When accused of a federal crime, regardless of whether you are an American citizen or not, you have legal rights and are able to make certain decisions.
The following are the core decisions you will need to make that are critical to the outcome of your case:
- You have the right to an attorney before any interrogation or at any court hearing in which a judge
could impose incarceration. Don’t march into trial in federal court without an attorney unless you are going to represent yourself, which is never advisable. You do not, however, have the right to any attorney of your choosing. Your financial situation may dictate who you choose for representation; then that attorney needs to be available and be willing to take on your case. If you cannot afford an attorney, you have the right to have one appointed for you.
- You have the right to decide whether you are going to plead “guilty” or “not guilty.” Pleading guilty
to a federal charge may reduce the severity of the sentence against you. Pleading not guilty forces the government to prove its case against you—you may be found not guilty, or you may be found guilty and, if so, will probably be subject to harsher penalties.
- If you choose to take your case to trial, you have the right to decide whether you want to testify or not.
- If convicted, you have the right to appeal your case. Carefully consider the advice and recommendations of your attorney. Ask questions. Weigh the responses. Make sure you are satisfied that you fully appreciate your situation. Wise, informed decisions can help you reach your goal of achieving the best outcome for your case.