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The Federal Criminal Justice Process

There are a variety of steps involved in a federal prosecution, all of which have an important role in the outcome of a case, so if you are being investigated for a criminal offense, it is critical to speak with an experienced federal crime attorney who is familiar with the legal process and can ensure that your rights are protected.

Pretrial Stage

Many people are most familiar with the trial portion of a criminal prosecution, as this is the part of the process that is usually portrayed in movies and on tv. However, one of the most important parts of a prosecution is the pretrial stage, which includes, the investigation, grand jury deliberations, and eventual arrest.

Generally, federal law enforcement agencies only investigate alleged crimes if there is reason to believe that the offense violated federal law. Which specific agency is in charge of the investigation will also depend on the nature of the offense. The FBI, for example, is primarily responsible for leading investigations into terrorist activities, while the Secret Service handles cases involving counterfeiting currency.

Once an agency decides that a crime was committed and identifies a suspect, special agents will request a hearing before a grand jury, which is made up of an impartial body of citizens who are tasked with listening to the testimony of victims and suspects and then assessing other evidence to determine whether there is probable cause to believe that a certain person committed a crime. If such evidence exists, the grand jury will issue a charging document known as an indictment. Once an indictment has been issued, federal agents can officially arrest the suspect if they have not already done so.

Arraignment and Discovery

At this point in the process, a defendant will formally be told what his or her charges are and will then be asked to enter a plea of either guilty or not guilty. In some cases, the defendant and the prosecuting attorney will negotiate a plea bargain, at which point the defendant will enter a guilty plea. After the arraignment has taken place, the defendant and the government will engage in the discovery process, where they can demand information about the case from the other party. The attorneys may also submit motions to the court asking for specific action. For instance, a defense attorney can submit motions seeking to dismiss the charges, suppress evidence, or introduce certain evidence at trial.


Unless the parties have agreed to forego a trial in exchange for a guilty plea and a lesser sentence, the case will go to trial, at which point the prosecutor and the defense will present evidence to either prove or disprove the charges. Whether the trial is held before a jury or a single judge, the government will be required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the charged offense. Once the jury or the judge have deliberated, they will return a verdict of either guilty or not guilty. This decision is then followed by sentencing, where the court can sentence the defendant to imprisonment, probation, community service, or participation in another type of rehabilitative program. A defendant can also be required to pay restitution to any victims. After trial, the defendant can begin the process of filing an appeal.

Call Our Legal Team

To speak with an experienced federal crime lawyer about your own case, please schedule a free consultation with Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. by calling (305) 670-9919 today. Our Miami legal team is prepared to assist you immediately.

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