SHORSTEIN, LASNETSKI, & GIHON
defends citizens accused of Federal criminal charges.
The prospect of facing a Federal Criminal Offense can be daunting and frightening. The United States government has awesome power to affect people's lives. Almost every aspect of federal criminal law is dictated by statutes, policies, sentencing guidelines and procedures. It is important that you have an attorney who is familiar with the federal system. SLG Law continually practices in the United State District Court for the Middle District of Florida. All four partners have experience defending people charged with criminal offenses. Partner, Harry Shorstein, was one of three people who was considered by the President for the position of United States Attorney for the Middle District of Florida. We have handled cases in all phases of the criminal case, including pretrial release, trial, and sentencing. We have represented clients in filing their appeals with the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Experience matters! Call Shorstein, Lasnetski, & Gihon to discuss your Federal Criminal Case.
What is the process in a federal criminal case?
Complaint (Rule 3), Information, & Indictments (Rule 7)
A federal criminal case starts with a Complaint, Information, or Indictment. A Complaint is a written statement of essential facts of the offense. An Information or Indictment is a formal charging document. An Indictment for a felony must be returned by a Grand Jury unless waived by the defendant. If waived, no Grand Jury is necessary and the United States Attorney's Office can sign and file an Information.
Initial Appearance (Rule 5)
The first court appearance is the Initial Appearance. The judge will advise you of:
- the charges
- the right to retain an attorney or have one appointed
- pretrial release issues
- right to a preliminary hearing
- right to remain silent
The judge will also determine whether you will be detained or released and what conditions of release are to be set. Typically, judges either detain or release an individual on a signature bond, which does not require paying an actual bond.
Preliminary Hearing (Rule 5.1)
If you were arrested without an indictment or information being filed, you are entitled to a preliminary hearing. At the preliminary hearing, the judge will determine whether there is probable cause for the charge(s). The hearing must be held within 10 days if you are in custody or within 20 days if you are not in custody.
Arraignment (Rule 10)
At the arraignment, you will be asked to plead to the indictment or information. You will almost always plead not guilty at this stage. You can always change your plea to guilty at a late date, however, if you plead guilty at arraignment, you will not be able to change your plea to not guilty. At the arraignment or shortly after, the judge will schedule a deadline for your attorney to file motions, will schedule the case for a status hearing, and will schedule your case for trial.
You typically will not appear at a status hearing if you are represented by an attorney. Status hearings are an opportunity for the judge, the defense attorney and the prosecutor to get together to discuss the status of the case. Typical topics at a status hearing include discovery issues, motions for continuance, motion issues, witness issues, scheduling issues and more. Basically, the status hearing is the judges opportunity to keep the case on track and to deal with any pretrial issues.
Change of Plea Hearing
If you decide to plead guilty, either with a plea agreement or without one, you will be scheduled for a change of plea hearing, typically in front of a magistrate judge. At that hearing, the judge will instruct you of your rights, the maximum penalties, and all issues related to pleading guilty. If the hearing is in front of a magistrate judge, he or she will recommend that the district judge accept the change of plea.
If you decide to go to trial, the government will have to prove that you are guilty beyond any reasonable doubt. The trial, much like in state court, consists of jury selection, opening statements, direct examinations, cross examinations, closing arguments, and jury instructions. All jurors must agree on the verdict.
If you plead guilty or are found guilty after a trial, the judge will schedule your case for a sentencing hearing. A probation officer will draft a pre-sentence investigation report that lays out your history, including education, childhood, employment, criminal history, etc., and will calculate your guidelines. The judge will use this pre-sentence investigation report as a guide during your sentencing. Your attorney will have an opportunity to object to the pre sentence investigation report and the guidelines determined in that report. At the sentencing hearing, your attorney can argue why your guidelines should be lower than calculated and/or why the judge should sentence you below the guidelines. You can also present witnesses, statements, photos, reports, and any other evidence that you want to present to the judge in mitigation of your sentence.
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