Federal Crimes Attorney — Federal Court Process
Depending on the circumstances of your arrest or the type of crime of which you are suspected, your case may be handled at the federal level. Many offenses are potentially federal crimes including kidnapping, murder, drug trafficking, carjacking, mail fraud, identity theft, credit card fraud, child pornography, racketeering, and bank robbery. If you are accused of any of these crimes, you’ll want the assistance of an experienced Chicago federal crimes attorney.
The federal court process can be complex. There are also different people involved at the federal level of the criminal justice system than there are at the state level. There are United States attorneys, district court judges, and federal magistrate judges. The whole federal court process can be quite confusing and has different rules than state courts. For this reason, you should get help from a skilled Chicago federal crimes attorney.
Call O’Meara Law at 312-909-0706 today to find out how an experienced Chicago criminal lawyer can defend your federal criminal case.
Federal Court Process
There are several steps in the federal court process. Some, however, may not apply to your case depending on the circumstances.
- Investigation and arrest – There are many criminal investigators who work for various federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and even the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Their jobs are to find evidence against you in a manner that doesn’t violate your constitutional rights. Once the investigators gain probable cause to believe you have committed a crime, or if a judge issues a warrant against you, they will arrest you.
- Charging – Once an investigator uncovers enough evidence, it is presented to the prosecutor working in the relevant jurisdiction. The prosecutor may present the evidence to a grand jury, which consists of 16 – 23 citizens. The jury then decides if there is enough evidence to charge you with a crime. Juries are required only for felony crimes.
- Initial hearing/arraignment – You will attend a hearing soon after your arrest. During the hearing, a magistrate judge will ask about you and your background. They will ask how long you have been in the area and determine whether or not you are a danger to the community. You will also be required to plead guilty or not guilty. If you can post bail, you will be released and free until your trial. If you cannot post bail, you will be incarcerated.
- Discovery – During this stage, the prosecutor and defense attorney prepare for the trial. They study the evidence, talk to witnesses, anticipate problems, and develop a trial strategy. The prosecutor must provide you with evidence that will be used in the trial.
- Plea bargaining – The Government may offer you a plea agreement so that you might avoid harsher charges and penalties – and spare the government the time and expense of proving your guilt at trial. Depending on your situation, it may or may not be in your best interest to accept a plea agreement. In any case, it’s best to consult with an attorney before making a decision.
- Preliminary hearing – At the preliminary hearing, the judge hears the evidence and determines if the prosecutor can proceed with the charges. If there is enough evidence, the case will proceed to a trial. If not, the case will be dismissed. You and your attorney should attend so that you can gather as much information as possible about the case, its evidence, and its witnesses.
- Pre-trial motions – Your defense attorney or the prosecutor can file motions before the trial begins. Motions may affect the courtroom, defendants, testimony, evidence, or the trial. Common motions include Motion for Change of Venue, Motion to Suppress, and Motion to Dismiss.
- Trial – This is the most important step. The prosecutor shows the judge and jury all the evidence, while you and your attorney defend against their claims. The trial includes opening statements, witness examination, and closing arguments. The judge should ensure that both sides are treated fairly. After the closing arguments, the jury decides whether or not you are guilty of the crime. In theory, at least, the jury should not convict you unless the prosecution has proven very element of every charge beyond a reasonable doubt.
- Post-trial motions – If you are found guilty, your attorney may wish to file a Motion to Vacate, Motion for Judgment of Acquittal, and a Motion for a New Trial.
- Sentencing – After receiving a guilty verdict, you will return to court to receive your sentence. Congress has minimum and maximum penalties in place for each crime. The judge uses these as a guideline to sentencing. The judge may increase the punishment if the crime happened before and you show no remorse, or reduce the penalties if you are a first-time offender and have had no prior offenses.
- Appeal – If you believe an error occurred in your trial, you can ask your Chicago criminal defense lawyer to file an appeal. This process can be complicated, so let your lawyer help you understand the process.
A Chicago Federal Crimes Attorney Can Help You
The federal court process can be long and complicated, and you will receive harsh penalties if you are convicted. You should retain the services of an experienced Chicago federal crimes attorney to defend your case.
Former prosecutor Michael O’Meara is admitted to defend federal charges in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Illinois. A fierce advocate and compassionate counsel, he can help you lead your case to a positive resolution.
To learn more about how to win your federal case, call O’Meara Law now at 312-909-0706 to scheduel a free consultation.