About Federal Criminal Charges
What you Need To Know Before Hiring a Federal criminal Defense Lawyer
The judicial process in a federal criminal case is different from a state case in many ways. At the commencement of a federal criminal case, the principal players are the U.S. attorney (the prosecutor) and the grand jury. The U.S. attorney represents the United States in most court proceedings, including all federal criminal prosecutions. The grand jury will then review evidence presented by the U.S. attorney and decide whether there is substantial evidence to require a defendant to stand trial for their federal criminal charge. See Federal International Criminal Charges for a complete list of cases our Federal Attorneys Defend.
If you are arrested for a federal criminal charge a pretrial services or probation officer of the court will interview you and conduct an investigation of your background. This information obtained by the pretrial services or probation office will be used to help a judge decide whether to release you into the community before trial for your federal criminal charges, and whether or not to determine conditions for your release.
The standard of proof in a criminal trial is “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which means the evidence must be so strong that there is no reasonable doubt that you committed this federal crime.
At an initial appearance, a judge advises you of the federal charges filed, considers whether you should be held in jail until trial, and determines whether there is probable cause to believe that a federal criminal offense has been committed and that you have committed it. Defendants released into the community before trial may be required to comply with certain restrictions . These restrictions may include but are not limited to, home confinement or drug testing. You may be asked to make periodic reports to a pretrial services officer to ensure appearance at your federal criminal trial.
The defendant enters a plea to the charges brought by the U.S. attorney at a hearing known as an arraignment. This is when an experienced federal criminal defense attorney is important. A negotiation process begins. If you plead guilty in return for the government agreeing to drop certain charges or to recommend a lenient sentence, the agreement often is called a “plea bargain.” If the plead guilty, the judge may impose a sentence at that time, but usually will schedule a hearing to determine the sentence at a later date. In most federal criminal felony cases the judge waits for the results of a report, prepared by the court’s probation office, before imposing sentence. If you plead not guilty, to the federal charges the judge will proceed to schedule a trial.
Criminal federal cases include a limited amount of pretrial discovery proceedings , with substantial restrictions to protect the identity of government informants and to prevent intimidation of witnesses. The attorneys also may file motions, which are requests for rulings by the court before the trial. For example, federal criminal defense attorneys often file a motion to suppress evidence, which asks the court to exclude from the trial evidence that your federal criminal defense attorney believes was obtained by the government in violation of the your constitutional rights.
In a criminal trial, the burden of proof is on the government. You do not have to prove your innocence. Instead, the government must provide evidence to convince the jury of the defendant’s guilt. The standard of proof in a criminal trial is proof “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which means the evidence must be so strong that there is no reasonable doubt that you committed the federal crime.
If you are found not guilty, you are released and the government may not appeal. You cannot be charged again with the same crime in a federal court. The Constitution prohibits “double jeopardy,” or being tried twice for the same federal criminal charge .
If the verdict is guilty, the judge determines your sentence according to special federal sentencing guidelines issued by the United States Sentencing Commission. The court’s probation office prepares a report for the court that applies the sentencing guidelines to the charges and the crimes for which you have been found guilty. During sentencing, the court may consider not only the evidence produced at trial, but all relevant information that may be provided by the pretrial services officer, the U.S. attorney, and your federal criminal defense attorney. In some circumstances, the court may depart from the sentence calculated according to the sentencing guidelines. This is where your choice of a federal criminal defense lawyer become important. Your criminal defense lawyer must be able to draw upon every option available to reduce your sentence.
A sentence may include time in prison, a fine to be paid to the government, and restitution to be paid to crime victims. One may look at the recent “Madoff” case as an example.The court’s probation officers assist the court in enforcing any conditions that are imposed as part of a criminal sentence. The supervision of offenders also may involve services such as substance abuse testing and treatment programs, job counseling, alternative detention options, community service and any other options deemed by necessary by the court.
It is important to choose an attorney who has lengthy experience in Federal courts. You should look for prior cases relating to your specific charges. ie( internet pornography,mortgage fraud medicare fraud) Your lawyer should have a proven track record defending specific federal charges.
Contact Us Today