citizens who are tasked with hearing preliminary evidence in federal court. These people will then deliberate about whether sufficient evidence has been provided to show that a crime might have been committed. The deliberations of a grand jury are held in secret. When the grand jury decides there’s enough evidence to proceed with a criminal charge, they will vote for an indictment. The office of the US Attorney will prepare the indictment document and present it to the federal court.
When the indictment has been filed, there’s now a clear way for the criminal case to proceed. Federal law states that after the filing of an indictment and the awareness of the defendant, there is a seventy day period in which the case must go to trial. This short time period is a very busy one. The government is required to provide the defendant and the defense attorney with all of the gathered evidence and other materials.
Once all the evidence has been provided to the attorney, they and their client will review the details of the case. The attorney will explain the scope of the situation, the options going forward, and the strategies they might employ. Each case will be slightly different, so an experienced lawyer who can analyze and plan is essential.
One of the options is for the defense attorney to file court motions. A motion is a formal request that the court provides an inquiry regarding a particular matter or investigates the methods by which certain documents were obtained. This motion is typically filed if there’s a suspicion that the information was acquired through means that aren’t legal. Illegally acquired information is not admissible to be used in court.
When the discovery is complete, the court has ruled on all filed motions, and preliminary hearings have been held, the case will go to trial. Trials in the federal court are prosecuted by the government. The federal government is responsible for proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant has committed the crime. All federal prosecutions are tried before a panel of twelve jurors.
In addition to the prosecution presenting their case, the defense will also have a chance to question the prosecution’s witnesses, challenge the evidence, provide new evidence in the defense, and call their own witnesses.
Rather than being a majority vote, the panel of jurors cannot come back with a guilty verdict until all twelve of them are certain that the defendant is guilty. If even one of the jurors is unconvinced, they must either continue deliberating until all are in agreement, or they must give a not guilty verdict. Though the trial process begins within seventy days of the filed motion, the actual trial can last for anywhere from a couple months to several years. It all depends on the crime being tried, the amount of evidence, and the number of witnesses.
At any point during this process, the defendant has the option to plead guilty. This means that they admit to having committed the crime and submit to the sentencing of the court. There are also some cases in which the federal government offers a plea bargain, in which the defendant has the option to plead guilty to lesser charges and serve a reduced sentence.
All available options should be discussed between the defendant and their attorney.
Confessions in Federal Court
Just because you confess to a crime, it doesn’t mean that you’ll be found guilty or even have your confession used as evidence against you. In federal court, a confession needs to adhere to certain standards in order to be considered valid. It’s crucial that you understand these requirements to prevent your rights from being encroached by the government.
Do you have to talk?
Due to their authoritative status and psychological tactics, federal law enforcement can make you feel like you need to answer any questions that they ask. The right to remain silent is a constant privilege that should never be taken for granted. Even if you’re innocent, talking to law enforcement can do serious harm to your case. Federal law enforcement officers ask questions that will help them with their case against you. Don’t let yourself feel pressured to speak when you don’t feel comfortable doing so. They can call you hostile, but it doesn’t change your constitutional rights.
There are circumstances in which you will need to speak to law enforcement and that it would be in your best interest to do so. If you’ve been offered immunity, you are free from prosecution under special circumstances. Things you say to federal law enforcement regarding the ongoing will not be used against you, but you need to be careful with what you say and who you say it to. You need a verifiable certification (ideally in writing) that your private testimony will not lead to arrest. This doesn’t mean you can just confess to crimes with no consequence, but it does grant you more wiggle room if approached by law enforcement.
Being read your rights
When you’re told that you have the right to remain silent (as part of your Miranda warning), do not view it as being white noise. This right is incredibly meaningful and can mean the difference between having a confession or not. Sometimes, law enforcement will try to get you to confess without realizing you’re doing so. While you’re under investigation, they may come to your home to ask you questions. You have the right to answer their questions or remain silent and wait for them to leave. However, if you do speak under these circumstances, you are liable to have anything you say being valid as admissible evidence in court. The only person who is making you talk in those circumstances is yourself.
Law enforcement can ask you questions and you can choose whether or not you answer. What they can’t do is put you in a situation where you have no choice but to give into their demands to confess. Any sort of violent retaliation or threats to get you to confess is grounds to void a confession. Feeling pressure to confess is not the same thing as being forced to confess. As long as law enforcement makes it clear that you’re under no obligation to talk to them, they’re legally covered.
Vacating a confession
If you end up regretting a confession, you might have grounds to have it stricken from the record. You can’t do this just because you want to take back what you said. There needs to be evidence that your confession was made under unfair circumstances. A motion to suppress can be presented to the court. The success of this hinges on how well your lawyer can persuade the judge regarding the invalidity of the confession. Even if you have to proceed with your trial, having a confession no longer counted among the evidence means that your odds of success are bettered.
Federal law enforcement is not above using manipulative tactics to wring a confession out of you. If you find yourself saying something you wish you hadn’t, don’t despair. Work your way back to what sparked the confession and whether or not it can be considered legally valid.
Confessions in Federal Court
If you are being investigated for a federal crime, the federal agents assigned to your case will most likely attempt to obtain a confession. Speaking with these agents means giving them the information that they can use against you in court. Federal agents often make you feel like you have to speak with them, however this is actually not the case. With Fifth Amendment, you are protected against self-incrimination. When dealing with federal agents, have a presence of mind and always utilize your right to remain silent, along with the right to an attorney. Your criminal lawyer will fight to uphold your legal rights and may be able to have your statement suppressed if it was implicating and forced. If you are facing criminal charges, get in touch with a defense lawyer as soon as possible to start constituting a strong defense and to learn more about confessions in federal court.
Using Your Fifth Amendment Right to Remain Silent
Remember that a federal agent cannot legally compel you to be a witness against yourself in a criminal case. You should never be put in a position where you have to choose between lying and condemning yourself. Keep in mind that you can lawfully choose to remain silent especially when a federal agent shows up at your doorstep and starts asking questions about your case. Before speaking with the agent, make sure to contact a lawyer right away. At Spodek Law group, we operate 24/7 and a representative is always available to answer any questions you may have and provide unrivalled legal advice to help you navigate the initial stage of your federal case.
What is Self-Incrimination? Defending Against Federal Charges in USA
The Fifth Amendment to the Bill of Rights protects you from self-incrimination. This means cops or other federal agents may legally ask you questions about facts that are unrelated to your involvement in a case, but they require you to answer interviews that equate to an admission of guilt, either inside or outside of court. Moreover, agents are lawfully allowed to interrogate you with questions that may point to the guilt of another person. If they provide you with a written agreement letter that offers you “immunity”, you can respond to their interrogations about your case. If they promise not to prosecute you and you agree, you are required to answer any questions they may have.
The penalties for lying to a federal agent are severe. However, there is no punishment for choosing not to speak. Remember to never take action alone before you have a lawyer by your side. If you are in doubt or have questions about whether or not to talk to a federal agent, reach out to a member of the Spodek Law Group team. We are knowledgeable and fully equipped in defending and protecting individuals accused of federal crimes and know what it takes to achieve a favorable outcome.
Understanding the Miranda Warning and Your Rights during Investigation
Confessions are not considered forced if officials have informed you of your right to remain silent. Prior to interrogation, the Miranda Warning is given to suspects in custody to ensure that statements made by the accused are admissible in court. If federal agents inform you of your rights and you make a statement that demonstrates your guilt, it can and most likely will be used against you. You may feel forced to answer their questions, especially when they show up at your house unexpectedly and utilize aggressive investigative tactics. It is important to think before you speak, and better not to speak at all when interacting with federal agents. Keep in mind that you are not obligated to talk to them, and if they don’t have a warrant, they have no right to be on your property. Protecting your rights and choosing to remain silent will not have a negative impact on the conclusion of your case.
Our Approach to Federal Criminal Cases
At Spodek Law Group, we strive to keep you informed throughout the stages of your case. We are dedicated to providing you with the information necessary to achieve the best outcome possible, and will tirelessly battle to defend your legal rights. If you have been accused of a federal crime, contact Spodek Law Group via phone or through our online enquiry form to get on track to proving your innocence. We have extensive experience defending the wrongly accused and are ready to put our talent, capability and knowledge to work in your criminal case.
Contact Spodek Law Group for 24/7 Criminal Defense
A skilled member of our federal defense team can be reached 24/7 to help you in your federal criminal case. Contact us online or call us to receive a free initial case consultation and to learn more about confessions in federal court. The sooner you get in touch with a top-tier defense attorney, the higher your chances are of achieving a desirable outcome. At Spodek Law Group, we will provide you with astute legal advice and guide you through the confusing aspects of the investigative stage of your case. If necessary, we will represent you in court and fight to win your case. If you are in need of legal assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out to our talented team today and learn more about the options available for your case.