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What to Expect in a Federal Criminal Case

Posted by Ann Fitz | May 12, 2023 | 0 Comments

Being charged with a federal crime can be an intimidating experience. But understanding the process and what you can expect from your case can help you feel more prepared and empowered. This blog post will provide an overview of the federal criminal justice system, explaining the different stages of a federal criminal case and how it is different from other forms of criminal proceedings.

In the United States, criminal cases are generally handled by state courts, but there are certain offenses that can be tried in federal court. These include interstate crimes (such as drug trafficking or bank fraud), violations of federal laws (such as tax evasion), or any other offense that affects multiple states or countries. When you are charged with a federal crime, here's what to expect:

Initial Appearances & Plea Bargains

After you are charged with a federal crime, your first step will be an initial appearance before a magistrate judge. During this hearing, the magistrate will explain the charges against you and your rights. At this point, you may enter into plea bargain negotiations with prosecutors—but remember that there is no guarantee that these negotiations will result in a favorable outcome for you.

Trial & Sentencing

If no plea bargain is reached or if you choose to plead not guilty at your initial appearance, then your case will proceed to trial in front of a jury of your peers. The trial itself may take weeks or months depending on its complexity and the severity of the charges against you. If convicted, sentencing follows shortly after the verdict is announced; sentencing guidelines vary depending on the type of crime committed and whether any mitigating factors apply to your case.

Navigating a federal criminal case can be overwhelming—but understanding what to expect can make it easier to handle. From initial appearances to sentencing hearings, each stage of your legal proceedings requires careful consideration on how best to proceed with your defense strategy. Remember that even if you are found guilty at trial, there may still be options available for minimizing any potential penalties through appeals or alternative sentences such as probation or community service hours. No matter what happens throughout your case, it's important to keep fighting for yourself—and know that you have every right under law to do so.

About the Author

Ann Fitz

Attorney Ann Fitz Attorney Ann Fitz has 20 years of experience as a federal criminal attorney and appellate practice attorney.  She began her career as a prosecutor in 2003 and started her own federal criminal defense practice in 2007.  She is devoted to protecting the rights of the accused in f...


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