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When you’re facing a federal issue, you need an attorney whose going to be available 24/7 to help you get the results and outcome you need. The value of working with the Spodek Law Group is that we treat each and every client like a member of our family.

What happens if you are charged with a federal crime?

What Happens If You Are Charged With a Federal Crime?

Being charged with a federal crime can be an incredibly stressful and scary experience. Unlike state crimes which are handled by local and state courts, federal crimes are prosecuted under federal statutes and rules. The penalties tend to be harsher and the procedures more complex.If you or a loved one finds yourself facing federal charges, it’s important to understand the process and know what to expect. This article provides an overview of the key steps and implications of federal criminal charges.

The Investigation

Most federal cases begin with an investigation led by a federal agency like the FBI, DEA, ATF, or IRS. They gather evidence through methods like surveillance, undercover operations, witness interviews, subpoenas, and search warrants.If the investigation produces enough evidence, the agency will refer the case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for potential prosecution. The U.S. Attorney ultimately decides whether to press charges or not.

Arrest and Initial Court Appearance

If charges are filed, federal agents will attempt to locate and arrest the suspect. Upon arrest, suspects are photographed, fingerprinted and advised of their constitutional rights.Within 48 hours suspects must be brought before a judge or magistrate for an initial appearance. At this hearing, bail conditions are set and a defense lawyer is appointed for those who can’t afford one. Defendants are also informed of the charges against them.

Grand Jury Indictment

Federal felony cases must be initiated by a grand jury. Prosecutors present evidence and testimony regarding the alleged crime. If 12 or more grand jurors find probable cause, they will return an indictment authorizing criminal charges.Defendants can choose to waive indictment if they wish to plead guilty. This avoids the time and publicity of convening a grand jury.

Arraignment Hearing

After an indictment, an arraignment hearing is held. The charges are formally presented and defendants enter an initial plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest.Judges also address pretrial detention or release at this hearing. Defendants who pose a flight risk or danger to the public may be jailed until trial.

Pretrial Motions and Discovery

Extensive pretrial litigation often occurs in federal criminal cases. The defense and prosecution file various motions contesting evidence, requesting information, or raising procedural issues.During discovery both sides must share information and evidence related to the case. This allows them to fully assess strengths, weaknesses and options for plea bargains.

Plea Bargains and Guilty Pleas

Over 90% of federal cases end with a guilty plea rather than trial. Plea bargains allow quick resolution saving time and expense. Both sides avoid the uncertainty of a trial outcome.Common concessions include dropping or reducing charges in exchange for a guilty plea. Sentencing recommendations may also be part of the negotiation. Judges have discretion, but often accept the terms.

Christine Twomey
Christine Twomey
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Brendan huisman
Brendan huisman
Alex Zhik contacted me almost immediately when I reached out to Spodek for a consultation and was able to effectively communicate the path forward/consequences of my legal issue. I immediately agreed to hire Alex for his services and did not regret my choice. He was able to cover my case in court (with 1 day notice) and not only was he able to push my case down, he carefully negotiated a dismissal of the charge altogether. I highly recommend Spodek, and more specifically, Alex Zhik for all of your legal issues. Thanks guys!
Guerline Menard
Guerline Menard
Thanks again Spodek law firm, particularly Esq Claire Banks who stood right there with us up to the finish line. Attached photos taken right outside of the court building and the smile on our faces represented victory, a breath of fresh air and satisfaction. We are very happy that this is over and we can move on with our lives. Thanks Spodek law 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙌🏼❤️
Keisha Parris
Keisha Parris
Believe every single review here about Alex Z!! From our initial consultation, it was evident that Alex possessed a profound understanding of criminal law and a fierce dedication to his clients rights. Throughout the entirety of my case, Alex exhibited unparalleled professionalism and unwavering commitment. What sets Alex apart is not only his legal expertise but also his genuine compassion for his clients. He took the time to thoroughly explain my case, alleviating any concerns I had along the way. His exact words were “I’m not worried about it”. His unwavering support and guidance were invaluable throughout the entire process. I am immensely grateful for Alex's exceptional legal representation and wholeheartedly recommend his services to anyone in need of a skilled criminal defense attorney. Alex Z is not just a lawyer; he is a beacon of hope for those navigating the complexities of the legal system. If you find yourself in need of a dedicated and competent legal advocate, look no further than Alex Z.
Taïko Beauty
Taïko Beauty
I don’t know where to start, I can write a novel about this firm, but one thing I will say is that having my best interest was their main priority since the beginning of my case which was back in Winter 2019. Miss Claire Banks, one of the best Attorneys in the firm represented me very well and was very professional, respectful, and truthful. Not once did she leave me in the dark, in fact she presented all options and routes that could possibly be considered for my case and she reinsured me that no matter what I decided to do, her and the team will have my back and that’s exactly what happened. Not only will I be liberated from this case, also, I will enjoy my freedom and continue to be a mother to my first born son and will have no restrictions with accomplishing my goals in life. Now that’s what I call victory!! I thank the Lord, My mother, Claire, and the Spodek team for standing by me and fighting with me. Words can’t describe how grateful I am to have the opportunity to work with this team. I’m very satisfied, very pleased with their performance, their hard work, and their diligence. Thank you team!
Anthony Williams
Anthony Williams
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Loveth Okpedo
Loveth Okpedo
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Bee L
Bee L
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divesh patel
divesh patel
I can't recommend Alex Zhik and Spodek Law Firm highly enough for their exceptional legal representation and personal mentorship. From the moment I engaged their services in October 2022, Alex took the time to understand my case thoroughly and provided guidance every step of the way. Alex's dedication to my case went above and beyond my expectations. His expertise, attention to detail, and commitment to achieving the best possible outcome were evident throughout the entire process. He took the time to mentor me, ensuring I understood the legal complexities involved to make informed decisions. Alex is the kind of guy you would want to have a beer with and has made a meaningful impact on me. I also want to acknowledge Todd Spodek, the leader of the firm, who played a crucial role in my case. His leadership and support bolstered the efforts of Alex, and his involvement highlighted the firm's commitment to excellence. Thanks to Alex Zhik and Todd Spodek, I achieved the outcome I desired, and I am incredibly grateful for their professionalism, expertise, and genuine care. If you're in need of legal representation, look no further than this outstanding team.

Criminal Trials

The remaining minority of cases go to trial before a judge or jury. The prosecution presents witnesses and evidence seeking to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Defense lawyers attempt to discredit the government’s case while presenting evidence and testimony that supports acquittal.Federal trials follow the Federal Rules of Evidence (FRE) and strict procedures. Experienced federal defense lawyers are essential to navigate these complex rules and protect defendant rights.If convicted at trial, defendants lose any opportunity for a plea deal and face harsher sentences. Juries determine guilt or innocence while judges impose sentences.

Federal Sentencing

Convicted defendants face strict federal sentencing guidelines. Factors like criminal history, loss amounts, victims, etc. determine the guideline range. Judges have some discretion to depart from the guidelines.In addition to prison time, federal sentences often include large fines, restitution, probation, and asset forfeiture. Supervised release may also be imposed which adds conditions after prison.Appealing a conviction or sentence is complex with strict deadlines. Only specific legal and procedural errors may provide grounds for an appeal.

Getting an Experienced Federal Defense Lawyer

Facing federal prosecution is daunting, but experienced defense counsel can help you understand the process, protect your rights, and achieve the most favorable outcome. Don’t go it alone. Consult with a lawyer as early as possible.The stakes are high in federal cases and seasoned federal practitioners have the skills and knowledge to defend these complex matters. They will carefully review evidence, identify defenses, negotiate with prosecutors, and challenge procedural mistakes.No two federal cases are alike so it’s critical to have an attorney assess the specifics of your situation. With so much on the line, get personalized counsel you can trust.


Overview of Federal Criminal Cases – U.S. CourtsStages of a Federal Criminal Case – Department of JusticeFederal Rules of Criminal Procedure – Cornell Law School

What are your options if facing federal charges?

Hiring the right lawyer

Having an experienced federal defense lawyer on your side can make all the difference in getting charges reduced or dismissed, avoiding mandatory minimum sentences, and protecting your rights at every stage. Don’t take chances with your freedom. Learn how to choose the right federal defense attorney.

Understanding plea bargains

Over 90% of federal cases end in a plea bargain. It’s important to understand what these are so you can make an informed decision. A plea deal may be your best option to avoid harsh mandatory sentences. See examples of typical federal plea bargains.

Getting sentences reduced

Federal judges have some discretion to go below sentencing guidelines under certain circumstances. An experienced lawyer guides you through this complex process to get sentences potentially reduced. Don’t leave sentence mitigation to chance.

Appealing convictions

If convicted at trial, appealing may be an option but grounds are limited in federal cases. Strict deadlines also apply. Learn more about the federal appeals process and discuss options with your lawyer.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between state and federal charges?

State charges are brought for violating state criminal statutes. Federal charges allege violations of federal criminal laws. Federal crimes impact government operations, occur across state lines, or involve complex fraud or terrorism. Penalties are typically more severe in federal cases.

Do federal criminal investigations have to notify you?

No. Federal agencies like the FBI and DEA can secretly investigate for months or years before charges are filed. Methods like surveillance, undercover operations, and subpoenas may be used without your knowledge. Hiring a lawyer early allows you to get ahead of the investigation.

Can federal charges be reduced or dismissed?

Yes, federal prosecutors have broad discretion on charges and plea offers. An experienced federal practitioner negotiates aggressively for reduced or dismissed charges. Cooperation, assistance prosecuting others, and pleading to related civil violations may help. But outcomes vary widely depending on the specifics of each case.

What percentage of federal trials end in conviction?

The most recent data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that federal prosecutors secured convictions in over 80% of cases that went trial. The risks of harsh mandatory minimums, sentencing enhancements, and forfeitures increase substantially if convicted at trial.

Do you have to pay for a court-appointed lawyer?

No. Those who cannot afford a lawyer will have counsel appointed at no cost. However, anyone with sufficient assets or income will likely need to reimburse the government for legal fees at the conclusion of the case. Retaining experienced private counsel is often the better option if possible.

Additional Resources:

I hope this overview gives you a better understanding of the federal criminal justice process and your options if facing charges. The most important thing is getting an experienced federal defense lawyer in your corner right away. Don’t go through this alone. Consult with counsel you can trust to fight for the most favorable outcome in your case. Every situation is unique so get advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

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