Many crimes are investigated by state entities, prosecuted by state prosecutors, and decided at trials in state courts. Federal crimes, on the other hand, are investigated by federal government agencies and are heard in federal courts of law. The penalties upon conviction for a federal crime are often significantly harsher than those for state offenses. A conviction for a federal offense could result in a criminal record for the rest of your life that could adversely affect you.
In the face of such serious charges, you need effective legal counsel representing you. Our lawyers are experienced in dealing with federal cases and can use that knowledge to fight hard to get you the justice you deserve.
Talk to our federal crimes defense lawyers from Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates at (609) 257-4019 today for a free case review.
The Process of a Federal Criminal Case in New Jersey
The federal legal process is slightly different from the state legal process. For example, federal courts have their own procedural rules that are often different than state rules. For that reason, you need experienced counsel from our federal crimes defense lawyers to navigate the process of a federal lawsuit. In general, federal cases take more time to reach a conclusion than state cases because more evidence is often involved.
Investigation and Evidence Collection
Before a federal agency and the Department of Justice bring criminal charges, they need to investigate the alleged crime and collect evidence. Federal agencies are often better funded than their state counterparts, so their investigations are often extensive and meticulous. Federal agencies can track criminal activities from phone calls, text messages, emails, tips from informants, and collaboration with local authorities to build a case. Investigators might take years to collect evidence and information before considering bringing federal charges.
Once a federal agency feels it has enough evidence to convict someone of a federal crime, a federal prosecutor will bring the case before a judge and an impartial grand jury. The indictment process is similar to a regular trial, except the defendant is not present, nor are they charged with a crime yet. The federal prosecutor will examine witnesses, present evidence, and argue before the grand jury why they think they have probable cause to bring charges. The jury then deliberates and decides whether to indict or state that they think the probable cause standard has been met.
The initial hearing before a judge is usually soon after a defendant is arrested or charged with a federal crime. The judge will explain to the defendant the crime they are being charged with as well as their rights as part of their arraignment. This is the first time a defendant can have their lawyer represent them in court. If a defendant cannot afford a lawyer, one is appointed to them by the court.
The initial hearing is also when it is decided whether to allow the defendant to be released on bail or not. The judge will consider a number of factors, such as, their prior criminal record, whether they showed up to previous court dates when ordered to, whether the defendant has family or close friends in the area, and the defendant’s potential danger to the community. After careful consideration of those factors and others, the judge decides whether to allow the defendant bail or place them in the custody of the United States.
Discovery is a critical component of any legal process, and proper discovery is essential to protecting your rights.
Criminal discovery is different from civil discovery. In a civil case, both sides turn over evidence and share questions and answers to discover all information. In a criminal case, the prosecution turns over the evidence they have collected so that the defendant is given a fair opportunity to review it, challenge it, and prepare counters to the evidence. There is no trial by surprise in the United States.
With discovery, special attention is paid to “exculpatory evidence,” or evidence that might tend to prove your innocence. It is illegal for the government to withhold exculpatory evidence in their control..
Plea negotiations will often happen at this stage of the process. A plea bargain or negotiation can often result in reduced prison time, lowered charges, or both. It might be a good idea to enter into a plea deal if the evidence against you is especially strong.
You must understand that entering into a plea deal essentially is an admission of guilt. No matter the charges, you always have a right to a trial, and you should not enter into a plea if you want to maintain your innocence or “beat the charges” against you. Additionally, you should never enter into a plea agreement without consulting a lawyer first.
Once discovery is finished, it is not quite time to go to trial. Attorneys might wish to file motions before a case goes to trial.
One common motion that our lawyers can file on your behalf is a motion to suppress evidence. In order for evidence to be seen by a jury, it needs to be obtained legally. If the prosecution did not legally obtain certain evidence in your case, we can file a motion to try and stop it from appearing at trial.
If we are able to suppress enough evidence, it might leave the prosecution with little evidence remaining to prove their case against you, and they may be forced to abandon the case or else lose at trial.
A jury trial is the last step in the lengthy process of a federal criminal case. Trials will begin with opening statements where both sides will try and frame the situation in the best possible light for the federal government or their client respectively. After opening statements, witnesses will be examined and cross-examined, evidence will be presented, and expert testimony might be heard if relevant. After a presentation of all the facts of the case, the attorneys will make their closing arguments.
The jury will go to deliberate whether the defendant is guilty. A jury can only convict a defendant of the alleged crime if they believe the alleged crime was committed by the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt.
Call Our New Jersey Lawyers Today
Call our federal crimes defense lawyers at Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates at (609) 257-4019 for a free initial consultation about your case.