Defense Investigations in Virginia Federal Criminal Cases
Virginia federal criminal lawyers conduct some level of investigation in every case. Critical to that investigation is strong communication between the attorney and client because the client can tell their attorney what is needed to try to rebut the government’s allegations.
In federal cases, defense attorneys need to look very closely at the elements of each crime charged and at the facts which the government alleges support the elements of those crimes. Defense investigations in Virginia federal cases look at each of those elements and the evidence that the government believes supports them. Attorneys will look for holes or things that can be exploited for the defense’s benefit, which could be different from what the government alleges.
If there is information which the government has found, it is the responsibility of a skilled federal defense lawyer and the defendant to refute it before trial. A federal criminal defense lawyer in Virginia can help you review your case in order to provide the most appropriate defense for your future.
Differences in Prosecution v. Defense Investigations
The government can investigate for a certain amount of time. Once they choose to bring charges, the person facing charges is likely only beginning to prepare for trial. The government is typically going to have a head start on cases once they are charged. A Virginia federal criminal defense attorney needs to be very skilled in the art of managing their time in such a way that they can get up to speed. In some cases, the government will have a lot of evidence they must turn over to the defense.
However, they will not provide all evidence at once, instead opting to stagger the delivery. As a result, a lot of manpower is required on the defense’s side to sift through and make use of the government’s evidence. Hiring a lawyer with a private law firm provides you with access to a whole host of support staff working for your defense.
Access to Federal Government’s Information
The government is obligated under the rules of discovery to give the defense documentation they could potentially use at trial or anything that they consider to be exculpatory.
Exculpatory evidence is that which tends to prove innocence. It includes witness statements, detective reports, investigative reports, and anything else upon which the government is relying on to make their case. The government in the federal system has a much more stringent obligation of disclosure of evidence to defense counsel. This is unfortunately not true of state courts like in Virginia.
Brady information is what we call information that is exculpatory in nature and is in possession of the government or its agents. That information is required to be turned over to the Virginia federal defense counsel by law.
The government has a leg up in investigating any case against an individual because they get a lead in time. Fundamental fairness requires that the government be required to turn over any and all exculpatory evidence. Issues attorneys face when trying to get Brady information can be numerous, but the most compelling and common issue is that what a defense attorney might deem as exculpatory, a prosecutor might not.
Unfortunately, the prosecutor is the one who is in possession of that information. Most prosecutors will err on the side of caution and disclose anything to a defense attorney that they feel might possibly be deemed as exculpatory, because the last thing a prosecutor wants is for a defense attorney to find something through sources other than the government, and then report to the judge that the government was holding on to potentially exculpatory information. Most prosecutors will turn over everything that might even possibly be discoverable under the Brady rule. Others play it closer to the vest and will only turn over the things which they feel are absolutely necessary.
Aspects of Federal Cases that Impact Defense Investigations
Federal cases are almost always more involved than state cases. While this is not uniformly true, federal cases do consist of far more information than your average state case. In many cases involving any kind of financial transactions the government deems to be illegal, there will be a massive amount of paperwork.
A Virginia federal criminal attorney’s ability to successfully process all of that paperwork and analyze its meaning and relevance to the case will be very useful as the case proceeds.
Beginning the Defense-Side Investigations
When a client brings a case to a Virginia federal criminal attorney, one of the first things the attorney will do is speak with the client and ascertain as much information as possible before beginning an investigation. By speaking to the client, a lawyer will be able to gauge what information the government definitely knows and what information they might know. From there, defense-side investigations can move in many different ways.
After speaking with the client, a Virginia federal criminal lawyer will be able to craft a roadmap of the parts that need to be visited in order to prepare a defense. There is not an absolute checklist that a lawyer will use, but the first step almost always begins with speaking to the client.
Resources Virginia Federal Criminal Lawyers Use
The primary resource defense attorneys use is their own private investigators. But it is not limited to private investigators. Virginia federal defense attorneys very often will employ the use of expert witnesses. They analyze computer data in computer-based crimes. They might employ an expert accountant to analyze financial information in financial-based crimes. They might employ a medical expert in cases involving health care fraud or in any kind of drug-related case.
There is no shortage of experts out there on almost every topic of which you can conceive. An experienced federal defense attorney in Virginia will have access to those experts and be able to call upon them with a moment’s notice when the case they are investigating calls for an expert opinion.