This is the first of three articles written for those who may be just entering the pretrial phase of the federal criminal justice system and the Bureau of Prisons. If you, or somebody you know, is dealing with a federal legal problem, you will undoubtedly encounter a cast of characters, names, and acronyms that are new and probably intimidating. We’ll make this information as understandable as possible while explaining why Prison Consultants can do for you.
Federal Pretrial: The Cast of Characters
Who and what you’ll encounter
When the federal government first targets a person of interest they believe committed a crime, an investigation will begin from one of many policing agencies (i.e. FBI, ICE, ATF, and many other “Alphabet” agencies). These agencies will be the first contact a defendant will have with the system.
Their role tends to be very short. Generally defendants never see or know about the investigation until it’s complete, and the first indication of their interest will be when an arrest, complaint, or formal indictment is made by the United States Attorney’s Office.
Second role here is the defense attorney. If defendants have a personal attorney for private or financial matters, chances are good that they have no experience in criminal law. Normally, they refer new defendants to another attorney who specializes in criminal defense. This is the first ally, and typically the only ally, defendants have in a system that seems enormous and overpowering.
Third, if released on bond, there will be a federal Pretrial Services Officer assigned to the defendant. This person is basically a Probation Officer, but assigned to somebody that has not been convicted of a crime (yet). Their job is to keep defendants out of any more trouble than they’ve already been accused of until the case is resolved.
These people will comprise the main contacts a new defendant will have when introduced into the world of federal criminal justice.
How they select and interact with these people can make an huge impact on the eventual outcome of a case. There is no single guidebook to describe exactly how to navigate through such a confusing and frightening time.
This is why a fourth entity can be the most valuable ally anybody can have during this time: a Federal Criminal Defense Consultant.
Each person, and each case, is completely unique. Most defendants trust their attorney to do all their thinking for them, and pray their attorney selection was a good one. Attorneys are not all created equal, and bad actors will claim to be the best, while making terrible mistakes that are not obvious to the uninitiated.
In truth, a good attorney can make a massive difference in case outcomes. Whether prison time is served, and how much, can depend completely on how competent and experienced defense counsel is. If a prosecutor is afraid of losing at trial, plea deals will be better. If they have no fear of trial, because the defense attorney is terrible, a prosecutor has no incentive to offer a more favorable plea deal.
The question defendants face is simple: “How do I know that my attorney is doing their job correctly?”
The answer, however, is not so simple. Defendants cannot get a legal “second opinion” in same way one can in medical care. Once defendants retain an attorney, no other lawyer is allowed to give any advice or give their opinion on that case.
How, then, are defendants supposed to be secure in the defense their attorney is presenting? Answer: A Consultant.
Consultants do not legally represent defendants, so they are not bound by the American BAR Association or its ethics rules. This means we CAN analyze a case and make assessments about the defense being presented on a client’s behalf. While we cannot, and will not, give legal advise, having a second opinion can mean the difference of many years in prison.
A consultant can be a seasoned pair of eyes that will help you through this tough time and keep you from making common mistakes during this stage of the game.