Federal Public Defender
Western District of Arkansas
Remember that the answers below are very general. It is important to discuss your case specifics with your attorney.
1. How can I qualify for an appointed counsel (a free lawyer)?
If you are charged with a federal criminal offense, or if you have received a letter stating that you are the target of a Grand Jury investigation, you can apply to a federal magistrate judge for appointment of counsel.
2. Do Federal Defender attorneys work for the court? Is my attorney going to work hard to defend me?
Although federal defenders are appointed by the court, federal defenders (like all attorneys) are ethically bound to work hard to get the best possible resolution in each case. It is in your best interest to work with and trust your attorney so that you can fully communicate all facts relating to your case with your attorney. That is the only way to ensure that your attorney has all of the facts necessary to represent you effectively.
3. Are my communications with my lawyer confidential?
The attorney-client privilege protects conversations between clients and their attorneys from being revealed to anyone outside the defense team. For this reason, only statements made to your attorney are completely protected from being revealed in a Government investigation. For the most part, statements made to anyone other than your attorney are fair game in a Government investigation, meaning that Government agents can question anyone other than your attorney about statements you make to them. Government attorneys can subpoena anyone other than your attorney about your statements.
4. When will I go to court?
Federal court time tables differ from case to case. Initial appearances are held as soon as possible after arrest by the federal authorities keeping in mind that court is not held on weekends or federal holidays. A bond hearing will typically be held either at the initial appearance or between three and five business days following the initial appearance. If you are arrested on a criminal complaint, the Government must obtain an indictment in felony cases within thirty days of the initial appearance. Arraignment is usually held shortly after the indictment is returned. Other time lines depend on the case.
5. What is discovery?
Discovery is the evidence relating to the charges or to sentencing that is produced by the Government. Discovery can be five pages long, consisting of a rap sheet and a police report. It can also be hundreds of thousands of pages of documents in a complex fraud case. Discovery can include photographs of the scene, an informant’s name and background, or forensic evidence such as fingerprints, phone records or DNA analysis.
When an attorney is appointed to represent a defendant, one of his or her first jobs is to ask for Discovery from the Government. In rare cases, an attorney may opt to not request Discovery so that the defense does not have to provide Discovery to the government of the documents which will be important to the defense.
Please be advised that the rules require the defense to provide Discovery to the Government of any documents or evidence which the defense expects to use in its case at trial also. That means if there are important documents that will be necessary to your defense, discuss and provide them to your attorney, because the failure to provide this information to the Government prior to trial can result in the judge ruling that it cannot be used in your defense.