IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR CLIENTS
The Federal Public Defender’s Office for the Western District of Michigan is a law
office providing expert representation to individuals facing federal criminal charges
who cannot afford to hire a lawyer. For more than fifteen years our office has represented
thousands of clients. Our team of lawyers has more than 180 years combined
experience practicing law in the federal courts. They are assisted by a staff of professionals
committed to providing superior litigation support.
Geographically, we cover all of Michigan’s upper peninsula and the western half
of the lower peninsula. Our main office is in Grand Rapids with a branch office in Marquette. Typically, we handle approximately 360 cases per year. Our clients face a
wide variety of charges including drug offenses, gun charges, immigration/
naturalization violations, bank robberies, counterfeiting, and fraud cases. We also represent
clients against whom the Government is seeking the death penalty. We understand
that facing criminal charges in federal court can be a confusing and even
scary experience. We will work with you to help you through this difficult period. In
the weeks ahead we will provide you additional information about the federal criminal
process. We believe that being educated about the system will empower you and
make it easier for you to communicate with your lawyer and work toward a resolution
of your case.
Ignore “jail house lawyers.” Some inmates in the county jails are not involved in
the federal system, and have little or no knowledge about the federal judicial
process. Even among federal prisoners false rumors circulate. Listen to your lawyer.
Your defense team is the best source of information about your case. If these
so-called jail house lawyers knew what they were talking about, why are they still
sitting in jail?
Be open during visitation. Once you have been appointed counsel, your lawyer
or an investigator from the office will speak to you. Due to the discovery rules in
the federal criminal justice system, the prosecution is not required to provide the
defense team with nearly as much evidence as is provided in the state system. It is
therefore crucial that you be truthful with your defense team and provide them
with as much information as you can. Take the time to think about potential witnesses,
and their contact information, and have this information ready when your
lawyer and the investigators speak with you.
Contact your lawyer. Our office will accept your collect calls, but please keep the
following in mind when you call. First, do not abuse this courtesy. We ask that
you call only when something important needs to be conveyed to us. Also, remember
that because the jail records phone conversations, nothing having to do
with the facts of your case or defense will be discussed. Second, if you call and
the secretary does not accept your call, that means your lawyer is either out of the
office or for some other reason is unable to take your call at that time.
Arrive for court appearances. The Western District has courts in Grand Rapids,
Kalamazoo, Lansing, and Marquette. If you are released on bond, it is critical that
you show up on time for every court appearance and not violate any condition of
your bond. Also keep in mind that you should dress appropriately; remember
that every time you appear in court you are striving to make a good impression
on the judge/jury. What is appropriate? No jeans. Absolutely no shorts. No
bling. For men: dress pants and a button-down shirt. For women: dress pants or
skirt or dress. Now is not the time to feel as though you need to make a fashion
statement. Also, no cell phones in court. Finally, while in some cases it may be
unavoidable, do not bring small children to court. If you cannot find a babysitter,
advise your family to keep the children out of the court room. Note: Persons entering
a federal building will be asked to produce proper identification.
DO NOT discuss your case with anyone but your lawyer. Anything you tell your
lawyer about your case is privileged information and is therefore confidential. Do
not discuss your case with police, prosecutors, the U.S. Marshals or any other officer
of the court. If anyone asks you questions, tell them you cannot answer without
the presence of your lawyer. Also, do not ask them questions about your case.
When you ask them questions the conversation often leads to the facts of your case.
If you initiate a conversation that leads to admissions about your case, the statements
can be used against you even if you have previously told the agents you did
not want to talk to them. The law is complex in this area. The best course of action
and our advice to you is quite frankly to keep quiet.
DO NOT discuss your case with other inmates. Do not speak to any other inmate
about your case. Whether conversations are in English or another language, anything
you say to other inmates can be used against you in court. All letters and
phone calls in and out of the jail are reviewed by jail/prison personnel, so do not discuss
your case with anyone through these means. The only persons with whom
you should discuss your case are your lawyer and any of this office’s investigators/
assistants working on the case. Also, please keep in mind that in the federal system,
a majority of defendants will at some point agree to “cooperate” with the government
in exchange for a lighter sentence themselves. Especially for those of you who
have been detained while your case is pending, be aware that your cell mates may
be pumping you for information so that they can turn around and provide the information
to the Government. This happens all the time.
DO NOT discuss the facts of your case with family. We are sure that you would not
want to see a family member end up as a witness against you. Therefore, do not
discuss the facts of your case with family members. This includes any phone conversations
that you make from the jail or letters you may send to family or friends from
the jail. Your phone calls are being recorded and your mail is being monitored.
FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, W.D. MI