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What Every Defendant Needs to Know about the Federal Criminal Justice System... I.         INTRODUCTION               It goes without saying that EVERY FEDERAL CASE and EVERY FEDERAL DEFENDANT is DIFFERENT.  The purpose of the following summary is to introduce you to some basic information about the FEDERAL CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM in Northern Virginia and throughout the United States.  This is not presented as legal advice and you should always consult an experienced attorney before you make any decisions regarding your criminal case.     Contact the Law Offices of Juan Milanes PLLC for assistance. We can help with your white collar or other federal criminal case. II.       THEY ARE YOUR RIGHTS – USE THEM!!!              BE QUITE - This is probably the one GOLDEN RULE by which you should live if you have been charged or are considered a target or “person of interest” related to any Federal criminal case or investigation:  “KEEP QUIET and ASK FOR A LAWYER.” Although you have probably watched 10,000 television shows that depict a police officer reading someone their rights, it may come as a surprise that most people do not heed the police officer’s warnings.  Most “Miranda Rights Warning Cards” state the following language or something similar:   A)    “You have the right to remain SILENT.”  The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees you the right to avoid having to testify against yourself.  You should exercise this right and refuse to discuss your case with ANYONE but your lawyer.  Officers may coax you into making an admission, even promising you that if you do so, then the government will go easy on you.  Keep in mind that federal law enforcement officers HAVE NO PLEA BARGAINING AUTHORITY.  Any plea deals that may be offered to you, will come from the U.S. Attorney’s Office or U.S. Department of Justice.   B)    “Anything you say will be used against you.” If doesn’t matter if you say something in response to a question or if you blurt it out on your own.  It doesn’t matter if you direct your statement to the police officer or your friend.  It doesn’t matter if you are talking with your attorney on the phone or in person and there is a third person who does not work for your attorney present during the conversation.  If you say it and someone hears it, it can be used against you in a court of law.  DO NOT DISCUSS YOUR CASE WITH ANYONE AT THE JAIL.  DO NOT DISCUSS YOUR CASE WITH ANYONE ON THE PHONE (all phone conversations from jail house phones are recorded).   C)    “You have the right to an Attorney.”  In the United States, anyone facing criminal charges has a Sixth Amendment Constitutional right to be represented by an attorney from the moment you are formally charged and arrested up until the moment the case is disposed of.  In this process, your attorney is the most important person in the world to you because they will advise you through the process and advocate on your behalf.  The simple statement to police officers, “I want a lawyer,” imputes certain additional protections that are automatic.  For example, if you request an attorney and the police interrogate you without his/her presence, then there may be grounds to throw out your statement due to a violation of your rights.   D)    “If you cannot afford to hire an attorney, one will be appointed for you.”  In the federal system, the Court appoints attorneys who either work for the Federal Public Defender Service or who serve on a panel, pursuant to the Criminal Justice Act, 18 U.S.C. §3006A.  Assistant Federal Public Defenders work for an organization that only represents federal criminal defendants. CJA Panel attorneys are private lawyers approved to represent federal criminal defendants when requested by the Court. Usually, a Magistrate Judge will ask you to fill out a financial questionnaire at the beginning of your case to determine if you qualify for appointed Counsel.At the Law Offices of Juan E. Milanes, PLLC, our knowledge and experience ensure that our clients receive the strongest federal criminal defense attorneys! The high success rate of our federal criminal defense attorneys in Northern Virginia and Washington, DC ensures that we have the skills and experience necessary to defend your rights. We provide our clients with federal criminal defense in DC, Virginia, Puerto Rico, and the Southern district of Texas. III.      YOUR ATTORNEY – APPOINTED or RETAINED?              Most Assistant Federal Public Defenders and many CJA-Panel attorneys are highly-qualified attorneys who have many years of experience.  Some defendant’s feel that a court-appointed attorney will not work as hard for them as a privately-hired attorney, however, this is not always the case.  There are some down sides to having a Court-appointed attorney, but it usually has nothing to do with how hard they will work for you.   Here are some issues to consider: you may have a personality conflict with the attorney;  they may not speak your language or dialect; you may not like how they work; they may be over-loaded with other cases; they may not be able to obtain court authorization to spend money on investigators and experts on your case (even if the court understands that such services are helpful – the court is only bound to provide you with needed services for your defense).               Clearly, if you are able to hire your own attorney, then you are in a position to choose someone you like.  If so, you should concentrate on finding an attorney that is skilled in Federal criminal practice and has demonstrated his/her abilities in the Court and in dealing with the prosecution.  Attorney Juan Milanes has over 20 years of legal experience and served as federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.  Mr. Milanes also served as an Assistant Director at the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys and as a trainer for the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Advocacy Center in South Carolina.                Remember that when you retain an attorney, you are ensuring that they represent your interests in the case against you.  In multi-defendant cases, you can sometimes get a package deal from one attorney who is willing to represent several co-defendants, however, this is discouraged.  At the beginning of the case, it is usually too early to know if a conflict of interest may arise between you and another co-defendant.  In the event that two or more co-defendants wish to hire the same attorney, the U.S. District Court will hold a “Foster Hearing” to ensure that it has advised all the defendants about their right to be represented by an attorney without divided allegiances. When retaining an attorney, do not base your decision on price alone – you certainly wouldn’t hire the cheapest heart surgeon just based on price or because he is willing to work on two patients at the same time.  So, the same thing goes with your freedom –hire the best you can afford and ensure that your attorney is looking out for your interest alone.               Regardless of whether you hire an attorney to represent you or you are represented by a Court-Appointed attorney, there are a few simple rules to keep in mind that will assist you in building a positive working relationship with your attorney.   A)    TELL THE TRUTH – Some defendants believe it is better not to tell their lawyers the whole truth about their case. This is not a good idea. Everything you tell your lawyer is privileged and cannot be told to others. The best defense is one that prepares for all the bad evidence the prosecutor may present against you at your trial. Your lawyer must know all the facts. It is foolish to ignore the dangers and simply hope everything will turn out all right. That is the sure way to be convicted.   B)    JAILHOUSE ADVOCATES - As the old joke goes, “opinions are like as$#@!*s, everybody’s got one.”  This is certainly the case in most federal detention centers where you will likely receive plenty of advice from other inmates. Some of these inmates have spent a considerable amount of time in the criminal justice system and will profess to know as much, if not more, than your lawyer about the law, the judge, the prosecutor and how best to handle your case. Unfortunately, much of that advice will be wrong. In mixed jurisdictional facilities, such as the Alexandria Adult Detention Center, many other inmates are in state custody and know nothing about federal criminal law. Even the ones facing federal charges may give you bad advice either because they do not know any better or because they want to mislead you.  Of course, the most typical ploy is to be approached by an inmate who pretends to be your friend and provide you with advice about your case, but who is actually looking for information he can use to lower his own sentence by “snitching” to the prosecutors about your jailhouse admissions.   C)    RESPECT YOUR ATTORNEY - Everyone likes to be treated with respect. Your lawyer is no different than any other professional you would employ to work for you. It is much more likely that your lawyer will treat you and your case with the respect you expect and deserve if you take the time to show him/her that you respect their position, their counsel, their time and their staff.  Conversely, the fastest way to become the “problem client” is to actively mistreat your lawyer, abuse of their time or fail to timely pay your fees and/or expenses.   D)    TELEPHONE CALLS AND CORRESPONDENCE – Lawyers spend a lot of time on the phone and typing documents.  It is an unavoidable employment hazard and it takes up a lot of an attorney’s available time.  Keep in mind that most attorneys have more than one client and more than one case.  Accordingly, time is critical to how an attorney makes his or her living and the results they are able to attain for their clients. Be responsible about calls to your lawyer. You cannot expect your lawyer to accept continuous collect calls from you. If you have not heard from your lawyer for an unreasonable time, then either call and request a meeting, have a friend or relative call and request a meeting, or write a letter and request a response.   At the Law Offices of Juan E. Milanes, PLLC, we understand that you are going through a difficult time and are mindful of both your emotional and legal needs. Our goal is to help you overcome your financial and/or legal difficulties as quickly as possible. Our attorneys in Northern Virginia always treat you and your family with the respect and compassion that you deserve!   Trust the Law Offices of Juan E. Milanes, PLLC when you need effective bankruptcy defense in Virginia and Washington, D.C. We provide convenient office hours to meet your busy schedule, including evening and weekend appointments for current clients. We can create a plan to help you enjoy a fresh financial start, save your home from foreclosure, or protect your legal rights in federal court.   Are you ready to take the first step towards relief? Contact our  lawyers in Reston / Herndon / Sterling to set up a free consultation today!  Contact Us         The Law Offices of Juan E. Milanes, PLLC is a compassionate bankruptcy attorney in Reston, VA that is dedicated to providing all clients with manageable debt relief solutions. Contact us today! We proudly serve Reston, Herndon and the Washington, D.C. area. We also serve Aldie, Alexandria, Annandale, Arcola, Arlington, Ashburn, Belle Haven, Brambleton, Bristow, Broadlands, Burke, Centreville, Chantilly, Clifton, Countryside, DC, District of Columbia, Dulles, Fair Lakes, Fairfax, Fairfax City, Falls Church, Fort Belvoir, Fort Hunt, Fort Myer, Gainesville, Great Falls, Hamilton, Haymarket, Herndon, Kings Park, Kingstowne, Lake Ridge, Landmark, Leesburg, Lincolnia, Lorton, Manassas, Manassas City, Manassas Park, Mantua, McLean, Merrifield, Middleburg, Mt. Vernon, Newington, Nokesville, North Springfield, Oakton, Occoquan, Potomac Falls, Purcellville, Reston, Rose Hill, South Riding, Southbridge, Sterling, Tysons, Tysons Corner, Vienna, Warrenton, Washington, DC, West Falls Church, and West Springfield. "This law firm is a Debt Relief Agency.  We help people file for bankruptcy relief under the Bankruptcy Code."
Disclaimer   The purpose of this site is to provide information of a general nature. The information provided here is not legal advice, however, we invite you to contact us for legal services.  Feel free to send us electronic mail. However, sending electronic mail to the Law Offices of Juan E. Milanés does not alone create an attorney-client relationship. Unless you are already a client of the Law Offices of Juan E. Milanés, your e-mail will not be privileged and may be disclosed to other persons. Even if you are a client, remember that e-mail on the Internet is not secure and you should avoid using sensitive and confidential information. This web site includes links to other Internet sites. Although these links are intended to assist readers in obtaining helpful information, the Law Offices of Juan E. Milanés does not intend that such links are to be considered as referrals or endorsements by the Law Offices of Juan E. Milanés.    Descargo de Responsibilidad   Esta página web fue creada para proveer a usted información general.  La información incluida no es asesoría legal.  Quisiéramos que nos contacte para discutir su situación legal, sin embargo, enviar un correo electrónico a las Oficinas Legales del Licenciado Juan E. Milanés no crea un privilegio entre abogado y cliente.  Si usted ya no es un cliente de las Oficinas Legales del Licenciado Juan E. Milanés, su correo electrónico no es protegido bajo el privilegio entre abogado y cliente.  Es importante que tome en consideración que la Red no es seguro y no debería enviar información confidencial por correo electrónico.  Esta página web incluye enlaces a otrás páginas web.  Estos enlaces proveen información útil, sin embargo, Las Oficinas Legales del Licenciado Juan E. Milanés no tiene la intención de aprobarlos.
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