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How Federal Criminal Cases Work

October 7, 2021

Federal criminal cases work in the following manner:

The Investigation

Federal criminal cases begin with an investigation. Some of the agencies that investigate federal crimes include the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Officials with these agencies are in charge of investigating crimes, so they provide the evidence for the prosecution.

The investigators search for two different types of evidence. One is direct evidence, and the other is circumstantial evidence. Direct evidence is evidence that doesn’t require corroboration, and circumstantial evidence is evidence that is indirect.

Charging the Suspect

The prosecutor examines the evidence and determines whether or not to present the case to the grand jury. This will be required if the suspect will be charged with a felony. The suspect will be notified that he or she is the subject of a criminal investigation. Then, the prosecutor presents the case to the grand jury. The grand jury listens to the witnesses and examines documentary evidence and then decides whether or not there is sufficient evidence to charge the suspect with a crime.

The Initial Hearing

The initial hearing takes place after law enforcement officials arrest the suspect. The defendant will be formally charged and taken before a judge. The judge may order the defendant to remain in prison until the trial begins, or he or she may grant the suspect bail. This is also the time when the suspect will be asked to enter a plea of “guilty” or “not guilty.”

The Discovery Phase

At this point, the prosecution prepares to take the case to trial. It begins with interviewing the witnesses to find out what they will say in court. The prosecution also prepares by reading the reports connected to the case. These reports help the prosecutor determine what the facts are and how to proceed.

Discovery is when the prosecutor sends the defendant’s attorney copies of the evidence and other materials. It is the prosecutor’s obligation to provide these documents while the case is going on. If a prosecutor fails to do this, he or she may be sanctioned by the court. The prosecutor must also present the defense with exculpatory evidence that points toward the accused person’s innocence. Failure to do this would result in a new trial for the defendant.

The Plea Bargain

At this point, the prosecutors may offer the defendant a plea deal. They do this when they believe that they have a strong case against the defendant. It is also an opportunity for the defendant to reduce his or her chances of being subject to a lengthy prison term. In order to take this deal, the defendant must admit guilt in court, but he must not do this if he is not guilty. Then, the judge will sentence the perpetrator.

The Preliminary Hearing

If the accused decides to plead “not guilty,” the next step will be to hold a preliminary hearing. This is the time when the prosecutor demonstrates that there is sufficient evidence to charge the suspect with the crime. You may choose to waive this portion of the case.

During the preliminary hearing, the prosecutor presents evidence and calls witnesses to testify. The defense attorney also has the chance to cross-examine the witnesses. During this time, the defense is not allowed to object to any evidence that the prosecution presents.

The judge may determine that the prosecution presented enough evidence to show that the accused committed the crime. In that case, the judge will schedule a time for the trial. In the event that the judge does not agree that the prosecution demonstrated that the accused perpetrated the crime, he or she will dismiss the charges.

The Pre-Trial Motion

The defense attorney or the prosecutor has the opportunity to file motions. The judge will be charged with deciding these motions before the trial can begin. Examples of motions include the motion for a change of venue, the motion to suppress evidence and the motion to dismiss the case.

The Trial

During the trial, the prosecutor presents the facts to the jury, and the jury decides whether or not the defendant is guilty. The prosecutor uses witnesses and evidence to demonstrate that the defendant is guilty, and the defense attorney uses witnesses and evidence to demonstrate that the defendant is not guilty. At the end of the trial, the judge gives the jury its instructions for how it is to make its decision, and the jurors are dismissed to begin deliberating. At the end of the deliberations, the jury reads its verdict in open court. If the verdict is “not guilty,” the defendant is free to go home.

The Post-Trial Motion

In the event that the jury finds the defendant guilty, the defense attorney may file post-trial motions. For example, the defense attorney may file a motion for judgment of acquittal in which the defendant will be allowed to go free after the judge sets the jury’s verdict aside.

The Sentencing Phase

The judge sentences the convicted individual during this phase.

The Appeal

If he or she believes that the conviction was unfair or that the sentence was too harsh, the convicted individual may appeal the conviction.



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