Below are common questions about the Federal Public Defender and the services provided.
Q: What is a Federal Case?
A: A federal case means that you are charged with a federal crime. That means either: (1) a crime that violates a law passed by Congress; or (2) a crime that happened on property owned by the United States Government, such as Dover Air Force Base.
Q: Do I Need a Federal Public Defender?
A: The Federal Defender's Office represents individuals charged with federal crimes in the District of Delaware that cannot afford an attorney. You may need a Federal Public Defender if you have been arrested and charged with a federal crime, are under investigation for a federal crime or if you were contacted by a federal law enforcement agency or any agency regarding a federal investigation. Additionally, you may need a Federal Public Defender if you were subpoenaed to appear in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware.
Federal agencies that may contact you include the United States Attorney's Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Department of Justice ("DOJ"), Department of Homeland Security, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), Social Security Administration (SSA) and the United States Postal Inspector. You have the right to speak to an attorney prior to, and during, any questioning by any federal agency. If you cannot afford an attorney and would like to speak to an attorney, please inform the federal agency of your desire to speak to an attorney and promptly contact our office.
Q: Do I have to pay for your legal services?
A: We can only represent you if a court appoints us based on your financial situation. You will not be required to pay for our services unless the court determines that you should pay a limited amount based on your income. If there are other defendants in your case, we can only represent one of you. We will, however, assist you in obtaining a free, private attorney, known as a "CJA Panel Attorney."
Q: Do you work for the courts? Will I be fairly represented by your office?
A: Once we are appointed to your case, we work only for you, and not for the court. We are just like a privately retained attorney, and we are committed to providing high-quality criminal defense. We defend every aspect of your case, including investigations, trial, and, in most cases, any appeals or problems with supervised release after sentencing. Our lawyers are highly skilled individuals with a substantial amount of criminal defense experience, and we are constantly reviewing changes in federal laws to provide the best representation possible.
Q: What are your hours? How do I get in touch with my lawyer?
A: We are open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday-Friday. We accept collect calls. If your attorney is not in the office, your call will not be accepted, but please call back later. Your attorney will also come to visit you. If you are out of custody, you will meet with us in our offices. Please keep all of your appointments and contact your attorney or his or her secretary if you need to reschedule.
Q: How will you help me to prepare for my federal case? How do I get access to information to defend myself?
A: There are two main areas in which we obtain the information needed to properly defend your case: (1) discovery and (2) investigation. "Discovery" is the process of getting information from the government in a court case. You will also hear this term used to describe any evidence that the prosecutor will use against you. The prosecutor's discovery will be provided to you prior to trial. Discovery can include copies of any documents that the government plans to use against you at trial, test results, statements that you made to law enforcement or any physical evidence that will be used against you.
Investigation can vary from case to case, and it can include locating and interviewing witnesses necessary for your defense, examining the alleged crime scene, testing physical evidence and getting expert witnesses. Our office provides a thorough investigation of your case to ensure that we provide a thorough defense.
Q. Is your representation of me confidential?
A: Absolutely. We carefully uphold the lawyer-client relationship, and everything that you say to your lawyer is completely confidential. We advise you to never discuss the case with anyone except your attorney, including law enforcement officials or contacts and other inmates. Some inmates are informants, and anything that you say can be used against you. Some inmates are not federal prisoners and do not know about federal cases. Do not discuss your case with other inmates, as false rumors are often spread about sentencing deals and cannot predict what may happen to you. Never discuss your case with friends or family over the telephone. Jail phone calls are regularly recorded.