Before you enter the federal criminal justice system, it can put your mind at ease to know how the process works. While this will not impact your case, it can allow you to know what to expect and better prepare for each step in the process.
All criminal cases in the federal system begin with an investigation. Officials have to ensure they have enough evidence to bring before the court and prove you committed a crime. The next step is officially charging you with the crime. After that, you are in the system and will go through various steps in and out of court.
First time in court
Your first time in court on any charges will be when you go before a judge to hear what the prosecutor is saying you have done. The court will inform you of all the charges and ask for your initial plea. Most people will plead not guilty at this point so that they can meet with an attorney and look over the case against them.
The next step and building a case
The next step in the process is looking over the evidence the prosecutor has. You will get a chance to see all this evidence outside of court. You also must provide the prosecution with any evidence you have at this time. The process is known as discovery.
After discovery, the prosecutor may extend a plea bargain. You have the opportunity to negotiate this deal. It is completely up to you whether you will take the deal or not. Most cases will end with a plea bargain.
If you do not take a plea bargain, you will then begin going to trial and making motions. Motions could ask for charges dropped or to exclude certain evidence. You may ask various things of the court to help you have a fairer trial. You will also choose jurors and begin presenting your case in court.
After the trial, if the jury or court found you guilty, you may then appeal your case. If they find you not guilty, the whole ordeal is over.