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How does the federal criminal justice system work?

On Behalf of | Feb 18, 2021 | Federal Crimes

The federal criminal justice system is quite comparable to the state system. The main difference is that within the federal system there is more money for prosecuting cases. This can help move cases along more quickly as well.

The FBI explains that all criminal cases begin with a pretrial stage. During this stage, the investigations occur and the prosecution puts together its case. Also part of the pretrial stage is the grand jury meeting to formally charge you with a crime.

Court hearings

The next stage of the process involves you going before the court to enter your plea to the charges. During this stage, the prosecutor may also offer you a plea bargain, which you can decide to take or not. If you take it, the court will sentence you, and your time in federal court will be complete.

If you do not take the plea bargain, you will head to trial. During the trial, you and the prosecutor will present your arguments, evidence and witnesses. The jury will hear the case, deliberate and return a verdict.


After the jury returns its verdict, you will either move onto sentencing or end up a free person. If the jury finds you guilty, you will receive your sentence, which might include prison time or probation. Keep in mind that if you receive prison time for a federal crime, you will serve your time in a federal prison, not a state prison. This is important as you may not be near your family for visitation, so it is another difference from the state system where you often go to a prison close to where you live.