Frequently Asked Questions
What kinds of cases does your office handle?
United States Attorney’s Offices prosecute federal crimes – from gun violence to national security to healthcare fraud. We bring cases referred to us by a number of law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, ATF, DEA, and other federal, state, and local law enforcement. For more information on the types of cases we handle, click here. We also represent various federal agencies in civil lawsuits.
Who oversees your office?
The Northern District of Texas is led by a Presidentially nominated and Senate-confirmed prosecutor known as the United States Attorney, who oversees a team of assistant prosecutors known as Assistant United States Attorneys, or AUSAs. The United States Attorney acts as the chief federal law enforcement official for the district, and ultimately reports to the United States Attorney General. Read more about our current U.S. Attorney, Leigha Simonton, here, and about our Attorney General, Merrick B. Garland, here. (Our office is not affiliated with the Texas Attorney General’s Office; their website is here.)
What’s the difference between a U.S. Attorney’s Office and a District Attorney’s Office?
United States Attorney’s Offices (USAOs) are components of the United States Department of Justice. USAOs prosecute violations of federal law created by the United States Congress. DA’s offices, on the other hand, prosecute violations of state law created by the state legislature.
How do I report a crime to your office for prosecution?
The United States Attorney’s Office prosecutes violations of federal criminal law, but the office does not independently investigate crimes. The Justice Department outlines how to report various types of crimes to investigative agencies here. Alternatively, our office would be happy to forward your concern to the appropriate investigative agency; simply fill out this form and return it to us at USATXN.USAO@usdoj.gov. If you or someone else is in immediate danger, call 911.
What law enforcement agencies does your office work with?
Our office partners with a number of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, including but not limited to:
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) – Dallas Field Office (DOJ component)
Led by Special Agent in Charge B. Chad Yarbrough
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) – Dallas Field Division (DOJ component)
Led by Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey Boshek
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) – Dallas Field Division (DOJ component)
Led by Special Agent in Charge Eduardo Chavez
United States Marshals Service – NDTX (DOJ component)
Homeland Security Investigations – Dallas Field Office
U.S. Postal Inspection Service
IRS – Criminal Investigations
U.S. Secret Service
Texas Department of Public Safety
I want to file a lawsuit. Will you represent me in court?
The United States Attorney’s Office does not provide legal advice to private individuals, nor do we represent private individuals in court. The State Bar of Texas maintains a database of attorneys licensed in the state that may or may not be willing to represent you. Our office is not permitted to make referrals.
I’m the victim of a crime prosecuted by your office. Can you help me?
Crime victims are afforded certain rights under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act (CVRA), including the right to be treated with respect, the right to timely notice of court proceedings, the right to confer with a government attorney, and the right to be reasonably protected from the accused. Certain victims may also be eligible for restitution. If you are the victim of a crime being prosecuted by our office, call our Victim Witness Assistance hotline at 1-800-496-8341 for assistance. For more information on your rights and resources available to you, click here.
How can I obtain records from your office?
You may access unsealed federal court records on PACER, a database of more than a billion court documents maintained by the federal judiciary. Register for an account here. You may request additional records from our office by submitting a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request through the Executive Office for United States Attorneys. In your request, please note that you are requesting records from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas and describe in detail the records you are seeking. Note that some materials may be exempted from disclosure. Start the FOIA process here.
Can I videotape a court proceeding to which your office is a party?
No. The U.S. Judicial Conference prohibits "broadcasting, televising, recording, or taking photographs in the courtroom and areas immediately adjacent thereto" expect in special circumstances, such as investitures or special ceremonies. Generally, cameras are not permitted during federal trials or court proceedings, from the Supreme Court of the United States on down.
How can I obtain a mugshot of a defendant charged by your office?
In general, Justice Department policy prohibits the distribution of defendants' mug shots unless distribution would serve a law enforcement function, such as aiding in the location of a fugitive.
Who represents the individuals prosecuted by your office?
Criminal defendants may be represented either by a private attorney of their choosing or by the Federal Public Defender’s Office. For more information about the Federal Public Defender’s Office for the Northern District of Texas, click here.
What’s the best way to stay updated on your cases?
We post significant developments – including indictments, guilty pleas, trial verdicts, and sentences – in press releases on our News page and share them from our Twitter account (@NDTXNews).
How do federal criminal cases generally proceed?
Federal criminal cases generally start with an investigation, during which officers and agents collect evidence and interview witnesses. Defendants are then charged – via complaint, grand jury indictment, or criminal information – and, once apprehended, make an appearance in federal court. A judge will decide whether they are released back into the community or detained pending trial. The government may offer the defendant a plea agreement to avoid trial and perhaps reduce his or her sentence. If the prosecution and defense cannot come to an agreement on a plea, they will proceed to trial before a jury. If the defendant is found guilty, a judge will impose a sentence based on nationally recognized sentencing guidelines. Consult the Justice Department’s “Justice 101” for more detail.
Once a defendant has been criminally charged, how soon will they be tried?
Per the Speedy Trial Act, trial must commence 30 to 70 days from the date the indictment was filed, or from the date the defendant appears before an officer of the court in which the charge is pending, whenever is later, unless the trial judge determines that the "ends of justice" served by a continuance outweigh the interest of the public and the defendant in a speedy trial. Certain pretrial delays are automatically excluded from the Speedy Trial Act's time limits, such as delays caused by pretrial motions.
Explain the difference between an indictment, a superseding indictment, a criminal complaint, and an information.
An indictment is a document prepared by a prosecutor and authorized by a grand jury – an impartial group of 16 to 23 randomly selected citizens – formally outlining the criminal charge(s) against a defendant. Grand juries listen to presentations from prosecutors and testimony from witnesses to determine whether there is probable cause to believe the defendant committed the offense, and then either “true bill” or “no bill” the indictment. (Grand jury proceedings are secret. Generally, defendants and their counsel are not present. When an indictment is true billed, it is filed with the court and the defendant may be arrested or instructed to surrender; when it is no billed, the case does not move forward.) Every federal defendant has the right to be indicted by a grand jury. However, on those occasions when law enforcement makes an arrest before a case is presented to a grand jury, prosecutors may go to a magistrate judge to obtain a criminal complaint. Criminal complaints are generally accompanied by affidavits, signed by law enforcement officers, and outline some of the evidence of the accused’s role in the crime. A magistrate judge weighs the evidence presented in the affidavit and determines whether there is probable cause to believe the defendant committed the offense. If the magistrate judge determines there is probable case, he or she approves the complaint and an arrest warrant typically is issued so that the defendant may be arrested. After charging a defendant via criminal complaint, federal prosecutors have 30 days from the date of arrest to bring the case before a grand jury and obtain an indictment, unless granted an extension of time by the court. If a defendant waives his or her right to an indictment, he or she may be charged via an information. This sometimes occurs when a defendant elects to plead guilty pursuant to a plea agreement prior to being indicted. If prosecutors wish to amend or add charges against a defendant who has already been indicted, they must go before a grand jury and obtain a superseding indictment. Criminal complaints, indictments, and informations are merely charging documents that outline the allegations. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Explain the difference between an initial appearance, an arraignment, and a re-arraignment.
At an initial appearance, which occurs shortly after a defendant is arrested, a magistrate judge formally informs the defendant of the charges against them, advises them of their rights, and determines whether they have the financial ability to hire an attorney or if a public defender must be appointed. The magistrate judge may also set conditions of release at the initial appearance. (If prosecutors think a defendant should be held in custody until trial, they may request a detention hearing, which is typically held within three working days of the initial appearance. At the detention hearing, the magistrate judge will listen to evidence concerning the defendant’s dangerousness and risk of flight and decide whether they should be detained or released pending trial.) At an arraignment, which occurs after an indictment or information has been filed, a magistrate judge reads the charges against the defendant and advises them of their rights. The defendant then enters a plea: guilty or not guilty. If the defendant pleads not guilty, the defendant’s case will be set for trial. If, during the course of preparing for trial, a defendant elects to plead guilty, either in an open plea or pursuant to a plea agreement, the judge will schedule a re-arraignment, during which the defendant will change his or her plea from not guilty to guilty.
What are the chances a particular case will actually go to trial?
Every federal criminal defendant has a right to be tried by a jury of his or her peers. However, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than 90% of federal criminal defendants opt to plead guilty rather than proceed to trial. Most of those guilty pleas are entered pursuant to a plea bargain, in which prosecutors offer to recommend a lower sentence or allow a defendant to plead guilty to a lesser charge. Defendants are instructed that they may only plead guilty if they actually committed the crime, and guilty pleas must be accompanied by a sufficient factual basis for the plea, which is typically done in the form of a written admission by the defendant of the facts demonstrating his or her guilt of the offense.
How are sentences determined?
Although prosecutors may recommend sentences, it is U.S. District Judges, not prosecutors, that impose them. Congress has established minimum and maximum punishments for some crimes, which dictate what prison term the judge orders. Further, the United States Sentencing Commission has produced a set of sentencing guidelines that recommend certain punishments for crimes while considering various aggravating or mitigating factors, including the defendant’s criminal history, his or her acceptance of responsibility, and the nature of the crime itself. Judges may also consider information contained in the defendant’s presentence report and statements from the victims, the defendant, and attorneys on both sides.
How do I figure out where a federal felon is incarcerated?
You can locate individuals incarcerated in Federal Bureau of Prisons facilities using the BOP’s inmate locator.
Where can I submit feedback about the U.S. Attorney’s Office?
Members of the public can submit comments to the Department of Justice online or via the Department’s comment hotline at 202-353-1555.
I’d like to work for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas.
Fantastic! We regularly post employment opportunities on USA Jobs; please search “Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys” and filter by your desired location. The U.S. Department of Justice is an Equal Opportunity/Reasonable Accommodation Employer. For more information, click here.