You've received notice of federal criminal charges filed in the Eastern or Middle District of Pennsylvania. The next step in the legal process will be your initial appearance in front of a federal judge, as well as your arraignment to follow.
As an attorney who understands the fear that the federal justice system can strike in defendants, I want you to be prepared for the arraignment process. Read this document to learn what to expect, and also consider hiring the Lento Law Firm to represent you at arraignment and through the remainder of your federal criminal proceedings.
You Will Be Taken into Custody Before Your Initial Appearance
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) explains that an arrest and initial appearance may occur differently based on whether a grand jury has already issued an indictment.
If federal authorities arrest you before a grand jury has issued an indictment (or a judge has issued a warrant for your arrest independent of a grand jury indictment), the arresting authorities will need to convince a judge that there is probable cause to charge you with a criminal offense. This may seem like an expedited version of the grand jury process. If you were arrested and detained in this manner, we will explain why this happened.
If a judge issues an arrest warrant or a grand jury indicts you before you are arrested, the arresting authorities won't have to justify your arrest—a judge and/or grand jury has already done so.
Contact Your Attorney as Soon as Possible After Being Arrested
If your loved one has been arrested or you face arrest in the future, contact your lawyer as soon as possible. Having an attorney is a right, and we can serve as your attorneys even if you have already retained a lawyer.
Your rights are constantly at risk once you've become the subject of a criminal investigation. Those rights remain at risk during your arrest, detainment, and initial appearance before the court. A criminal defense attorney can provide the protection that you need.
You Will Then Appear Before a Magistrate to Learn of the Charges Against You
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) explains that you will appear before a judge “either the same day or the day after” your arrest. The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure note that you must see a judge “without unnecessary delay,” meaning that you should be detained for no longer than is necessary.
Note that your initial appearance will likely occur before a federal magistrate judge, not necessarily a judge representing Pennsylvania's Eastern or Middle District. Your trial will take place in one of the federal district courts, but your initial appearance may not.
During this initial appearance, the judge will:
- Inform you of your right to counsel, your right to remain silent, and any other rights relevant to the legal proceedings
- Grant you the opportunity to request government-provided counsel (a public defender), though you may want to have an attorney of your own choosing
- Explain the offenses you've been accused of and the criminal charges you face
- Explain the amount of bail you will need to post in order to leave detention, though the prosecutor may request that you not be eligible for bail
You may undergo a separate bail hearing, at which time the judge will hear the prosecutor's case for bail and any arguments your attorney makes in favor of fair bail. The prosecutor may seek to impose a high bail amount or prevent you from paying bail by arguing that:
- The offense you're accused of is especially heinous, and you pose a risk to the public if released through bail
- You are a flight risk
- There is another reason that you should not be released from custody
Your attorney may cite your lack of criminal history, lack of flight opportunities, and ties to your community in arguing for minimal bail requirements.
You Will Face Arraignment Following Your Initial Appearance
Whether or not you are released on bail, you will face arraignment following your initial appearance. During arraignment, a judge will reaffirm the criminal charges you face. You will then have the opportunity to enter a “not guilty” plea if this is the decision that you and your attorney have made.
If you and your attorney have agreed to accept a plea bargain, you will enter a “guilty” or “no contest” verdict during arraignment.
If you remain in custody following your initial appearance, your arraignment must occur no more than ten days after your initial appearance. If you secure release on bail or bond, your arraignment may take place no more than 20 days following your initial appearance.
Your attorney will work to see that you face arraignment as quickly as possible. The speed with which the court conducts your arraignment is even more important if you are not released on bail.
Retain an Attorney Before Arraignment Takes Place
The outcome of your arraignment is pivotal, determining if you are able to secure (and cover) bail or whether you'll have to remain in lockup. Attorney Joseph D. Lento will fight for your release and prepare you for the next stage in your case, a preliminary hearing.
Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 or contact us online. Don't wait, as there is no time to waste when facing federal charges.