Federal criminal law is used to prosecute crimes that occur at the federal level, even though state criminal laws are used to prosecute the majority of crimes committed in the United States. Although there are some significant distinctions between the federal and state criminal justice systems, there are some similarities between them as well.
If you are facing federal charges, you should become familiar with the particulars of the federal procedure so that you know what to anticipate at each stage. The following are the basic components of the federal criminal justice system’s criminal process, which may or may not be applicable to your specific situation. If you would need additional information concerning your particular circumstance, please contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer. You can call Chambers Law Firm at 714-760-4088 or email us at email@example.com.
The investigation of a suspected offense is the first step in the federal criminal process. The FBI and the DEA are just two of the government investigative organizations entrusted with gathering and delivering information to the United States Attorneys. With the intention of making an arrest, investigators at these agencies look into crimes and gather information, occasionally using search warrants. In some circumstances, such as when the police observe the suspect committing a crime, an arrest may be made before an investigation is completed.
In a federal case, the U.S. Attorney will determine whether to submit the evidence to a grand jury after reviewing the data supplied by the investigators. In order to determine if there is sufficient evidence to charge the suspect with a crime, the grand jury will hear witness testimony and the prosecutor’s evidence (for the prosecution only; not the defense).
They will issue an indictment if they determine that there is reason to think the suspect committed a crime. An indictment provides the defendant with a summary of the charges against him and acts as formal notification that the government intends to pursue criminal charges. The majority of defendants decide to hire a criminal defense attorney at this time.
The defendant is brought before the judge for the case’s initial hearing after being detained and charged with a crime, typically the same day or the day after. The defendant is given more information about the allegations against him at this hearing, and the judge decides whether to keep the defendant behind bars or release him on bail pending the outcome of the trial. During the arraignment, the defendant will also be asked to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.
Both the prosecution and the defense must prepare their cases before the trial starts. Each party will research the case’s facts by reading any reports that have been written about it and speaking with any potential witnesses. The prosecutor must then give copies of all documents and evidence the prosecution intends to use at trial, including any that could prove the defendant’s innocence, to the defendant and his legal representation. “Discovery” is the term for this process.
In the event that the defendant enters a plea of not guilty, the prosecution will have to establish sufficient evidence to proceed with a preliminary hearing. A trial will be set up if the court finds that there is reason to think that the defendant committed a crime.
Before the trial begins, the prosecutor or defense attorney frequently files pre-trial motions. Pre-trial motions are requests made to the court asking it to rule on particular matters prior to the trial.
Depending on how complicated the case is, the trial could start soon after the defendant’s arrest or months afterwards. The jury deliberates on the defendant’s guilt or innocence of the charges after hearing testimony from witnesses and evidence from the prosecution and defense attorneys. In federal criminal cases, the jury may only find the defendant guilty if all members agree.
Motions after trial
There are still a number of motions that can be brought after the trial if the defendant is found guilty during the course of the proceedings. A motion for a new trial, a motion for acquittal judgment, or a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct a sentence are some examples of these.
If convicted at trial, the defendant must appear again in court for the sentence hearing. Although there are specified minimum and maximum penalties prescribed by Congress for many federal offenses, including some federal drug offenses, the sentence handed down by the court for a federal felony can vary greatly based on the nature and severity of the act.
Even after being found guilty of a federal offense, a defendant still has choices. If a defendant feels they were wrongfully convicted of a crime or that the court’s punishment was excessively harsh, they may still appeal the case to a U.S. court of appeals. The defendant has the chance to address certain concerns or mistakes that might have arisen during the trial, such as erroneous rulings by the judge, on appeal.
Call us now for a free legal consultation
When facing federal charges, it is always a good idea to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney because the federal criminal justice system is famously harsh on offenders and a conviction at the federal level can follow you for the rest of your life. Contact Chambers Law Firm at 714-760-4088 now to get started.