If you face one or more federal charges in South Carolina, then you will go through a federal criminal trial. These trials often take less time than state cases, so you may want to be diligent in planning your defense.
An initial appearance occurs if federal agents arrested you without a search warrant. You would stand before a judge who would determine whether there is probable cause that you committed the crime. The law on federal charges stipulates that judges must hold the initial appearance within 72 hours of your arrest. If the prosecutor sees you as a danger to the community, they might request of the judge to hold you in custody until your trial.
At the arraignment, the judge informs you of your charges and asks you to plead guilty or not guilty. You will also receive a copy of your charges to consult. It’s possible for you to enter a plea bargain during the arraignment.
Discovery and motions
Discovery is acquiring information about the case and from the other party. The prosecutor may request a psychiatric evaluation or disclosure of your alibi. You might file motions to suppress evidence, introduce new evidence or dismiss the charges. The victim also has rights during the discovery and motions stage. They could request permission from the court to be present during your trial. Victims may also ask to protect their personally identifying information from the public.
Most federal cases bring in a jury. The federal government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty. Trials usually begin with the prosecutor’s opening statement. The defendant may follow with their opening statement or delay it for its case-in-chief. Then, the prosecutor makes their case, presenting evidence and bringing in witnesses to back it up. The defendant could cross-examine witnesses.
Once the prosecutor has finished arguing their side, the defendant might request acquittal due to insufficient evidence. If the court doesn’t acquit the defendant, it’s their turn to present their side of the case. The prosecutor could cross-examine their witnesses. It’s also possible for the prosecutor to conduct a rebuttal. Defendants have a chance to ask for an acquittal again before the closing statements. Finally, the jury or judge will deliberate on the case to determine whether you are guilty or innocent.
Although all federal criminal trials don’t follow the same exact process, this is the typical procedure that you could expect.