If you’ve been arrested or charged with a federal crime, there are two appearances before a judge that happen very quickly and require immediate action. The first is your initial appearance, where the government will read the charges against you, and the Judge will inquire about your need for representation, and ask the Assistant US Attorney (AUSA) if the government is seeking your detention or consenting to your release. If the AUSA seeks to hold you in custody, a detention hearing is scheduled within three to five days. Our federal crime attorneys for the Eastern District of North Carolina are breaking down exactly what you can expect and how to prepare for a detention hearing.
Will You Have a Detention Hearing?
First, let’s go back to the initial appearance before a judge in which the Court asks the AUSA if you should be released or held. If you are charged with a crime that involves:
- Violence (Not necessarily assault)
- An offense which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment or death;
- Drug trafficking;
- A felony charge if you have already been convicted of two or more similar crimes;
Then you may be facing a presumption that you will be held in custody until your case is resolved. That presumption however is one that you can fight but you must move quickly.
What Happens At Your Federal Detention Hearing?
If the Government is seeking your detention then a hearing will be held within three business days of your arraignment. The detention hearing is one of the most important steps in the process and will determine if you are able to go home or remain in custody while your case is resolved. The Government is required to present evidence that there is probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed and that you committed it, and that if you were to be released you would be a danger to the community or a flight risk.
Factors that Affect the Outcome of Your Detention Hearing
There are several factors that come into play when a federal judge is making the decision to keep you in detention or sign off on your release (and determine the terms). This includes:
- The AUSA’s recommendation as to release or detain;
- The nature and circumstances of the charges – A violent or egregious crime is more likely to lead to continued detention than a single charge of a financial crime.
- The weight of evidence against you;
- Your history and character – The judge will look at your mental and physical health, family ties, financial resources, ties to family and the community, and any prior criminal history or failures to appear in court and use that information to determine continued jail time.
- If you are deemed a threat to the community or to a particular person;
- Immigration status;
Conditions of Release a Defendant Must Follow
We’ve mentioned that the terms of your release, if applicable, will be set, but what are common terms. It’s important to note that cash bail is rarely a factor in federal cases. Instead, conditions often include:
- Reporting to a probation officer;
- Reporting contact with law enforcement (even for traffic violations);
- Surrender passport;
- Not leave the county, district, or state;
- Attending school or work full time;
- Drug and alcohol testing;
- Wearing a tracking monitor;
The court may also release you into the custody of a third party custodian. A third party custodian is someone with whom you will be required to live and whose job it will be to monitor your compliance with any conditions that the court has imposed on you. The third party custodian can be any competent adult but must be comfortable with and agree to report to the court if you violate any of the release conditions previously imposed. This person will need to be present at the detention hearing and be called to the stand as a witness during your detention hearing and asked questions related to their appropriateness as a custodian.
Factors that include whether the offered individual is an appropriate third party custodian include their:
- Relationship to you
- Ties to the community
- Physical condition
- Living arrangements
- Room for the defendant
- Access to weapons, drugs, or alcohol;
- Prior criminal convictions
- Activities that would cause them to be away from the home for long periods.
Most of all, it’s important that they understand their responsibility to supervise you and report on any criminal activities or anything that may break the terms of your release.
Least Restrictive Conditions of Release
The judge must impose the least restrictive condition or combination of conditions necessary to reasonably assure the defendant’s appearance as required and reasonably assure the safety of any person and the community. This means that the terms of your release must be proportionate to the factors related to your release. For example, an elderly man charged with wire fraud whose entire family lives in the area is not seen as a flight risk or a danger to the society, nor has he been charged with a violent crime, so it’s not likely that he will receive strict terms to his release. On the other hand, a younger defendant with family and friends spread around the nation may be seen as more of a flight risk, so they may be assigned an ankle monitor or third party custodian.
Schedule a Consultation with Our Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys in North Carolina
Having a federal criminal defense attorney who can fight on your behalf to ensure the least restrictive conditions are applied to your situal is essential for gaining your freedom while you wait for your trial. If you receive a target letter from the US Attorney’s office or you’ve been charged with a federal crime, reach out to us today for a free consultation. Contact us 24 hours a day at 919-887-8040 or fill out our contact form to get started.