Chances are that if you are reading this, you are reasonably concerned about impending federal criminal charges. Maybe the FBI or the IRS just wants to talk to you, or maybe you have already been formally charged. Regardless, the information below can help you understand how the federal criminal process works.
If you are concerned about federal criminal charges, it is essential that you get an attorney to represent you as early in the process as possible.
In the United States, the federal court system’s conviction rate has been steadily increasing. In 2012, the federal court system and the Department of Justice reported a 93% conviction rate in federal courts. This is why you need an experienced federal defense attorney to represent you. One who will fight for your rights and prevent you from becoming a part of this statistic.
About the Federal Criminal Process
Whether a federal agent wants to question you, or you have already been charged, the information below can help you understand a little more about the federal criminal process:
- Federal Investigations – What To Do if the FBI, DOJ, or IRS Wants To Talk To You
- Federal Court Arraignments – Making Your First Appearance In Court
- Federal Indictments – Your Constitutional Right to a Formal Indictment
- Federal Motion Practice – Motions to Dismiss and Motions to Exclude Evidence
- Federal Criminal Trials – Understanding How a Federal Criminal Trial Works
- Federal Sentencing Hearings – What Happens After Trial?
- Federal Appeals – How to Appeal a Guilty Verdict in Federal Court
Common Cases Criminal Law Group Defends
- Cyber Crimes
- Drug, Weapons and Violent Crimes
- Currency and Financial Crimes
- Securities Fraud
- Insurance Fraud
- Health Care Fraud
- White Collar Crimes
- Immigration Crimes
- Organized Crimes and RICO
- And more…
Frequently Asked Questions About Federal Criminal Defense
What is a “Proffer Session?”
- A “proffer session” is a prearranged meeting between a client and the prosecutor.
- The “proffer” is a voluntary meeting in which the individual who is coming in is providing the government with information.
- The person who is providing the information generally comes in under a “proffer agreement.”
What is a “Proffer Agreement?”
A “proffer agreement” is an agreement enter into by the prosecution the client and the defense attorney that set some ground rules for the conversation set to take place between the defendant and the government.
Of course, the defendant is advised to have an attorney present with him during any questioning taking place in relation to a federal investigation.
Generally, the proffer agreement says that whatever an individual tells them in this meeting cannot be used against them directly.
What Does That Mean for the Defendant?
What this means for the defendant is that whatever statements are made in a proffer meeting cannot be used against the person in the event the case goes to trial in the government’s case in chief.
If a client tells the prosecutor in a proffer meeting – a meeting protected by the proffer agreement – that he robbed a bank, at trial, the prosecutor can’t get up on their direct case and say that the client told them in a prior meeting that he robbed a bank.
However, what the prosecutor is able to do after someone confesses to a bank robbery in a proffer meeting is that they’re able to:
- go to that bank;
- get their video surveillance;
- interview witnesses; and
- figure out if any money is missing.
That is called “derivative evidence.” An individual and the prosecutor are able to use derivative evidence against the individual at trial, however, they are unable to use that evidence on the direct case in chief.
Who Is Present at a Proffer Meeting?
In a proffer meeting, usually, the prosecutor and the investigating agents are present. Sometimes there may be a parallel investigation being conducted by another agency – for example many investigations that are conducted by the US attorney’s office that are criminal in nature have a parallel civil proceeding conducted by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
In that situation, both the representatives of the US attorney’s office and the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) and the investigating agents would all be present in one meeting for the purposes of efficiency.
The prosecutor and the agents and any other attorneys for the government will be asking the client questions about the case that they are investigating.
Why Is It Important to Tell the Truth at a Proffer Meeting?
Under the terms of the proffer agreement, the individual that’s coming in and receiving this “Queen–For–A–Day“ agreement has an obligation to tell the truth 1000% of the time.
If the individual does not tell the truth, they may be prosecuted under 18 United States Code 1001 – which is giving a false statement to a government agency.
Why Do Attorneys Agree To Proffer Sessions?
In some situations, attorneys agree to proffers because the client has no criminal exposure. Rather the US attorney’s office or any other investigative agency needs to speak to the client about information that they have because they are a witness to a case that they are prosecuting.
In other situations, defense attorneys agree to proffers in order to put the client in a better situation with their criminal case.
Example: Federal Drug Case
For example, in order for you to be safety valve eligible, you would need to come in and take ownership as to your wrongdoing in order to receive safety valve. This means that the government and the judge are able to give you less than the minimum on a federal drug case.
When Does a Proffer Session Benefit a Defendant?
In some situations, you come in for a proffer in order to get a better plea offer. For example, the prosecutor is able to offer a plea to a lesser charge in some situations but they want to make sure that your client is deserving of this incredible amended offer. That requires a sit down when the prosecutors and with the investigative agents.
For example, we had a case where a client came in for a proffer on a drug case and he was able to convince the US Attorney’s Office that he was actually innocent of the charges that were brought against him.
In other situations, the client comes in for a proffer in order to receive A 5K one letter from the government which is credit for substantial assistance and cooperation. This is probably the most common scenario of um why people choose to come in and give information on a case against themselves and also against other individuals involved.
What Is the Most Important Thing When Preparing for a Proffer Meeting?
The most important thing in preparing for a proffer is making sure your attorney fully understands your case and your potential exposure with coming in.
For example, if the government knows about a small part of your criminal involvement but there are other parts of your involvement that the government has no knowledge of, coming in with hopes of getting a “5K1” may not make sense.
This is because you have an obligation to tell the government the whole truth. So, under the rules of the proffer agreement, by you coming in you have to talk about everything and you can’t minimize and hide certain things about your case.
So, by coming in and by giving up information you may be putting yourself in a worse situation then where you would be without coming in.
With that being said, if you and your attorney decide to come in and meet with the prosecutors the most important thing that you need to do is tell the truth. However, their decision about whether or not you’re coming in or not coming in has to be made with your attorney being fully aware of everything that’s happening with your case.
Can I Hire Any Criminal Defense Attorney to Represent Me in my Federal Case?
No, you need a federal criminal defense attorney to represent you in a federal case. Choosing this attorney may be one of the most important decisions you make during this process.
What Makes a Federal Criminal Case Different from a State Case?
What makes a federal case and a state case different is the application of federal law. Generally, each individual state has their own laws to apply in their particular state courts. This means that the laws governing a case in New York may be different from the laws governing the same case in New Jersey. However, federal courts apply federal law, and these laws apply to everyone, no matter what state you live in.
What Federal Laws Govern Criminal Cases?
The federal laws that govern federal criminal cases include:
- The United States Code
- The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure
- The Federal Rules of Evidence
- U.S. Sentencing Guidelines
Who is going to represent you? Contact Criminal Lawyer Group.
For a free consultation with an experienced federal criminal defense attorney near you, contact us today.