What to Expect If You Are Charged with a Federal Criminal Offense in New Jersey: Processing by US Pre-Trial Services; Processing by the FBI and by the US Marshalls; the Initial Appearance in Court

New Jersey Criminal Lawyers Schwartz Posnock

We are often asked by individuals who have no experience in the federal criminal system, what to expect when they are charged with a federal criminal offense and they have to make their first appearance in court. The procedures are similar to those in the New Jersey State criminal justice system, however, there are some critical differences.

In the federal system, if you have not yet been indicted, the charges against you will be brought in a criminal complaint. The criminal complaint is accompanied by an affidavit prepared by the investigating agent that summarizes the evidence against the defendant. Usually, the investigating agents will pay you a visit in advance and advise you that are going to be charged. You should ask them for the name and phone number of the Assistant United States Attorney (the “AUSA”) handling the case for the government.

The process of coming to Federal Court for the initial appearance should be negotiated between your criminal defense attorney and the AUSA. Once you agree on the date for your initial appearance, your attorney should call US Pre-trial Services to schedule a telephonic interview for the purposes of the Pre-Trial Services recommendation of the conditions of your release. The Pre-Trial Services interview is usually done over the phone with your attorney present. The questions asked are intended to elicit information that bears on whether you are a flight risk and whether there should be restrictions on your release. You will be required to surrender your passport if you have one.

Your attorney should provide any additional information to Pre-Trial Services that supports the least restrictive release conditions. This should be done in advance of the initial appearance so the information may be verified is deemed necessary by the interviewer. On the day of your initial appearance, you will first have to be processed by the FBI and then by the US Marshal. The processing is almost identical. You will be fingerprinted and photographed, and you will have to submit a saliva swab for entry in the federal DNA data base. Generally, tis “booking” process occurs prior to the court appearance. If you are not processed before the initial appearance, afterward, you will be taken to the Marshals’ Office in the U.S. Courthouse for processing. Your attorney will not be allowed in the cellblock area where the processing is done.
The next step is to proceed to US Pre-Trial Services for a urine test. If you test positive for CDS, you will have restrictions on your release. This may be drug testing. Your bond may be increased. At the first appearance, you appear before a federal magistrate.

There are several types of bonds which can be granted to secure your release and your return to court. One type of bond is an “unsecured” bond which does not require money or property. An unsecured bond requires your signature or the signature of other individuals who are willing to promise the court that the you will appear in court and abide by the conditions set by the court.

Another type of bond is a property bond. A property bond involves the posting of real estate to secure your appearances and that you abide by the release conditions. A third type of bond is a corporate surety bond which involves making arrangements with a bonding company to post security on your behalf. Your travel may be restricted to certain areas in the US.After you are released, US Pre-Trial Services will conduct a home visit. This is usually done with advance notice.

If you are going to be charged with a federal criminal offense in New Jersey, call us at either our Monmouth County, Essex County, or Middlesex County offices to schedule an appointment to discuss your case and your voluntary surrender in Federal Court.

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