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Steps in the Federal Criminal Process

Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys

If you have been charged with a federal crime, it helps to understand the federal criminal process so you can know what to expect in the weeks and months ahead. Here, you can find a brief, substantive overview of the federal criminal process, along with information about the criminal defense attorneys at Joyce & Bittner.

We know how to protect your rights at every step in the federal criminal process. Available, 24 hours a day, to respond to your criminal charges. For a free consultation, call 412-281-9919 or 1-800-299-5530



Learn about the federal criminal process below …

  • Commencement of a federal case: A federal criminal case can be initiated in one of three ways.
    1. There can be an Indictment by a Federal Grand Jury
    2. Information — An accused person can waive the indictment and agree to be charged by criminal information in lieu of the grand jury process – usually a result of plea bargain – thereby directly to the entry of the plea of guilty; or
    3. Complaint — a charge filed by complaint generally occurs where an arrest has occurred without a warrant, such as where a bank robbery is thwarted or a drug bust is made.
  • Arrest: If a case has been initiated by a complaint, after arrest a preliminary hearing will be conducted to determine if probable cause existed or an indictment will be filed instead. Where a case is initiated by an indictment (or the indictment is filed after the arrest by complaint), the indictment itself is a probable cause determination and there is no preliminary hearing. In the initial appearance before a Federal Magistrate Judge, you will be formally advised of the charges and a bond will be set or detention requested made by the government. If detention is requested, a hearing will be held to determine whether the accused will be released or not.
  • Arraignment: Here, your plea will be entered, and a trial judge will be assigned to your case. You will be given notification of the time limits for pretrial motions and Rule 16 discovery material will be provided.
  • Pretrial Motions: Pretrial motions challenging how evidence was obtained, the validity of the indictment, venue and other aspects of the case can be filed. These motions are due to be filed within 10 days of arraignment but can be extended – and often are — in the interests of justice by motion to the trial judge. Your attorney will have the opportunity to investigate your charges, prepare applicable motions and submit evidence in support of the challenges to the case in this pretrial phase. What happens in this phase of the case can play a significant role in your decision as to whether or not you should attempt a plea agreement or go to trial.
  • Trial: If you cannot reach a satisfactory plea agreement with the prosecution, and do not wish to plead guilty without a plea bargain your case will be decided in a trial. Generally, trial is to be held within 70 days of arrest/initial appearance if there are no excludable days under the Speedy Trial Act, such as extensions of the time for filing pretrial motions as noted above.
  • Appeal: An appeal can be filed within 10 days of the entry of judgment of the sentence for those cases where issues have been raised and preserved and the accused wants to appeal.

At Joyce & Bittner, our attorneys are experienced at trial litigation and are well-equipped to represent you at every step in the federal criminal process including an appeal, if necessary. To schedule a free initial consultation, call us today at 412-281-9919 or toll free at 1-800-299-5530 or contact our offices online.

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