What are the steps in the federal criminal process?

What are the steps in the federal criminal process?

On Behalf of | Jul 27, 2023 | Criminal Defense

If you face a criminal charge at the federal level, you will have to go through the federal criminal justice system. This is different than the state system, so it can be confusing.

All criminal prosecutions begin with an investigation. At the federal level, authorities have more money and resources to investigate, but they are busier. They will charge you with a crime only when they have convincing evidence that they feel will get a conviction.

The hearing process

You will first go to court for an arraignment, which is where you will enter your initial plea. If you plead guilty, you will skip the other steps in the process and go to sentencing.

If you plead not guilty, the discovery process will begin. Discovery is when both sides exchange evidence, and you will build your defense.

The prosecutor may offer you a plea bargain, which could reduce your charges or offer you a specific sentence in return for pleading guilty. You have the right to refuse or accept, and only you can make this decision.

If you do not take a plea bargain, your case will go to trial. You will be able to introduce evidence and witnesses. The prosecution has the burden of proof and must provide evidence to show you are guilty.

After the trial

If the jury or judge finds you guilty of the crime, you will move into sentencing. You may have additional hearings for sentencing depending on your situation. The judge will make the final ruling on your sentence. You also may have the right to appeal your case.

From beginning to end, the federal criminal process can move slowly, but because they prioritize cases they feel they can win, it is often quicker than state trials.