Federal Criminal Process
There are many steps to a federal criminal prosecution, and you are entitled to have an attorney advise and represent you at every critical step. Scriven Law, P.A., is here for you at every stage of a prosecution in the federal system. Tampa federal crime lawyer Bryant Scriven will be present to make sure your rights are protected and that you are treated fairly. If it’s possible to end your case early with a favorable disposition or take actions to better position you for success at trial, we’ll do that too. See below for a look at the anatomy of a federal criminal case, and contact Scriven Law, P.A., if you are under indictment for a federal offense in Tampa.
Pre-Arrest Advice and Representation
Federal agents are not beat cops who happen to observe a crime in progress and make an arrest on the spot. Federal agencies typically spend months or years gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses and compiling documents before they seek an indictment. During this period, you may have the opportunity to interact with federal officers by providing information such as corporate records or sitting down for an interview. Attorney Bryant Scriven can advise you whether taking such action would be in your interest and can be with you or speak for you. Scriven Law can also intervene during an investigation to help keep charges from being filed by convincing the authorities that you are not someone they should be concerned with building a case against.
Unless waived, a federal felony prosecution begins with an indictment from the grand jury. Grand jury proceedings take place in secret, and witnesses are not allowed to bring their attorneys with them. If you are called to a grand jury, attorney Bryant Scriven can prepare you in advance and also be on hand should you need to step outside the grand jury room and confer with counsel before answering a question.
If you know an arrest is forthcoming, Scriven Law can help by coordinating with federal authorities to negotiate the way the arrest is carried out. It may be in your interest to come in voluntarily, to have the arrest effectuated quietly, or to secure the attention of the media in advance.
After an arrest or appearance summons, the U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services will conduct a probation interview. Based on information regarding community ties, drug use or criminal history and other factors, the agency will make a determination whether pretrial release (bail) is appropriate in your case. Attorney Bryant Scriven can advise you on whether participating in this process would be beneficial and can prepare you for the interview.
Your initial appearance before a magistrate or federal judge, also known as an arraignment, gives you knowledge of the specific charge or charges leveled against you, sets conditions for pretrial release, and allows you to enter a plea. This hearing typically takes place on the day you are arrested or the following day. You’ll be advised of your right to remain silent, your right to counsel, and your right to a preliminary examination.
A preliminary examination is a hearing used to decide if there is probable cause to believe you committed the offense you are charged with. Witnesses and evidence can be introduced at this hearing. Your right to a preliminary examination depends on whether or not a grand jury indictment was issued in your case. If you obtained a pretrial release, this hearing will take place within 21 days of your initial appearance. Without bail, the hearing should happen within 14 days. It is possible to get the case dismissed at this stage if the prosecution cannot demonstrate probable cause.
If the prosecution moves to keep you locked up while your case is pending, you have a right to a hearing to challenge their motion. The prosecution would have to prove you are a danger to the community, a threat to witnesses, or a flight risk in order to deny your right to pretrial release.
The discovery phase is where each party builds its case by speaking to witnesses and collecting documents from the other side. As a criminal defendant, you are entitled to receive any evidence the prosecution has that might exculpate you or prove your innocence. Your attorney will request all relevant evidence and build a defense during this phase.
As the prosecution and defense start to shape up, you may find it is in your interest to negotiate a guilty plea or plead no contest to the charges rather than go to trial. Your lawyer will negotiate the plea on your behalf, which may include getting the prosecution to reduce or drop some of the charges or an agreement to recommend probation or a light sentence from the judge. A negotiated plea is often the best path to an excellent outcome in a federal criminal case.
If proceeding to trial, attorney Bryant Scriven will make any applicable pre-trial motions on your behalf. These motions may include a motion to suppress evidence that was unlawfully obtained, a motion to change the venue (location) of the courtroom to ensure a fair trial, or even a motion to dismiss some of the charges or the whole case.
At trial, your attorney will make sure appropriate jurors are selected, challenge the prosecution’s case by cross-examining witnesses and objecting to evidence or testimony, and present your defense by calling witnesses and introducing evidence on your behalf. After closing arguments, the jury will deliberate according to the instructions given by the judge. The jury will return a verdict of guilty or not guilty.
If the jury returned a guilty verdict, it might be appropriate to make certain motions, such as a request for a new trial or a judgment of acquittal by the judge, who has the power to set aside or vacate a jury verdict.
After a trial and conviction or a guilty plea, sentencing occurs in a separate phase. The judge will calculate a sentence according to a complex formula contained in the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. The judge is not bound to follow these guidelines, however, and can issue a sentence outside the guidelines, ranging from no additional time served to the maximum punishment allowed by law. Your attorney can represent you at a sentencing hearing and argue why a lesser penalty is in order.
Appeals and Post-Conviction Relief
You have the right to appeal your conviction and argue that you were wrongly convicted or given an illegal sentence. You have the right to a direct appeal following a conviction, as well as other collateral appeals if grounds exist, such as newly-discovered evidence that could exonerate you.
Help Throughout the Federal Criminal Process in Tampa
Scriven Law, P.A., is here for you throughout every stage of a federal criminal prosecution in Tampa. Call us at 813-226-8522 to set up an appointment or for immediate assistance with your federal criminal case.