San Antonio Federal Criminal Defense.

After someone is arrested for a federal crime, they frequently ask–‘What happens next?’ This post explains the basics of federal prosecutions in San Antonio, Texas.  It also provides a roadmap of what to expect after you are charged with a federal crime in San Antonio, Texas, such as a first-time drug, gun, or alien-smuggling charge.

The Initial Appearance, Preliminary Hearings, And Bond Hearings in San Antonio, Texas Federal Court.

After a person is arrested for a federal crime, he is brought to court.  This is the initial appearance. This is when the judge tells the person why he was arrested.  The judge also gives the person information about his prelim and bond hearing.  And the judge then usually resets the case.  This gives the person and his lawyer time to prepare for the prelim and bond hearing.  

The Federal Indictment And Arraignment Process in San Antonio, Texas.

When prosecutors get an indictment, that is a major event in the criminal-justice process.   It happens when prosecutors ask a Grand Jury to charge a person with a crime. If the grand jury believes there is probable cause that the person committed an offense, then they will return a true bill of indictment. On the other hand, If the grand jury finds there is not probable cause the person broke the law, then they return a “no bill.”  A “no bill” is good news.  It means the person is not charged with a crime.  

In addition, the indictment tells the person what he is charged with.  Stated another way, it tells the person what he did wrong.   The indictment must state every fact that is part of the crime.  This allows the person to prepare his defense.  To add to that, the indictment allows the person to raise a double-jeopardy defense in a future case.          

After a person is indicted, he is arraigned on the charges.  This is when a judge does the following:  

  • Makes sure the person got a copy of the indictment or information;
  • Reads the indictment or information to the person; and
  • Asks the person to enter a plea to the indictment or information.

Plus, the person may attend the hearing in person, by video conference, or waive the hearing.
To waive the hearing, the person signs a written form telling the court that he received a copy of the indictment, waives his appearance, and enters a plea of not guilty. It is very common for clients to waive this hearing.

Federal Criminal Discovery checklist in San Antonio, Texas.  

“The essential purpose of permitting a criminal defendant to engage in pretrial discovery of the prosecution’s case is to enhance the truth-finding process so as to minimize the danger that an innocent defendant will be convicted.”

See William J. Brennan, Jr., The Criminal Prosecution: Sporting event or Quest for truth?, 68 Wash. U. L. Q. 1,2 (1990).

Case law, statutes, and the federal rules of criminal procedure control the discovery process in federal criminal prosecutions.

The discovery process makes sure the person gets the information necessary to prepare a defense. It also helps the person decide whether to plead out or go to trial. So let’s discuss how the defense obtains this information.

A. Rule 16 Federal Criminal Discovery.

Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 16 outlines what the government and defense must produce and disclose to each other before trial. Rule 16 ensures a defendant will receive the following:

  • Defendant’s oral statements;
  • His written statements;
  • His prior record;
  • Documents and objects, i.e., crime scene photos and other evidence;
  • Reports of Examinations and Tests, i.e., gun and drug reports, physical or mental exams, etc; and
  • Summaries of expert witnesses the government intends to use at trial.

In short, Rule 16 is a robust rule that provides the defense with the information necessary to prepare for trial.  

B. Giglio And Brady Material.

Giglio and Brady material refers to Supreme Court cases that require the Government to produce certain types of evidence. Giglio material covers promises of leniency the Government made to a witness in exchange for that witness agreeing to testifying against a defendant at trial.  Brady material means  “favorable evidence to an accused… that is material either to guilt or punishment.”  

Criminal Trial vs Plea Bargain in San Antonio, Texas.  

The defendant always decides if he will plead guilty or go to trial.  That is, a defense lawyer may advise a client on the pros and cons of going to trial. But the defense attorney should never pressure or force the client to plead guilty.

Moreover, the difference between pleading guilty and losing at trial is dramatic. In some cases, the evidence against a person is weak, but the range of punishment if he loses means he can spend the rest of his life in jail. It puts lots of pressure on a person to plead guilty.  

This is why it is important for the client and his attorney to review all the discovery in the case before making a decision. The client should also consider hiring a defense investigator to assist with the case. [Note–if the client is indigent and has court-appointed counsel, then his attorney should petition the court for funds to hire an investigator.].

If the client is found guilty by the jury or pleads out, then the case is forwarded to the United States Probation Department to prepare a presentence investigation report (PSR).

PreSentence Investigation Reports (PSRs) in Texas.

The case is assigned to a probation officer who interviews the client and conducts a presentence investigation. The probation officer then prepares a PSI that includes the following information pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 32(d):

  1. Lists all applicable guidelines and policy statements of the Sentencing Commission;
  2. Calculates the client’s offense level and criminal history category;
  3. States the resulting sentencing range and kinds of sentences available;
  4. Identifies any factor relevant to the appropriate kind of sentence or the appropriate sentence within the applicable guideline range;
  5. Identifies any basis for departing from the applicable sentencing range;
  6. Describes the client’s history and characteristics, including his criminal history,financial condition, and other relevant information described in Fed. R. Crim. P. 32.

The client will get an opportunity to review the PSI with his attorney. He also has the right to file written objections or corrections to the PSI.

Federal Sentencing Hearings in San Antonio, Texas.

During the sentencing hearing in San Antonio, the court will ask the Defense and Government if they reviewed the PSI.  The court will also ask each side if there are any objections to the PSI. The defense attorney should raise any and all objections to the PSI.  Otherwise the objections are waived and the PSI is adopted by the Court as is. The court will then rule on any objections and proceed to sentencing.

At sentencing the Court will give each side an opportunity to speak.  Here, the defense can make a request for the lowest or best sentence. Finally, the Court will also consider the 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) factors before making a final decision on the punishment.

The 3553(a) factors are powerful sentencing tool for the defense.  It allows the defense to make the best case possible for the client.  An experienced defense attorney can use these factors to draft a sentencing memorandum and argue for the lowest sentence possible.

San Antonio Federal Criminal Defense Attorney

The goal in each case is for the client to meaningfully participate in his or her own defense. During every stage described above, the client can work with his or her attorney to chip away at the Government’s case and secure a favorable outcome.

Genaro R. Cortez
Attorney
Phone: 210.733.7575

Law Office of Genaro R. Cortez, P.L.L.C.

730 West Hildebrand Avenue
Suite 2,
San Antonio, Texas 78212
Phone: 210-733-7575
Fax: 210-733-7578
Email: genaro.cortez@cortezlawyer.org