It’s everyone’s worst nightmare. One second you’re fast asleep. The next, there’s someone banging on your doors. You get up and someone is yelling at you so loudly, the neighbors come running. Suddenly you’re shocked by a police officer or a federal agency. You look up and you see your spouse suddenly awake along with your kids. You and your entire family feel a sense of terror. You may think this is as bad as it’s going to get. And then it happens. You look up and there’s an agent of the federal government. They reach out with handcuffs and they grab your spouse or your child or a parent. In a second, your life is turned upside down. It will never be quite the same. That’s the bad news. You’ll never quite get over that shock of knowing that your home, your very safe space in life, has been forever changed in some very real way.
You might get slightly lucky and they’ll tell you what’s going on. If not, you might be forced to wait hours or even days until it’s all sorted out. Even if they do, you might be too frightened and dazed to remember. In that case, you might also be left worried about your loved one and wondering what the future holds. This is why it’s time to think carefully. Let it all out and relax for a few minutes or even a hour or two. Go ahead and cry. Then clear your head and think about what you need as you go forward. You need to know what’s going to happen and how you should respond to it. Developing a plan as soon as possible should be the next action you take.
The Initial Appearance
When federal agents bring your loved one from your home, they will be taken in front of a judge for a process known as an initial appearance. This is a very important step in the process going forward. At this point the judge will hep you understand certain terms. They will indicate what rights you have and how they affect your loved one right now. A judge will also let the accused know where they’re going to be housed. They may be let out on bail until the case is heard. The judge may also decide to sentence the person you love to a term in the jail even if you can raise bail until any trial begins. If allowed out on bail, your loved one may face certain conditions such as restrictions that do not let them leave the state.
At this point, your goal should be to find out as much information as possible. The people who showed up at your door will probably have given you some form of identification. This should indicate information about their background and the agency they represent. If you’re so stressed, you can’t find the card, there should be papers. They might tell you where the hearing is going to be. You’ll want to be there for your loved to support them as the hearing goes through. This may take some time or it might take place very quickly. Being there is the best way to help ease your loved one through this process from the very start.
If you have a legal background, you might be tempted to act as your loved one’s counsel. This is not a good idea. As their loved one, you are generally too close to them to present them with the counsel they need right now. It’s best to look for a lawyer as soon as you can. The lawyer can help you unravel the conditions that exist right now. They can guide your loved one through the entire process as soon as it happens. They can also help you personally feel less scared and more in control. A lawyers will let you know what’s going on right now and what is likely to happen as you and your loved one going forward. They are the person you need when this happens. They provide the advice you need to develop a thoughtful legal response to this stressful situation.