Federal Trials in Georgia

Whether a criminal case goes to federal or state trial depends largely on which court has jurisdiction, or authority, to hear the case. Federal courts abide by the U.S. Constitution with limited jurisdiction, while state courts are established by state laws and are of general jurisdiction.

A case would be tried in federal court if a federal law was violated, as well as if the crime took place on federal land or if the amount involved in a state case exceeds a certain limit. Federal courts are also structured differently than state courts, with several key differences in the trial process.

The Federal Trial Process

The federal court system is mapped into 94 individual jurisdictions, each with at least one district court. Georgia has three federal districts, so a federal trial in Georgia would fall within the jurisdiction where the alleged crime took place.

The federal trial process typically consists of seven to eight steps:

  1. Investigation: In many federal cases, a thorough investigation has already been completed by the time a warrant is issued for your arrest. An investigation could be in the works for several months or years without your knowledge, where evidence is gathered and probable cause is established.
  2. Indictment : In felony cases, an attorney has also obtained a formal grand jury indictment against you prior to your arrest. An indictment is a formal charge that you have committed a serious crime.
  3. Arrest: Once the charges against you are made official, a warrant will be issued for your arrest, and you will be taken into custody.
  4. Initial Appearance: Your initial hearing will be held in front of a federal magistrate judge, where you will be arraigned and enter a plea to the charges.
  5. Discovery: After your initial appearance, documentation will be released containing the information that has been collected by the court to be used against you. This will allow your attorney to begin forming your defense.
  6. Pre-Trial Phase: Plea-trial motions and plea-bargaining happens during this stage, when applicable. Since strong cases are already built against the defendant in most federal trials, it may be in your best interest to work with your attorney to accept a plea deal.
  7. Trial: The trial will take place in one of the three federal district courts in Georgia with appropriate jurisdiction. Both sides will present their cases in front of a jury, including evidence, cross-examination, and opening and closing statements.
  8. Post-Trial Appeals/Sentencing: If found guilty, your attorney may start the appeals process soon after sentencing.

The federal trial process tends to move more quickly than state trials, requiring that you have a skilled defense attorney on your side. To learn more about how Wadkins & Wadkins LLC can help you, call (706) 221-9451 or schedule a free review of your case online.