Frequently Asked Questions for Clients

  1. How do I get court appointed representation?

    Anyone charged with a federal crime and facing a loss of liberty is entitled to court appointed counsel if they cannot afford private counsel.  The determination is made by the court after the person charged completes a financial affidavit, the court reviews the affidavit, and makes a determination of qualification.  If found qualified, the court will appoint the federal public defender or a member from the CJA panel list.  This process usually takes place at the accused's first court appearance, but can take place sooner upon request and if the need presents itself.

  2. Federal agents want to talk to me. What should I do?

    This office does not discourage anyone from speaking to law enforcement officers and agents; however, everyone in the United States has a constitutional Fifth Amendment right to refuse to speak to such officers and agents, Nevertheless, in some circumstances, at a minimum, you may be required to identify yourself to law enforcement.  If you believe you are the subject of an investigation, it is wise to first contact an attorney before you speak to help you assess your situation.   

  3. What is “discovery?”

    Discovery is the evidence related to the charges in your case and in the possession of the government.  The material can be statements of witnesses, documents related to the crime, investigative agency reports, criminal history, forensic evidence such as fingerprints, DNA, photographs or any number of other types of collected information such as surveillance tapes, or telephone records the government has obtained by subpoena power.  One of the first things counsel will do is seek to obtain this material through legal procedure mandating such disclosure.

  4. What is bail?

    Bail, that is not excessive, is a constitutional right to be released pending trial.  Under the Bail Reform Act, the court, usually at the initial appearance of the person charged, will release the person on conditions sufficient to ensure the person’s continued appearance at court. Release conditions can vary dramatically depending on the charges, the person’s history and financial circumstances.  These conditions may include a deposit of cash with the court, the pledging of real estate, or other condition found by the court.  Persons can be held without bail in certain serious circumstances found by the court.

  5. What are the United States Sentencing Guidelines?

    All persons convicted (trial or plea) will be sentenced before a judge after a presentence report is prepared by the United States Probation Office.  That report, a copy of which you have the right to review, will use the sentencing guidelines, a bound manual, in preparing the report.  The guidelines are a point system in which points are assigned for various factors in the offense conduct, prior criminal history and other relevant factors as set out in the guidelines. These points are accumulated and charted on a sentencing table that identifies an advisory guideline range for the court to consider as part of the sentencing determination.  It is a complex calculus which counsel will review with you.