Not all Oklahoma City criminal defense law firms practice in federal court. If you or your loved one has pending federal criminal charges—it’s imperative that you hire an attorney admitted to the federal bar. At Duncan & Hill Law Firm we greatly enjoy federal criminal practice. Federal court cases move at a much more efficient speed than State court cases—so as soon as you get notice of charges being filed, or if you believe charges may be filed soon—give us a call at (405) 768-2411 so we can work proactively and tackle the case head-on. Because federal court moves at such a quick speed, (especially when you are on a trial path) we have outlined below the basic case structure to help educate our potential clients.First Step: Detention Hearing
Typically speaking, clients are arrested by federal agents (FBI, DEA, etc.) and brought before the magistrate judge in the same day (assuming the arrest doesn’t occur on the weekend). In the Western District of Oklahoma, whether you’re charged by complaint, or by indictment, the initial appearance, (or arraignment if the case was charged by indictment) is when the client is first informed of the charges against him or her, via the affidavit. The client will be informed of his/her right to a detention hearing in which the federal magistrate judge will make a determination as to whether the individual is suitable to be released back into the community while the charges are pending— until the conclusion of the case.
The detention hearing can happen immediately, the same day as the initial appearance/arraignment, or the prosecutor (Assistant United States Attorney) may request 3 days to prepare, while the defense attorney is entitled to request an additional 2 days (5 days total). Clearly, the detention hearing occurs quickly—much more so than a bond reduction hearing in State court. Additionally, while in State court all clients (homicide charges aside) are given some sort of bond, in Federal court the same is not true. Here, in the Western District (Oklahoma City) the client is either determined releasable and discharged from custody on a simple signature and their promise to come back to all court dates, or they are determined by the Judge to be un-releasable and are held (without bond) until the close of their case. Clients are typically held in custody for the duration of their case if they are found to be (1) a danger to the community, or (2) a flight risk. Each federal client is entitled to only one detention hearing—so it’s critical to be prepared with our best evidence for release right away.Federal Motion Practice
In federal court, there is a huge emphasis placed on motion practice. At Duncan & Hill, we take the time to look at each case’s facts and history to decide what legal arguments will help our clients, and formulate a plan as we move forward towards a trial. Some of the areas we initially consider when planning our legal motions are—(1) was the client read his or her Miranda rights (the right to remain silent, right to an attorney, and so on), (2) did the arresting agency have a valid arrest warrant, (3) did the search of the house or car originate from a valid search warrant, and (4) are there statements made by co-defendants that are legally inadmissible? These issues are just the tip of the iceberg, and the more complex a case is, the more complicated the motion practice can become. In our district here in Oklahoma City, we file all of our federal motions online, with the Electronic Case Filing system. Once motions are filed and responded to, they ultimately are set on the District Judge’s docket, and argued. Depending on the motion, we may call several witnesses to the stand to support our position.Plea of Guilty or Trial
When charged by an indictment in federal court—the evidence that the United States government has against our client is nearly always already gathered before the case begins to proceed in the court system. This can be differ drastically from State court, where the local police will often continue investigating the matter as the case proceeds. For the criminal defense attorney, having the evidence up front is clearly preferable as is allows us to advise our clients on the best manner in which to proceed, either to enter a plea of guilty and focus on mitigation and sentencing—or fight the charges with a trial.
If our client decides to fight his or her case, we begin our trial preparations. Trials in federal court happen quickly, so we need to prepare our witnesses and trial exhibits with efficiency. In our Oklahoma City area here in the Western District of Oklahoma—trials typically get heard within just a few short months of the arraignment—much faster than State court criminal trials. Should the client decide instead that they would prefer to enter a plea of guilty, we then have a pre-sentence report created by the federal probation office, and begin collecting his or her mitigation evidence for sentencing. Regardless of which option our client chooses—trial or plea, calling early at the first sign of a federal charge is crucial to preparing our best defense. Give us a call today at (405) 768-2411 to schedule a free consultation.