5 Things Every Federal Criminal Defendant Needs to Know

Federal criminal defendants who are in jail awaiting trial or the results of a potential plea deal have a lot of time on their hands — time that is usually spent thinking about the imaginary horrible. Many defendants may have no experience with the judicial system, and are unsure about how the system works — or if it works at all.

If you are ever a criminal defendant, here are five important things to keep in mind:

  1. Consider an appeal. You an entitled to file an appeal if a judgment or plea doesn’t go your way. Sometimes an appeal waiver can bar your right to an appeal, but these waivers are not always set in stone. In a federal criminal case, a notice of appeal must be filed within 14 days after a judgment is entered. An experienced appellate court attorney should be consulted to assist with an appeal.
  2. Sentence reduction via RDAP. A federal inmate with a record of substance abuse within a year of their arrest may be eligible for the Federal Bureau of Prisons Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP). Inmates who complete this program may be eligible for a reduction of their sentence of up to one year. To determine eligibility, the Bureau of Prisons uses the Pre-Sentence Investigation Report. A defendant should be truthful about all prior substance abuse history during this interview.
  3. Judicial influence. Under certain circumstances, a judge may recommend that a defendant be placed in a certain prison or program, which can affect the quality of life for that defendant. If the defendant has been convicted of a sex crime, it would be advantageous — and safer — to be housed in a prison with a Sex Offender Management Program (SOMP) instead of being placed in a general prison population.
  4. Steer clear of informants. As a defendant awaits trial, he or she should never discuss the details of the case with anyone except an attorney. Jails are full of informants looking for ways to reduce their own sentences by providing information to prosecutors. Trust no one except an attorney.
  5. About appellate waivers. Most prosecutors will include an appeals waiver in a plea bargain, which means the defendant agrees not to raise issues on direct appeal as a condition of accepting the plea deal. Defendants should discuss with counsel whether such waivers can be reduced in scope or eliminated altogether.

The Cogdell Law Firm is a boutique law firm focusing on large, complex business and criminal financial-related litigation, including white collar criminal defense, securities fraud, health care fraud investigation, criminal appeals and state criminal defense. When results matter most, contact Dan Cogdell at (713) 426-2244 or dan@cogdell-law.com.