What to Do if You Find Yourself in Federal Court

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The federal criminal trial process can be a confusing and scary one, especially for those unfamiliar with legal proceedings in general. Luckily, Fresno is home to some of the best federal criminal attorneys and trial lawyers in the country--which can (and often does) mean the difference between a win and a loss.

How Does Federal Court Differ From State Court?

Unlike state crimes, which involve the violation of a law, statute, or ordinance passed by local authorities or State legislature, a federal crime is one that has to do with offenses at the national level--that is, statutes and ordinances passed by the United States Congress. This umbrella covers a very wide array of crimes, including drug offenses, sex crimes, money laundering, kidnapping, robbery, white collar crimes, conspiracy, fraud, counterfeiting, and much more.

One of the biggest differences you will see between state and federal criminal court cases comes in the workup time. Whereas state cases will often be investigated and brought to trial relatively quickly, federal cases can sometimes take months or even years to be fully brought to fruition. They can involve extensive investigation techniques, including wiretaps, the use of confidential informants, and video surveillance. Many lawyers are well-versed in the state trial procedure, but much less so with how the federal system works. If you find yourself in the unenviable position of facing these types of charges, especially in the Fresno area, it's essential that you find a federal criminal attorney that has experience in federal law.

To Plead Guilty or To Go to Trial?

The 6th  amendment to the US constitution guarantees you the right to a trial by jury. Before your trial, the government may offer you a plea bargain. In essence, this is a reduced sentence in exchange for pleading guilty. Before accepting a plea bargain or deciding to go to trial, your attorney should carefully discuss with you the potential risks and benefits of both options. There is a very real possibility of serious jail time if you are found guilty at the end of your trial, and that is something to take into consideration. If you have information about other crimes or alleged criminals, the government will often offer a better plea bargain and an even more reduced sentence in exchange for this knowledge, so it's essential that you share everything you know with your lawyer.