What You Need to Know About the Federal Criminal Charging Process

Miami Federal Criminal AttorneyThe federal court system functions in roughly the same way as the state court systems, but there are some important differences. For example, federal cases are brought by United States Attorneys instead of prosecutors or district attorneys. While you can be charged and tried under both systems, usually when the federal government steps in, the State will step out.

Most federal cases proceed the same way, and knowing the steps in the criminal charging process can help ease some of the anxiety related to a federal charge. A Miami federal criminal attorney can help you through this process, and will be there for you every step of the way.

The Investigation

The investigation in a federal case is led by a federal agency like the United States Secret Service, Homeland Security Investigation, or the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The federal prosecutor will work with these agencies to obtain evidence and understand the details of a case. Occasionally, there are several agencies involved in just one case.

If you know that an investigation is taking place, you should have an attorney even during this early stage of the charging process.

Charging: The Grand Jury

Once the investigation is completed, the prosecutor will decide whether to present the charge to the grand jury.

The grand jury is a group of citizens that is similar to a jury in a regular case. The real difference is that this jury is not trying to determine guilt, they are trying to determine if the charges are worth bringing to a “full blown” trial. The grand jury may hear witnesses and see evidence.

If the grand jury determines that the charges are valid or worth pursuing, then they will issue an indictment. The indictment is a formal notice issued to an individual to let them know that they are being accused of a crime. The indictment will include very basic information about the charges against the individual.

If the grand jury determines that an indictment is not appropriate, then no further action will be taken. The evidence presented is sealed so that no one else can know about it. You do not participate in this process, and you may never know what was presented if an indictment is not recommended.

Using a grand jury is a constitutional requirement under federal law for specific types of crimes. Many states rarely use grand juries. They are made up of somewhere between 16 to 23 people, depending on the circumstances of the case.

Initial Hearing/Arraignment

Most defendants are brought to their initial hearing (also known as arraignment) either the same day that they are charged or the day after. The initial hearing involves a federal magistrate judge who will explain the defendant’s rights and charges against him or her.

The Court will also explain your right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, an attorney will be provided to you. If you have not already contacted The Hansen Law Firm, you should explain that you intend to do so when you can.

The judge will also decide whether you can be released until trial or if you must remain in prison until your trial date. Part of that process involves determining whether you can make bail.

The court will often consider:

  • Whether you have family in the area
  • How long you have lived in the area
  • Whether you have a prior criminal record
  • Whether you have threatened any of the witnesses in the case
  • Whether you present a potential danger to the community

The type of crime that you are accused of will often play a large role in decisions regarding bail as well.

The Next Steps in the Process

After the charging process, you and your Miami federal criminal attorney will go through discovery, plea bargaining, the preliminary hearing, pre-trial motions, trial, sentencing, and appeals, if necessary. It can be a long process, and having an experienced attorney by your side will be extremely important.

Author: M. G. Hansen

Marcia Giordano Hansen has been practicing law for almost 20 years. During this time, she has worked for the government at the Miami Dade Public Defender’s office representing indigent clients accused for state criminal offense; for an insurance defense firm wherein she represented doctors sued for medical malpractice and entities sued for negligence; and for a private white collar criminal defense firm practicing white collar crime defending individuals accused of social security fraud, Medicare fraud, drug trafficking and other federal crimes. Her wide range of knowledge in these different areas of law, coupled with the teachings of some of the most well respected legal minds in the country gives her a unique skill set which has benefited all of her clients resulting in victory and success in each case she has handled. Mrs. Hansen, in her own practice, has handled criminal defense cases, personal injury cases and real estate disputes. She speaks Spanish, French and is proficient in Italian which enables her to represent clients from all over the world. She is dedicated to the growth and success of Hansen & Taylor and prides herself in giving VIP treatment to each and every client. Marcia lives in Coral Gables with her husband and daughter. She is an avid sports fan, an animal lover and political junkie. She is also a supporter and member of the Board of Executive Relations for the Special Olympics of Miami, an organization dedicated to the well being of children and adults with disabilities.

What Past Clients Say

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I met with several attorneys and I didn’t feel comfortable with any. Marcia walked me through the process and explained everything to me in detail. She was clear and very communicative throughout the ordeal. I recommend Marcia to anyone going through any type of criminal / legal matters.

Jose Martinez 5 March 4, 2019

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The Hansen Law Firm is a reliable law firm that I absolutely recommend. Marcia Hansen is an experienced, smart lawyer who uses a user friendly portal, which I can access anytime and see any updates regarding my case. She is also always available and quick to respond with any questions I may have.

Diego Fernandez 5 March 4, 2019

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Marcia was always available to assist me with my concerns. She laid out a strategy that resulted in to best possible outcome for our team.

kevin 5 March 4, 2019

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Marcia is a class act!!! I approached her when my cousin ran into trouble. He was facing 12 years of jail time. After her very thorough review of the case (expert witnesses, speaking with the prosecution, review of the evidence), he was released on time served with 2 years of house arrest. Needless to say, she is a true professional. Working with an experienced criminal defense attorney who has a heart is a rarity. She encompasses both. She is hardcore and sweet. I highly recommend her services. Praise God that my cousin has his life back on track and is making very sound decisions. He simply needed a second chance. Since then, Marcia has helped some of my clients who were erroneously being investigated. The client recently told me her fee was the best money he’s ever spent. He’s in the clear and his family can sleep at night. God bless her!!! She is the best.

S Berm 5 March 4, 2019

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Excellent experience with Marcia Hansen ,and the best results for our family ,we are so grateful for her work and kindness with us . I will recommend Marcia 100% .Thanks The Hansen Law Firm

KAB Badell 5 March 4, 2019


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