Much of the process of facing federal criminal charges is similar to what happens when you face charges at the state level. But the rules and the procedures may vary.
If you are facing a federal charge, The Department of Justice explains you will go through various steps to reach a conclusion.
You will begin with a hearing that will allow you to hear the charges against you. The arraignment also allows you to enter a plea. This initial hearing will allow you to also learn about your rights and get an attorney if you need one appointed. It occurs soon after your arrest.
The discovery process is where each side exchanges evidence they have. This is when your attorney will build your defense.
Before your case gets to go into court for a trial, the prosecution may offer a plea deal. This generally requires you to plead guilty for a specific trade-off. The prosecutor may drop charges or change them and sometimes will offer a reduced sentence for your guilty plea. You do not have to accept a plea deal.
The second time you go to court will be for a preliminary hearing where the prosecutor must prove he or she has enough evidence to uphold the charges against you. This is not mandatory. You have the right to waive this hearing and move on to the next step.
Before your trial, your attorney or the prosecutor may make motions. A common motion for the defense is to ask for the court to drop the charges. Other typical motions include not allowing for certain evidence or moving the case to a new jurisdiction.
Trial and beyond
Once you get through all the first steps, you will have your trial. After the trial, attorneys may make additional motions. Once complete, the judge will hand down a sentence. You can then appeal it.