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Pretrial stages of federal criminal proceedings

Being charged with a federal crime can be a difficult experience, and the federal criminal process can oftentimes take years to be resolved. Criminal defendants in Louisiana and elsewhere should be aware of several stages of the federal criminal justice process that occur before a matter heads to trial.


One of the first parts of the federal criminal process is an arraignment. At the arraignment, a criminal defendant may enter a plea of guilty or not guilty, and they may be read the charging document or indictment against them. Moreover, the Court will often make determinations about bail at an arraignment, so it is important to hire an experienced federal charges attorney to handle this part of the criminal justice process.


After the arraignment, documents and information will be exchanged about a criminal case. The prosecution must provide a defendant any information or evidence that might exculpate a defendant of the crimes charged. In addition, subpoenas may also be issued in order to recover information that is in the possession of a third party and may be relevant to a criminal case.

Preliminary hearings

Many criminal cases have preliminary hearings far ahead of the trial itself. Such hearings may determine which evidence can be presented at trial, which experts can testify, and other matters. Rulings on such matters can have a substantial impact on how the trial in a case will proceed.

Plea bargaining

The vast majority of criminal cases are resolved through plea agreements well before a case ever proceeds to a trial. Prosecutors will generally modify their plea offer based on the evidence uncovered during discovery and how a court rules at preliminary hearings. It is important to hire an experienced federal charges lawyer to ensure that you get the best representation possible during all parts of the criminal justice process.