What are the Significant Mileposts in a Federal Criminal Case?

In federal court, the process is somewhat streamlined because there usually is an indictment by the grand jury rather than a complaint and preliminary hearing. The initial appearance and arraignment usually occur before the magistrate judge. If the government files a motion for pretrial detention, a hearing before the magistrate judge must be held within 5 business days. A scheduling order establishes a date for any pretrial motions as well as jury selection. Pretrial motions are heard by the trial judge. Plea negotiations in federal court often require a proffer of testimony to the agents. If the proffer is successful, a plea agreement is tendered by the government, and if accepted by the client, a change of plea proceeding is scheduled. If negotiations are unsuccessful, a trial begins with jury selection on the date set by the court. Upon conviction by either plea or jury trial, the client and attorney meet with the probation officer to complete a presentence report which is used by the court at sentencing. Once completed, the parties have 14 days to file any objections to the presentence report. At sentencing, the objections are resolved and the sentence is immediately imposed. An appeal, if merited, follows by filing a notice of appeal with the clerk of district court. All appeals from the Middle District of Pennsylvania are heard by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.