The initial stages of a criminal case in federal court can be a confusing and anxiety-producing time for a person who has been arrested.   Here’s an explanation of what a federal criminal arrestee can expect at the beginning of the case.

In general, the initial stages of a federal criminal case typically come in three steps: (1) the arrestee’s initial appearance, (2) a preliminary hearing, and (3) a detention hearing.

This article discusses what to expect at a detention hearing.

What is a detention hearing? The pretrial detention hearing is the hearing at which the court decides whether to detain the defendant in custody (typically in the county jail) prior to trial.  The prosecutor can ask the court to detain a defendant if the defendant is a danger to the community or a flight risk.

When is the detention hearing?  Following the initial appearance (discussed in Part I of this series), the prosecutor may continue the case for up to five days if the prosecutor files a motion for a detention hearing.  During this time, the defendant remains in custody.  If the defendant files a motion to be released from custody during the course of the case, the judge will schedule a detention hearing so that the defendant’s motion can be heard.

What does the court consider when deciding whether to release someone?  The judge will consider two main things:

First: Whether there are conditions of release that will reasonably assure the appearance of the defendant for trial.  Obviously, the judge wants to make sure the defendant will show up for the trial.  If the defendant has a history of missing court dates, or presents a flight risk, the judge may require the defendant to be detained until the trial is concluded.

Second: The safety of any other person and the community.  If the defendant has a history of violence, or poses a threat to someone’s safety, the judge may require the defendant to be detained until the trial is concluded.

If the defendant is not held in custody, are there different types of release? Yes.  It will depend on the nature of the case and the defendant’s history.  The judge may allow a defendant to be released on personal recognizance, i.e., the defendant promises to appear at all court appearances and to not commit crimes while on release.  The judge may also allow a defendant to be released upon the posting of a bond.  Finally, the judge may allow a defendant to be released to house arrest or with GPS monitoring.  If a defendant is released from custody, it is quite common that the defendant will be required to comply with a number of limitations, including drug testing.

The detention hearing is when the defendant attempts to secure his or her pre-trial release.  Our attorneys at Beggs & Lane have decades of experience in representing clients at detention hearings. Contact us for a consultation.

Beggs & Lane’s White Collar Criminal Defense and Internal Investigations Group is led by former First Assistant United States Attorney David McGee.  The Group includes Gregory R. Miller, a former United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida; Charles T. Wiggins, a Board-Certified Civil Trial Lawyer and former criminal prosecutor with the Office of the State Attorney, First Judicial Circuit of Florida; and Matthew P. Massey, a former Assistant United States Attorney with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.