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What should I know if I'm facing a federal criminal charge?

When you found out that you were facing criminal charges, the fact that the charges were on the federal level likely incited a new fear. These are very serious and can lead to time in the federal penitentiary.

There are several things that you need to think about if you are facing federal charges. Understanding these points might help you as you go through your federal criminal case.

How are federal cases different from state cases?

Federal cases are based on federal laws and are handled by federal prosecutors. Instead of representing the state's interests, federal cases protect the federal government's interests. Court procedures, sentencing guidelines and other points vary from the state courts to the federal courts. If you are facing a federal charge, you need to work with someone familiar with the intricacies of this court system.

What is the burden of proof in a federal criminal case?

The burden of proof in a federal case is the requirement that the prosecution has to prove the claims they are making against the defendant. Essentially, defendants aren't required to prove that they are innocent. Instead, they only have to show that there are reasons to doubt what the prosecutor is claiming. This can be difficult in a federal case because federal officials have various resources to pull from that other courts might not have.

What is the trial process like in federal court?

The trial process is much like the process in other courts, at least with regard to the basics. Cases might go before the grand jury to determine the suitability of the prosecution's case for going to trial. Pretrial hearings, a discovery phase, and jury selection all occur in federal trials. The rules of procedure can vary. However, trials include opening statements, witness testimony and cross-examination, closing statements and jury deliberation.

How are criminal sentences determined upon conviction?

The federal government has set sentencing guidelines for federal convictions. These can include a host of penalties, including fines, probation and incarceration. The sentence takes a host of factors into account, including the circumstances of the case and the defendant's prior criminal history.

Can a federal case be resolved without a trial?

Many federal cases are resolved before the case goes before a jury. Plea bargains are common methods used to resolve these cases. There are a lot of laws that govern the suitability of a plea deal in these cases. For example, the plea deal must include a factual admission from the defendant and be in the best interest of the federal government. Other conditions apply, so you must carefully consider each point in the plea deal presented in your case.

Source: Nov. 30, -0001

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