Pending Federal Criminal Charges Now What?

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When people talk about having pending federal charges, they are talking about one of two things:

  1. Charges that have been filed, but not yet prosecuted, or
  2. Charges that will be filed.

These are very different circumstances that have to be handled in different ways.

Charges Already Filed

Sometimes, an Assistant U.S. Attorney will file criminal charges, but make an arrangement with the defendant not to prosecute those charges immediately. This is called deferred prosecution. The defendant agrees to do something the successful completion of which will result in the charges being dropped. For example, someone charged with a minor drug offense might agree to go to rehabilitation. If rehabilitation is successful, the prosecutor might agree to drop the pending federal charges.

People who have these types of pending federal charges should do whatever it is that they agreed to do in exchange for the prosecutor to defer prosecution of the charges. Failure to complete the defendant’s end of the bargain will result in the charges moving from pending status to prosecution. If for some reason, a defendant cannot do what he or she agreed to do, an attorney should be consulted with immediately as it might be possible to make other arrangements with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Charges Not Yet Filed

Sometimes federal investigators will inform a suspect that they plan on seeking charges against the suspect. These are also referred to as pending federal charges. Normally, investigators do this because they want to get something out of the defendant. That something can be information or it can be an admission of guilt.

Investigators Looking for Information

If investigators think a suspect might have information about other defendants or about larger crimes, it might be in their best interest to tell that suspect about pending federal charges. For example, if they know that someone committed embezzlement, they might inform that person about the pending charges because they want information about other crimes they believe the suspect’s company committed. By telling their suspect, the investigators are looking to make a deal for the information they seek.

Admission of Guilt

Sometimes, federal investigators think that they have all the information they need to convict someone of a crime, but they do not want to go through the entire process of filing charges and seeking a conviction. Instead, they will ask the person to admit to wrongdoing in exchange for a lighter sentence.

What to Do

No matter why federal investigators have informed you of pending federal charges against you, what you need to do is the same and simple:

  • Call a Federal attorney immediately.
  • Call a Federal attorney immediately.
  • Call a Federal attorney immediately.

You don’t have to do it three times, but hopefully, the repetition drives the importance home. Federal investigators do not have your best interests in mind. They are not telling you about pending charges because it is helpful to you. They are doing so because it is helpful to them. You need an attorney to make sure that any agreement you reach with the federal government is truly in your best interests.

What Happens Next

What happens after you call an attorney depends on the specifics of your case. If your attorney agrees that it is in your best interests to cooperate with the federal investigators, then the attorney will assist you in coming to an agreement with the investigators. You will then need to live up to your end of that agreement.

If your attorney does not think it is in your best interests to cooperate with investigators, then it is likely that the charges will be filed. They will no longer be pending. At that point, you will go through the federal criminal justice process. This can include the following stages:

  • Grand jury investigation
  • Indictment
  • Trial
  • Sentencing
  • Appeal

There are many other possible stages that your attorney will discuss with you. Whatever happens, your attorney will be there to give you legal advice and make sure that your best interests are represented.


Before you can know what to do about pending federal charges, you need to know what it is meant by them. There are two possibilities for both of which it is best to speak to an experienced federal criminal defense attorney about what you need to do to protect your best interests.