I Was Charged With a Federal Crime: What Should I Do?

Charlotte Criminal Lawyer Brad Smith answers the question: “Do I need to hire an attorney if I have been falsely accused?”


Being charged with a federal crime is a very stressful and frightening experience. Many people who are facing federal charges do not know what happens after they are arrested, receive a target letter, or their criminal case in North Carolina is taken to federal court.

white-collar-crime-Charlotte-Monroe-Mooresville-Federal-criminal-defense-lawyer-225x300It is vital to speak with a criminal defense lawyer in North Carolina if you were charged with a federal crime. Your attorney will help you navigate the process from your first court appearance to the  resolution of your case.


When You can be Charged With a Federal Crime

You can find out that you have been charged with a federal crime when any of the following occurs:

  • You received a target letter telling you to appear at your initial hearing;
  • Your criminal case has been transferred from a state attorney to a U.S. attorney; or
  • You have been arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or other federal investigators.

Often, people face federal charges for committing crimes across state lines or on federal property. However, most defendants face federal charges because their criminal case prosecuted by a state attorney is transferred to federal prosecutors.


What Happens When You are Notified of Federal Charges Through a Target Letter?

You may receive a target letter informing you of the pending federal charges against you. This is especially common if the defendant is accused of committing a white-collar crime such as fraud, money laundering, and embezzlement. The target letter usually contains the following information:

  • You are named as a “target” of a federal grand jury investigation;
  • The crime(s) you are suspected of committing;
  • Your right to invoke your 5th Amendment rights;
  • Instructions advising you to contact the Federal Public Defenders Office if you cannot afford an attorney;
  • The consequences of failing to attend the initial court appearance; and
  • A warning to avoid destroying any pieces of evidence or relevant information.


What to Expect During Your First Court Appearance

When to expect your first court appearance depends on whether you received a target letter or were arrested. The date of the initial appearance will be specified in the target letter. If you were arrested, on the other hand, the court appearance will take place within 48 hours of the arrest.

During the court appearance, the federal judge will ask you whether you want to represent yourself, hire a criminal defense attorney, or have a federal public defender assigned to your case.

Then, the judge will ask the Assistant U.S. Attorney if it is necessary to keep you in custody until your case is concluded. If the government wants to hold you in jail until your case is resolved, you may attend a detention hearing within the next seven days.

If you are facing federal charges, it is important to be represented by a skilled criminal defense attorney who has experience handling cases in federal courts. Here at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, our lawyers will protect your rights and freedom in state and federal courts. Get a phone or video consultation by calling at (704) 370-2828 to speak with our detail-oriented and well-versed lawyers with offices in Charlotte, Lake Norman, and Monroe, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today or find additional resources here.







The criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC make it their mission to zealously defend their clients on a wide range of criminal matters at both the state and federal levels. These matters may include any charge from traffic offenses; DWI/DUI; drug charges (from simple possession to possession with intent to distribute and trafficking); gun permit denials; weapons offenses; and property crimes (larceny, breaking and entering, robbery, fraud, embezzlement, white collar offenses); to sexually related offenses (indecent exposure; sexual assault, crimes against nature, removal from sex offender registry); and violent crimes (domestic violence; assault; manslaughter; homicide, murder). Other legal issues that Arnold & Smith, PLLC criminal clients may be facing include restraining orders, restraining order and probation violations, expungements; appeals; and immigration issues related to criminal charges. Our criminal defense attorneys are passionate about ensuring that individuals empower themselves by being informed about their constitutional rights, and stand at the ready to fight in the defense of those facing criminal charges.






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