What Happens in a Federal Case?

Criminal cases in federal court are different than state crimes


Be aware that the federal criminal justice system is entirely different from the New York criminal justice system and has its own rules and players.

Whereas the state criminal justice system more often than not concerns street crimes and “crimes that make people mad,” such as murder, rape, and robbery, the federal system generally includes crimes that are more complex or occur over two or more states. For instance, murder is a state law crime and will not be charged in the federal system unless the alleged murder is “federalized” in some manner, such as when the murder is alleged to have been committed in furtherance of an interstate drug conspiracy.

Federal crimes are indicted in federal courts, which in the New York City area are the U.S. District Courts for the Southern District (Manhattan, the Bronx, and Westchester) and Eastern District (Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and Long Island).

Such cases are handled not by the District Attorney but by the United States Attorney. Also, they are investigated not by the New York City Police Department but by the FBI, SEC, ATF, or other federal agency.

Because crimes charged in the federal system implicate the federal government, a federal criminal defendant must be prepared to go up against the tremendous resources of United States government.


  1. The Investigation
  2. The Indictment
  3. Defendant Appears in Court
  4. Pre-Trial Motions
  5. Plea Bargains and Sentencing
  6. Jury Selection
  7. Opening Statements
  8. Testimony, Exhibits, and Transcripts
  9. Closing Arguments
  10. Appeals
  11. Three-Judge Panels


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