Duncan Law specializes in federal criminal defense in Oklahoma. When you or a loved one is facing federal criminal charges, contact Duncan Law to form the best strategy for your case.
In federal court, the United States government brings charges by an indictment, an information or a complaint. If the charges are brought by an information or a complaint, an indictment will follow. An indictment is only brought after the case has been presented by the government to the grand jury—which is a panel of 12 individuals from the community.
Because the grand jury listens to each case and decides whether or not probable cause exists, there is not a “preliminary hearing” in federal court the way that there is in state court. In federal court, you only get the benefit of the preliminary hearing if the case is brought by an information or complaint (before the indictment is filed).
After the indictment is filed against the individual, an arraignment is conducted and a detention hearing is set. Having a good federal criminal defense attorney at the detention hearing is crucial as it will determine whether the client will remain in custody until the case concludes (either by plea or trial) or be released on pre-trial services through the United States Probation Office. The detention hearing is subject to Rule 46 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure and Title 18, Section 3142 of the United States Code.
Every federal case goes before two judges, the magistrate judge and the appointed district judge. The magistrate judge presides over the detention hearing. The magistrate judge must release an individual (pursuant to Title 18, Section 3142) if there are conditions of release that can be fashioned to reasonably assure the appearance of the person in court proceedings, and also assure the safety of the community. One cannot simply pay a bond to be released like in state court. No amount of money can be paid to release a federal inmate once a magistrate judge has determined they will remain in custody pending the resolution of their case.
After the indictment has been filed and the detention hearing has been held, it is time to start reviewing the government’s evidence and decide between a plea or jury trial. In state court there are three options—plea, blind plea, or trial. In federal court, the only options are to plead guilty and be sentenced by the district judge or go to trial (and be sentenced by the district court judge if found guilty). The government’s indictment must be filed within 30 days from the date of the client’s arrest. Once the arraignment occurs, the client has the right to a speedy trial and the clocks begins ticking. Trial must be set within 70 days from arraignment. Hiring a skillful lawyer that is knowledgeable in the federal court system is imperative as the case moves much more quickly than in state court. For instance, if the client decides to take his or her case to trial, pretrial motions must be filed before the trial date as specified by the Court.
If a client decides to enter a guilty plea (instead of having a jury trial) in federal court, he or she will be interviewed by the United States Probation Office and a presentence investigation report will be written and provided to the sentencing district judge. In federal court the sentencing judge will calculate the sentencing guidelines. The United States Sentencing Commission has created a complex sentencing calculation scheme that suggests to the district judge what an appropriate sentence would be on each case.
The sentencing guidelines suggest sentences based on the severity of the crime and the severity of the client’s criminal history. Although the sentencing guidelines are not mandatory and the judge may sentence above or below the guidelines, it is important to hire an attorney that understands the guidelines and can advise the client on the benefit (or lack thereof) of any potential plea.
Call Duncan Law today to have an attorney assess your federal case and help you determine the best move going forward.