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The proceedings at the beginning of a case for a federal crime

If you have been to a civil court case before and you are now facing potential charges for an alleged federal crime in Minnesota, it is important to know what legal steps will be taken in this criminal case, as criminal and civil cases are not identical. Along with an understanding of the steps, make sure that you always understand your rights and your legal options.

The first step is taken when the U.S. attorney, on the behalf of the country, goes before the grand jury. It is at this stage that the grand jury looks at the evidence to determine whether or not a criminal case should take place. An indictment is passed down if the jury decides that the evidence is sufficient. This is not a conviction, but just an indication that a trial is needed. This is done to eliminate cases where the evidence is clearly not strong enough for a trial.

If there is an indictment filed, the person or people named in the indictment will be arrested. As a defendant in a federal case, the next step is that you will go before a judge. The judge is going to decide if you should be held behind bars or if you can be allowed to post bail and await your trial at home. The information obtained during this hearing helps the judge make that decision.

You will not learn of the judge's decision, however, until the third major part of the proceedings, which is the initial court appearance. The judge will also do similar work to the grand jury in deciding again if there is enough evidence for a trial.

Finally, there will be an arraignment. This is a separate hearing where you enter the plea that you and your defense team have decided to use.

Source: United States Courts, "How the Federal Courts Work - Criminal Cases" Dec. 01, 2014

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