Damico & Stockstill, Attorneys at Law

80 Years Of Combined Trial Experience

What is the process of a federal criminal trial?

On Behalf of | Jun 26, 2024 | Federal Crimes |

After an accusation and charges of a federal crime, you will face a trial in federal court. The process can seem complex and intimidating, but understanding the steps involved can help ease your anxiety.

There are several things to know about the road ahead with your federal case.


The first step in a federal criminal trial is the arraignment. During this proceeding, the court informs you of the charges against you and you enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. If you plead not guilty, the case proceeds to trial.

Pretrial motions and discovery

Before the trial begins, both the prosecution and defense may file pretrial motions to address various issues, such as the admissibility of evidence or the dismissal of charges. This phase also involves the discovery process, where both sides exchange information and evidence relevant to the case. This is your chance to see the case against you to help you build a defense.

Jury selection

In most federal criminal trials, a jury determines the defendant’s guilt or innocence. During jury selection, also known as voir dire, the judge, prosecution and defense question potential jurors to ensure impartiality.

Opening statements

After selecting a jury, the trial begins with opening statements from both the prosecution and defense. These statements provide an overview of the case, including each side’s argument and a summary of the evidence.

Presentation of evidence

The prosecution presents its evidence first, followed by the defense. Evidence may include witness testimony, documents and physical evidence. Each side has the opportunity to cross-examine the other’s witnesses during this stage of the process. You may or may not testify on your own behalf in this stage depending on the nature of your case.

Closing arguments

At the end of the trial, the prosecution and defense each deliver their closing arguments. These arguments summarize the key points of the case and attempt to persuade the jury to reach a particular verdict.

Jury deliberation and verdict

The jury then deliberates in private to determine the defendant’s guilt or innocence. If the jury reaches a unanimous verdict, the jury reads the verdict in court. If the jury cannot reach a unanimous decision, a court may declare a mistrial, leading to a new trial with a different jury.

Preparing for your federal criminal trial starts with understanding each stage. Build a sound defense and prepare to create reasonable doubt for the jury.