What to Do If Your Spouse Has Been Charged with a Federal Crime

Broden Mickelsen

Getting a call notifying you that your husband or wife has been arrested and charged with a federal crime is a scary experience. You may have a lot of questions. Will this result in a conviction? What are your loved one’s rights? How can you help?

If you find yourself in a situation where your significant other has been charged with a federal crime, your first step should be to get in touch with a Texas federal criminal defense lawyer. Federal charges are serious, and the consequences can be severe. Don’t wait to get help from a federal criminal defense lawyer.

Federal vs. State Criminal Charges

The first thing you should know is that federal criminal charges are different from state criminal charges. Federal charges are prosecuted in federal court rather than the state court system. Additionally, the penalties for a federal conviction tend to be more severe than penalties for a state crime conviction.

It’s also important to work with a defense lawyer who has experienced defending cases in federal court. The federal justice system has its own rules, including specific sentencing guidelines courts must follow. When your loved one’s freedom and future are on the line, experience matters.

Can I Post Bond for My Husband or Wife in the Federal System?

Most people are familiar with the bond process, or at least what bond means. When someone is arrested, they might have to post bond to guarantee that they will show up for a later court date. In exchange for putting up this money, the court allows them to return home while they wait for their court date.

However, federal cases generally don’t follow the same procedure as state courts when it comes to bond. In the federal criminal justice system, the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure state that an individual must have their initial court appearance and detention hearing within three days of getting arrested. This is where they have a chance to understand the charges they’re facing.

The initial appearance is also an opportunity for the court to determine if the individual is a flight risk or has a high likelihood of causing harm if they’re released. Federal law gives courts the authority to consider a number of factors with respect to any danger the individual might pose.

Specifically, individuals who commit certain offenses aren’t permitted to get a pretrial release. These charges include:

  • Certain violent crimes
  • Crimes that carry a life sentence or the death penalty
  • Certain offenses that involve controlled substances and carry a prison sentence of 10 years or greater
  • Felonies committed with a firearm
  • Felonies in which a minor is the victim
  • Flight risk
  • High likelihood of obstruction of justice on the part of the accused

Additionally, there is a presumption in the federal justice system that someone facing a drug charge is a flight risk or could put the community in danger. Because of this presumption, it takes a great deal of evidence to show the court that the person isn’t a danger or won’t flee the jurisdiction if they’re released.

Steps to Take If Your Husband or Wife Has Been Charged with a Federal Crime

If your husband or wife has been charged with a federal crime, there are certain things you can do to help their case and get prepared for what’s ahead.

1. Keep Copies of All Documents

Keep an original or a copy of any documents you or your loved one receives in connection with their case. This includes warrants, police reports, and any other paperwork.

It’s particularly important to make sure you have a copy of any warrants, such as arrest warrants or search warrants. This will let you know the jurisdiction in which your husband or wife has been charged, along with the name of the law enforcement officer who executed the warrant. You can use this information to determine where your husband or wife is detained while they await trial.

2. Make Sure Your Husband or Wife Asks for a Lawyer

If possible, remind your husband or wife that they have a right to have a lawyer present if the police or federal agents take them into custody and question them. In some cases, people become so frightened when they’re arrested that they forget about their important constitutional rights.

If your husband or wife can’t afford a lawyer, they’re entitled by law to have a public defender appointed to their case.

3. Get a Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer

It’s important to get in touch with a federal criminal defense lawyer right away and preferably before your loved one’s initial appearance. Depending on how much time you have, it’s possible that a criminal defense lawyer can even talk to your husband or wife in person prior to the initial appearance.

4. Ask Questions

It’s okay to ask your loved one’s criminal defense lawyer questions, but keep in mind that your loved one is the client. There will likely be times that your loved one’s lawyer declines to discuss certain aspects of the case with you. This is due to various privilege rules that can help protect your loved one and you during the course of the criminal case. Contact Broden & Mickelsen, LLP today!


  1. https://www.law.cornell.edu/rules/frcrmp/rule_5
  2. https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/3142

Mick Mickelsen is a nationally recognized criminal trial attorney with more than 30 years of experience defending people charged with white-collar crimes, drug offenses, sex crimes, murder, and other serious state and federal offenses.