Being charged with any crime can be stressful, although federal charges often carry weightier penalties and restrictions on your freedom and your future. Additionally, federal crimes are handled by the federal criminal justice system, which has its own set of procedures and processes that you might not understand. If you or a loved one has been charged with a federal crime in the greater New York City area, the first step you should take is to contact an experienced federal crimes defense attorney who can ensure that your rights are protected at every step of the process. Familiarizing yourself with the basic phases of the federal criminal justice process, as outlined below, is also important.
Stage 1: Pretrial
As soon as federal authorities are notified of a potential crime, they launch an investigation to assess whether a federal crime was committed and, if so, who committed it. Remember, federal crimes deal specifically with violations of federal law, such as the murder of a federal official or the robbery of a federal bank. Depending on the nature of the crime, the appropriate federal agency will step in to oversee the investigation. For instance, the FBI may handle a case involving allegations of terrorism, while the Secret Service may oversee the investigation of a counterfeiting scheme. If determined that a crime has been committed, federal agents may make an arrest right away or choose to collect more evidence before making an arrest. The matter may move before a grand jury which has the power to issue subpoenas, compel testimony, and issue an indictment against the person they believe has committed the crime. From there, the defendant will be arraigned, formally charged, asked to enter a plea, and await trial.
Stage 2: Trial
Before the trial begins, the defense and prosecution participate in the discovery and motions process. Both sides may gather evidence and witnesses, while the defense may seek the dismissal of the charges. The trial itself is typically held before a jury, but there are cases in which the judge alone oversees the proceedings. Prosecutors must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the charges before him. Both the prosecution and the defense will make their cases, culminating in the verdict and, if applicable, a sentence.
Stage 3: Post-Trial Proceedings & Appeals
A guilty verdict is not the end of the road. The defendant may appeal the conviction or sentence by taking the matter to the court of appeals. In some instances, the appeal may be successful; if the appeal fails, the judgment becomes final. It is important to recognize that there are many opportunities at each stage of the federal criminal justice process to seek relief, which is why it is essential that you work with a skilled criminal defense attorney who can provide you with strategic and effective legal guidance along the way.
If you live in the Queens or New York City area, call the Law Office of Adrienne D. Edward, P.C. today at (347) 997-3811 to schedule an appointment with a dedicated federal crimes defense attorney.