How Federal Criminal Cases Work
Hey there! If you’ve been charged with a federal crime or just want to understand how the process works, this article will walk you through the basics. I’m not a lawyer, just a regular person trying to explain things in a simple way. Federal criminal cases can be confusing and scary, but having some knowledge helps. Let’s dive in!
How Cases Get Started
First off, only the federal government can bring criminal charges in a federal case. The case usually starts with an investigation by a federal agency like the FBI, DEA, ATF, etc. If they think a federal crime happened, they’ll gather evidence and interview witnesses.
If there’s enough evidence, a few things could happen next:
- They get a criminal complaint – This is just a document with the charges and evidence, signed by a federal judge saying there’s probable cause of a crime. With a complaint, the feds can arrest someone.
- They get a grand jury indictment – This is when they present evidence to a grand jury in secret. If the grand jury thinks there’s enough evidence, they issue an indictment with the charges. An indictment means you’ll get arrested.
- They file a criminal information – This is when the prosecutor and defense lawyer talk it out and agree on charges to file. No arrest needed.
Once someone gets arrested on a complaint or indictment, they’ll go before a judge pretty quickly. This first hearing is called the initial appearance. A few things happen here:
- The charges are explained
- Bail is set or the defendant is released
- A lawyer is appointed if needed
- Defendant enters a plea – not guilty, guilty, or no contest
After that, there’s some waiting while both sides get ready. This is when the defense lawyer really digs into the evidence and files motions objecting to something, like trying to get evidence thrown out. The defense also investigates everything and interviews witnesses. Gotta build that defense!
Of course, a guilty defendant can appeal. The defense lawyer has to file the appeal on time and argue what went wrong at trial. Appeals are tough though – most fail.
So in a nutshell, that’s how federal criminal cases work! Arrest, bail hearing, pre-trial prep and motions, plea or trial, sentencing if guilty, appeal if needed. But every case has its own twists and turns. Having a knowledgeable federal defense lawyer helps navigate it all.
You’ve got this! Let me know if you have any other questions.