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Federal Information as an Alternative to an Indictment

As explained on a separate page of my Website titled: How a Federal Grand Jury Hands Down an Indictment, the United States Constitution's Fifth Amendment explicitly constructs a constitutional right for any individual charged in a federal criminal complaint to be protected from and corroborated for prosecution by going through the Grand Jury process which must approve an Indictment by a majority vote of its members before the individual will have to defend himself at trial, as well as being charged with a crime or crimes listed in a federal criminal complaint.

However, the accused individual can voluntarily waive their right to this Constitutional safeguard.

In this setting, the defendant in the case is usually clearing the way for their attorney to negotiate a plea agreement. Instead of being charged under Indictment, and allowing a Grand Jury to weigh evidence and testimony against them, they are now charged under a federal Information which is a formal charge by the government which details the charges for the prosecution, alleging a commission of a federal felony with which the defendant will now be  prosecuted.

Similarly a defendant can give up his right of a Grand Jury proceeding and be prosecuted by a document called a federal Information if the evidence against them appears to be overwhelming and the accused and his attorney believe they would be better served by directly resolving the case with a guilty plea to the Information.

In the Federal Courts of the Second Circuit (which includes New York State) once a defendant gives up his right to a grand jury proceeding and agrees to plead to any of the charges contained in the Information the government will send to the attorney for the Defendant what is called a Pimentel letter (which is also made available to the Court), which explains the possible penalties the defendant faces under the federal sentencing guidelines if he enters a plea of guilty to the Information. This procedure was instituted in 1991 by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals as a result of the Pimentel decision. This procedure safeguards defendants from unfair consequences after they plead guilty. In the Eleventh Circuit (which includes the State of Florida) no such requirement has been instituted, however as a practical matter many plea agreements prepared in connection with the filing of the criminal Information may contain the expected guideline range which is inserted as a matter of agreement with the defense in the plea agreement.

Thus, there is no difference between an Indictment and Information after either document has been filed with a court of law. Either filing will lead to a negotiation for a plea deal or a trial where the defendant's innocence or guilt will be decided by a federal jury.

An example of a recent major case that was prosecuted by federal Information was the United States v Bernard Madoff.

Madoff, the former Chairman of the NASDAQ stock exchange, engineered the largest public Ponzi scheme perpetrated against his clients when he admitted to eleven charges brought against him and his wealth management firm, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC.

Madoff was arrested in late 2008, and pleaded guilty under the Information to all federal charges against him. He was sentenced to 150 years in jail in addition to having a $17 billion fine imposed.

If a federal Indictment or Information has been filed with a court of law the initial investigation that led up to the criminal complaint has been determined and its results have given the prosecution what it believes to be enough evidence to move forward against an accused individual and bring them to trial or begin the process of discussing an agreement by plea.

If you or a member of your family obtains an indication that a federal criminal investigation has commenced; with you, a friend of a family member being the possible target of that probe, it's essential to retain the counsel of a criminal defense attorney whose law practice specializes in the defense of cases with federal implications.

As a former Assistant Federal Prosecutor now operating my private practice law firm dedicated to federal criminal defense, my accomplished experience based on years of trying cases for the prosecution can develop an important advantage in the defense of all federal criminal allegations.

My law practice primarily serves Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County in addition to all other jurisdictions within the State of Florida. To view my detailed qualifications and decide what the next step should be if it has been established that you or someone close to you has become the object of a federal investigation, or has been arrested and charged with a federal crime, click here.