Often you can tell if you have been charged with a federal crime by the type of law enforcement officers who arrest you. If you are facing a federal drug charge, you will be arrested by agents from one of the arms of our federal government, such as the FBI, the DEA or HIS, rather than local or state law enforcement officers. You will also appear in federal court, before a federal judge, for an initial appearance to see if you will be released on bond.
What Happens After I Have Been Charged With A Federal Drug-Related Crime?
One of the first steps after you are charged with a federal crime is to appear before a federal judge for what is called a detention hearing. At this hearing, the judge will decide whether you will be released on bond or remain in custody while your case is pending. At that point, your case will be assigned to a district court judge in the jurisdiction where your charges are filed. Once a judge is assigned, your attorney will have the opportunity to review the government’s evidence against you and build a defense to the charges and allegations.
Can I Get Bond If I Have Been Charged With A Federal Drug Offense?
Yes, it is possible to be released on bond when you are facing a federal drug offense. However, because of the severity of the federal drug laws, a federal judge may consider you to be a flight risk and a danger to the community and thus, deny bond and release. After the detention/bond hearing, your attorney will have a chance to show the judge that you are not a flight risk and not a danger to the community and thus, a good candidate to be released on bond. If the bond is granted, the judge may require you or a family member to post a bond with the clerk of court or you may be allowed to sign a personal recognizance bond.
Where Will My Federal Drug Case Be Tried?
In the Federal system, your case will be tried in the jurisdiction where the alleged crime took place. In cases where an alleged crime took place in multiple jurisdictions or multiple states, which is often occurs in drug trafficking cases, federal policy will decide which jurisdiction prosecutes your case.
Could My Federal Drug Crime Ever Be Reduced To The State Level?
Once you have been charged in federal court and appeared before a federal judge, it is extremely unlikely that the charges against you will be transferred to the state court system. If you have state charges pending for the same crime once you appear in federal court the state will likely dismiss the state charges and the federal charges will take precedence.
Can Drug Scheduling Affect The Penalties I May Face For A Federal Drug Crime?
Drug scheduling sets the minimum sentences for federal drug crimes, based on the type and amount of drugs involved. The highest schedule of a controlled substance, for example heroin, can carry a 10-year minimum prison sentence. If you have a prior drug conviction, your federal case may be enhanced to add an even stiffer minimum and or maximum penalty.
It is important to hire an attorney with experience regarding the federal drug laws as there are ways around the minimum sentences in federal drug cases. In some circumstances, a person can cooperate with the federal government in return for an exception to the minimum sentence requirement.
Will I Be Charged With More Crimes Than I Pled To In A Plea Agreement In A Federal Drug Case?
Normally, if someone accepts a plea agreement and pleads guilty they will not face additional charges and the plea agreement may contain language stating that the government will dismiss any charges that are not part of the plea agreement.
Should I Take My Federal Drug Case To A Jury Trial?
You should spend a significant amount of time discussing whether or not to take your federal case to trial with your defense attorney. Do not withhold information or try to present the facts in a favorable light. Review all the discovery and evidence with your attorney and be realistic about the case against you and the defenses available. Make sure that you are informed about the possible consequences of being found guilty by a jury, as opposed to accepting a plea agreement.
Is Punishment For A Federal Drug Conviction More Severe Than At The State Level?
Most of the time, the answer to this question is YES. However, there is no guarantee that a federal drug conviction will result in more severe penalties than a state drug conviction. The possible penalties depend on the individual facts of your case, including which types of drugs were involved and whether you are charged with possessing, selling, or manufacturing. On the other hand, many federal cases do carry substantial penalties and should be taken very seriously. Always consult with your attorney about the potential punishment you face for your particular case.
Can I Appeal A Federal Drug Charge Conviction?
If you are found guilty by a jury or you plead guilty and you did not waive your rights to appeal, then you can appeal your sentence. You should consult with an experienced attorney concerning the appeal.
Should I Hire A Criminal Defense Attorney Prior To Being Charged With A Federal Drug Offense?
Absolutely! If you have reason to believe that you are at risk of being charged with a federal drug offense, or any crime, you should consult and hire an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Do not make a statement to police or federal agents without first contacting an attorney. Once you incriminate yourself by making a statement, it is very difficult to reverse the damage done by an incriminating statement. If you hire an attorney ahead of time, then the attorney can speak directly to federal agents and prosecutors to find out whether you are being investigated for a crime and whether the federal agents and prosecutors are preparing a case against you. The attorney can advise you on who to speak to, what to avoid, and how to proceed to protect yourself.
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