If you find yourself facing a federal offense, it might be helpful to better understand a little about what to expect. Often after a plea of not guilty, the case will be brought before a magistrate judge in a preliminary hearing. You can decide to waive it, but if you and your attorney decide to proceed, you will be brought before the judge within 14 days (if you’re being held in jail) or 21 days (if you’re out on bail).
Preliminary hearings are often useful if the prosecution has little evidence against you. They are like small trials, with only the judge, the prosecution, and the defense. They don’t require an entire jury, which is why they also take significantly less time to complete.
Once your hearing begins, the prosecutor will introduce witnesses and evidence against you to support their case. Your attorney can then cross-examine witnesses and bring in evidence to support your innocence. The evidence brought before the judge, however, cannot be objected by your attorney. Everything the prosecutor can bring against you will be brought against you.
The judge ultimately decides if there is enough evidence to suggest you may have committed the crime. If the judge decides against you, he or she will require you to attend a trial. If the judge decides the evidence is insufficient, he or she will dismiss the charges and you will not have to go to trial. A motion to dismiss, however, does not mean the federal government won’t decide to take you to court again for the same crime.
If you have more questions or concerns about what to expect, or you would like to discuss your case, contact one of our Florida criminal defense attorneys at (800) 687-2252 or fill out our online form for a free case consultation.