Federal Criminal Trial

FEDERAL CRIMINAL TRIAL: BEFORE, DURING, AND BEYOND

CANNON & ASSOCIATES is dedicated to Fierce Advocacy for those facing Federal Criminal Charges or Federal Prosecution. It is crucial you contact an experienced Oklahoma Federal Criminal Defense Attorney, if you are facing federal criminal charges. You need a Fierce Advocate to defend your rights, your property, and your freedom. This page is an overview of Federal Pretrial, Federal Criminal Jury Trial, and Federal Post-Trial processes and procedures.

Before Federal Criminal Trial

Motion practice, in which your federal criminal defense attorney raises issues for your trial judge to decide and respond/object to motions or requests of the prosecutor, is a very important part of your federal criminal case. The judge will hear argument, if requested or simply rule on every issue your federal criminal defense attorney raises. Pre-trial motions can take a variety of forms and request an even wide variety of relief. The effect of pre-trial motions in federal criminal trial include: the courtroom, the defendant, admissible evidence, witnesses, testimony, and the trial itself. Some of the most commonly litigated pre-trial motions in federal criminal trial are some variety of the following:

  • Motion to Dismiss: federal criminal defense attorneys can seek to dismiss the case for a lack of evidence or illegal search & seizure issues by federal investigators.
  • Motion to Suppress: federal criminal defense attorneys can seek to suppress or keep out evidence, information, testimony, or witnesses, which is improper for a variety of reasons.
  • Motion for Change of Venue: federal criminal defense attorneys can seek to have a federal criminal trial heard in another federal district for a variety of reasons, such as pretrial publicity or prejudice in the district in high profile cases.

Although some motions cannot be resolved until issues occur during trial, an experienced federal criminal defense attorney can gain laser focus on the issues at trial by seeking and obtaining left and right limits on a variety of issues from the judge overseeing federal criminal trial.  

Federal Criminal Trial

All the work done by your chosen federal criminal defense attorney will put you in the best position possible or not, to be ready to try your federal criminal trial. Your federal criminal defense attorney will have reviewed and be intimately familiar with all the evidence, witnesses, testimony, exhibits, and issues in your federal criminal case. The United States Attorney’s Office prosecuting your case has the highest burden in any court in the United States. The prosecution must prove your guilt of each offense beyond a reasonable doubt in order for you to be convicted. The preparation of your federal criminal defense attorney and his/her ability to impeach the prosecution’s case and tell your story may decide the outcome of your case.

The federal judge is in control of your trial. The federal judge decides the evidence that is admitted or not shown to the jury and what the prosecutor and your federal criminal defense attorney can or cannot say to the jury.

The first opportunity for your attorney to begin presenting your case before the jury is during jury selection or voir dire. Your attorney will participate in selecting the jury from a “pool of potential jurors,” often called the venire. Your federal criminal defense attorney will help the judge ensure that no prejudice is shown in selecting jurors, i.e. only women, only men, exclusion of a specific group of people. Both the prosecutor and your federal criminal defense attorney will ask the court to excuse jurors for cause as well as without stating a reason, which are “Preemptory challenges.”

The first portion of a federal criminal trial that is likely familiar to most people is opening statements. Jury trials are about stories, for a number of reasons, including that is how people are wired to learn and remember information. Your federal criminal defense attorney’s ability to tell a convicting story before any evidence is heard and build on that during trial is key to a good outcome in your federal criminal trial.

The United States Attorney’s Office has the burden of proof and as a result the prosecution presents its case first in order to attempt to meet its burden. Your federal criminal defense attorney can impeach and attack the credibility or information presented by each witness during the prosecution’s case. Once the prosecution rests, your federal criminal defense attorney may move for the federal judge to determine as a matter of law the prosecution has failed to meet its burden on some or all of the prosecution’s federal criminal case. The judge will dismiss any charge he/she believes the prosecution has failed to prove. Subsequently, your federal criminal defense attorney is allowed to present your case, including advising you or testifying or exercising your right to remain silent. It is your right and your right alone to testify or not testify. The decision cannot be used against you by the prosecution or the jury. This decision among many others should be decided with advice of experienced federal criminal defense counsel.

In addition to deciding the law and evidence admissible at trial, the federal judge will decide the law to instruct the jury on, the jury instructions. The instructions dictate what the jury must find in order to decide the verdict and how to consider the evidence. Your federal criminal defense attorney’s ability to argue jury instructions plays a large role in the success of your case.

Closing argument is the last chance for your federal criminal defense attorney to argue your case and the prosecution’s failure to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecutor will be able to argue the government’s case as well.

The final and most important part of your federal criminal trial is jury deliberation. During deliberations, the jury is charged with reaching a unanimous verdict, all guilty or you are not convicted. Upon a verdict of not guilty a federal criminal defendant is allowed to go home and go on with their life. However, upon conviction, post-conviction proceedings begin.

Post Federal Criminal Trial

Prior to sentencing or appeal a federal criminal defendant may file post-trial motions to address errors during the course of trial. One such motion is the Motion for Judgement as a Matter of Law “JMOL”, Rule 50. This motion tests the sufficiency of the prosecution’s evidence of a charged crime and your federal criminal defense attorney must illustrate how there is not genuine material facts entitling the prosecution to judgment as a matter of law. Motions to Alter or Amend Judgment, Rule 59(e) is a tool to ask the court to substantively change judgment in the case. Motions for a New Trial, if it is “in the interest of justice” may be granted by the District Court, as well as Motions for judgment of acquittal or motions to set aside or correct a sentence. These are a portion of the post-trial motions available to federal criminal defendants. Each have their own implications and set of potential benefits and detriments. The decision to purpose one or more of these motions should be discussed with your federal criminal defense attorney.

Federal Trial Sentencing

Federal Sentencing consists of a very complex analysis established by Congress, which sets minimum and maximum sentences for many crimes for judges to use in attempting to set a proper sentence. As in state criminal prosecution Presentence Reports are used along with statements by interested parties to determine the sentence. A large number of aggravating factors and mitigating factors are considered by the judge as well, such as the federal criminal defendant’s criminal history, if any; whether any remorse has been expressed by the federal criminal defendant; the nature of the crime committed; and other relevant factors. Please visit our webpage on Federal Criminal Sentencing for more information.

CONCLUSION

Federal criminal practice and procedure is highly technical and requires experience and attention to detail at every step. The issues and motions, both defended and fought in your federal criminal case, have a lasting impact on your case and future. The process of developing a defense in federal criminal trial practice is an art form; requiring storytelling and understanding of federal criminal procedure.  You should contact an experienced federal criminal defense attorney as early as possible in your federal criminal prosecution. It is my hope this page has educated you on major issues in federal criminal trial and prior to jury trial.

Experience matters when your freedom or the freedom of a loved one is at issue. It is important to know the attorney you hire is a fierce advocate and has experience defending federal criminal cases. John Cannon, owner of CANNON & ASSOCIATES, PLLC, will personally work along-side you during the entire process. John has been honored by being identified as a Top 40 under 40 in Criminal Defense by the National Trial Lawyers Association. John has the experience you need and will bring it to bear in your case. Additionally, he has an outstanding record of reaching the best possible outcome for hundreds of clients accused of the wide variety of criminal charges, evidenced by receiving the highest possible AVVO rating – 10 (superb). Contact CANNON & ASSOCIATES to protect your freedom and fight your case. You may send an email inquiry, complete the contact form on our website, or call at (405) 657-2323 for a free consultation.

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