What happens when I am arrested for a federal crime?
Soon after your arrest, agents will bring you to court before a magistrate judge. The charges against you will be contained in a complaint with an affidavit that summarizes the evidence against you, or in an indictment returned by a grand jury. The magistrate judge will explain your rights and make sure that you understand what the prosecutor claims you did. If you cannot afford an attorney, you will fill out a financial form (signed under penalty of perjury) to show that you cannot afford to hire your own. If the magistrate finds that you cannot afford to hire an attorney, either a Deputy Federal Public Defender (DFPD) or a member of the Criminal Justice Act (CJA) panel, will be appointed to represent you. You have the right to hire an attorney of your choice, even if the magistrate judge initially appoints a DFPD or a CJA attorney.
At your initial court appearance, the magistrate judge will determine if you are eligible for appointed counsel; he or she will decide whether you will be released on bail; and your next court date will be set. In some cases, the bail hearing will not be held at the same time as your initial appearance, but will happen a few days later if your attorney needs more time to develop a stronger case for your release.