What to Expect During a Federal Criminal Trial: A Guide for Defendants


Learn what to expect during a federal criminal trial: A Guide for Defendants. Trust Scrofano Law PC for legal guidance. Contact us today

What Can You Expect During a Federal Criminal Trial?


When you are accused of breaking federal law, you may have to face a federal criminal trial. Understanding what to expect can help you make informed decisions.

A case is typically heard in a federal court if someone is accused of breaking federal law. These courts are responsible for determining whether the accused is guilty or innocent. They also hand down a sentence when the accused is found guilty.

Rules and guidelines enshrined in the federal criminal procedure govern how these cases are handled. Consider hiring an experienced criminal lawyer. They can help you understand the court procedure and improve your chances of receiving a favorable outcome. 


Parties Involved in Federal Trial Court Proceedings


The trial typically takes place in a federal courthouse and involves:

  • A judge

  • A jury-a trial jury or a grand jury

  • A prosecutor

  • A defense attorney 

What Are the Different Steps Involved in a Federal Criminal Trial?


As noted above, the federal criminal procedure refers to a set of rules and guidelines that govern how a federal criminal case should be handled. This procedure includes several stages:

As per the Department of Justice, some of the key steps of a federal criminal case include:


The investigation stage involves gathering evidence and building a case against a suspect. This stage may involve search warrants, interviews, surveillance, and other investigative techniques.


The suspect is arrested and taken into custody if the evidence is enough. The suspect is informed of their rights, including the right to an attorney.

Grand Jury and Charging

The prosecutor determines whether to bring the case before a grand jury or not. This is usually done after a careful review of the facts and the information at hand.

The grand jury determines whether enough evidence exists to indict the suspect and proceed to trial.

When indicted, a person is formally informed that they are suspected of committing a crime. The essential details about the charges against the defendant are contained in the indictment.

Initial Appearance and Arraignment

Before the trial begins, the accused will have an initial appearance before a judge for an arraignment. At this hearing, the judge reads them the charges, for example, federal fraud charges and their rights. The judge will also determine whether the suspect should be released on bail or kept in custody.

Arraignment is a formal court hearing. It is where the defendant submits a guilty or not guilty plea to the charges. If the accused pleads guilty, the judge may sentence them immediately. If they plead not guilty, the trial proceeds.

Pretrial Motions

Before the trial, the defense and prosecution may file various motions, such as a motion to suppress evidence or dismiss the case.

How Does the Trial Work?


The trial begins with jury selection. This step is also called voir dire. It involves the judge and attorneys questioning potential jurors to determine who to choose for the case. Then, the lawyer for the prosecution and defense will each present their opening statement.

It is the prosecution and defense who present evidence and call witnesses during the trial. The prosecution presents evidence to prove the accused’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In contrast, the defense presents evidence to undermine the prosecution’s case.

The judge provides jury instructions about the relevant laws after both sides make their closing arguments. The jury discusses the case to determine whether the accused is guilty or innocent. If the defendant is found guilty, the judge sentences them. If they are found not guilty, they can be set free.


Determining the Defendant’s Sentence

If the accused is found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the next step is to decide on a punishment. This is called the sentencing phase, and the judge will look at different facts to decide what punishment is fair. These include the defendant’s criminal history, the crime’s severity, and the impact on the victim and society.

On the other hand, if the accused person is found not guilty during the trial, the trial will end. They won’t be punished and will be acquitted.

It is critical to understand that not all criminal cases go to trial. Sometimes, a defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge for a more lenient sentence. The prosecution may decide not to pursue a case in such cases. Plus, some cases are resolved through alternative means, such as plea bargaining or diversion programs.


Common Federal Criminal Trial Defenses


Individuals accused of a federal crime have the right to defend themselves. There are different ways a defendant can defend themselves in court.

One way is to challenge the evidence presented by the prosecution. The defense may argue that the evidence was obtained illegally or that it doesn’t prove that the defendant committed the crime. They may also try to make the prosecution’s witnesses seem unreliable.

Another way is to argue that the defendant didn’t mean to commit the crime. They may claim, for example, that they didn’t know they violated a federal conspiracy statute and submit that someone forced them to do it.

Sometimes, a defendant may admit to committing the crime but argue that they had to do it to prevent something worse from happening. This is called the “necessity defense.” For instance, if someone breaks into a building to save someone stuck inside, they can use this defense.

A defendant may also argue they were mentally incompetent when committing the crime. Therefore, they shouldn’t be held responsible. This is known as the “insanity defense.”

Overall, these defenses make the jury doubt the prosecution’s case and believe that the defendant may not be guilty. Not all defenses will work, but everyone must get a fair chance to defend themselves in court.

How Can an Attorney Help Me With a Federal Criminal Case?


Hiring an experienced and knowledgeable attorney may help if you are facing federal criminal charges. An attorney can assist you in many different ways, including:

  1. Providing legal advice: An attorney can outline your legal rights and options. They can help you make informed decisions. They collect proof, talk to people who saw what happened, and find things that could help the defense or show problems with the prosecution’s case.
  2. Representing you in court: An attorney can argue on your behalf. They can cross-examine witnesses and present evidence to support your defense.
  3. Negotiating a plea deal: Sometimes, a lawyer can talk to the prosecutors and negotiate a plea deal. This can make the charges less serious or the punishment less harsh.
  4. Providing emotional support: Facing criminal charges can be a stressful and emotional experience. A lawyer can provide emotional support and guidance throughout the process.

It is important to note that federal criminal cases can be complex and challenging with high stakes. Having a competent and experienced attorney on your side can make a huge impact on the outcome of your case.


Choose an Attorney From Scrofano Law PC!

Facing federal criminal charges can be a daunting and overwhelming experience. However, understanding what to expect during a federal criminal trial can help. If you are charged with crimes such as the federal crime of treason, talk to an attorney at Scrofano Law PC.

Call today for a consultation!




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