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With federal charges, rights restricted even before trial

When someone in Pittsburgh is charged with a crime in federal court, he or she will often find that the court will put serious restrictions on his or her freedom - even though the accused person has not even been put on trial yet, let alone convicted of anything. These court-ordered limitations tend to be imposed by request of the prosecution, which tends to believe the accused person would hide or destroy evidence or try to avoid trial by leaving the country otherwise. They are often conditions for getting out of jail on bond.

An accused person's defense attorney can argue against travel restrictions and freezing of assets, but once imposed, generally the most you can do is comply with the rules and ask the court's permission to do things that would otherwise violate the order. For example, a couple who have been indicted on federal tax fraud and conspiracy charges are scheduled to ask permission of the judge presiding over their case to travel out of state to attend their granddaughter's birthday the weekend of May 19-20.

Both partners are free on $25,000 bond. The accused man is awaiting trial, while his partner has pleaded guilty to conspiracy but has yet to be sentenced.

Prosecutors oppose the visit, but there is a decent chance the judge will allow it following a hearing on the matter scheduled for May 17. The judge previously allowed the couple to make the same trip over Easter, according to court documents. Given that accused couple completed the earlier trip without incident, it is not clear what the government's argument against allow this new proposed visit would be.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Indicted pair may be allowed to travel," Len Boselovic, May 16, 2012

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