In addition to conducting trials, the judges of the District Court have authority to issue warrants of arrest and warrants for search and seizure, to grant provisional liberty of a person accused of crime, and to rule on all legal matters prior to trial.
Probable Cause | Wex | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute
The United States Courts of Appeals. At the next level are the U. Courts of Appeals, also called the Circuit Courts of Appeals. There are thirteen Circuit Courts of Appeals. Persons convicted of federal crimes have a right to appeal to the Circuit Court having jurisdiction. They will conduct a more extensive review of decisions of law, rather than findings of fact. For example, the prosecutor may not appeal a judgment of acquittal.
Appeals in the Circuit Courts are heard by a panel of three Appellate Court judges. In very rare circumstances, the decision of the three-judge panel may be reviewed by all the judges for the Circuit. At the appellate level, the attorneys for the prosecution and defense submit documents to the court outlining the law applicable to the facts of the case and the reasons why the court should find in their favor.
The court then considers the case and renders a decision. The United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is composed of nine judges. Except in unusual circumstances, the Supreme Court acts as an appellate court, reviewing the decisions of the U. Courts of Appeals and the Supreme Courts of the various states. Decisions of the Supreme Court are not subject to further appeal.
In criminal cases, there is generally no right to appeal to the Supreme Court. Instead, the person seeking review by the Supreme Court must file an application for review with the Court, explaining why the legal issue in his or her case is important enough for the court to consider. The Supreme Court has not reviewed an extradition case in more than fifty years. Procedure in Federal Criminal Cases. The Investigation and Bringing of Formal Charges. When one of the federal investigative agencies believes that it has evidence of a violation of United States law, the investigative agents will present their findings to the Office of the U.
Attorney in their district. One of the Assistant U. Attorneys will review the case and question the agent about it in detail to determine whether the evidence shows that there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed. If the evidence is not sufficient to establish probable cause, the Assistant U. Attorney AUSA may ask the agents to continue their investigation, in the alternative, he or she may decide that the evidence should be presented to a grand jury and that the grand jury should continue the investigation of the case. If the AUSA determines that there is probable cause, he or she will present the evidence to the grand jury and ask that they vote on a proposed criminal charge.
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This charge is called an indictment. However, in some instances, there is insufficient time to present the case to the grand jury because of an urgent need to arrest the person believed to have committed the offense. In these instances, the AUSA will ask a judge to issue an arrest warrant based on a sworn statement called a complaint, which sets out the essential facts of the offense charged.
The complaint, or sworn statements filed with the complaint, must also set out evidence sufficient to establish probable cause to believe that the specific crime charged was committed by the person charged with that crime. If, after a careful review, the judge determines that there is sufficient evidence to meet the probable cause standard, the judge will issue a warrant for the arrest of that person.
The Prosecution’s Burden of Proof in Criminal Trials
If a person is arrested pursuant to this procedure, the AUSA must thereafter present the case to the grand jury and obtain an indictment. A grand jury consists of between 16 to 23 citizens who have the duty, after reviewing the evidence, to vote on a proposed criminal charge. Generally, the grand jury hears evidence only from the government.
A target of an investigation i. This seldom occurs. In order for a person to be indicted, at least 12 members of the grand jury must find that there is probable cause to believe that the person or persons to be charged committed the crime or crimes to be charged. While the grand jury is deliberating on whether to return an indictment, i. That can be done only at trial. A federal prosecutor does not have the authority to issue a subpoena ordering a person to give testimony or to produce evidence in his or her possession. The grand jury has the authority to issue such subpoenas, and it therefore has substantial investigative powers.
In practice, the AUSA or other federal prosecutor usually issues subpoenas in the name of the grand jury. However, the grand jury can subpoena additional witnesses of its own volition. When a witness is subpoenaed before the grand jury, the AUSA generally asks the questions although in many instances the grand jurors also question witnesses.
A witness before a grand jury, like a witness at a trial, may not be compelled to give evidence that would tend to show that he or she has committed a criminal offense. As discussed above, this right is referred to as the Fifth Amendment privilege or the privilege against self-incrimination. Grand jury proceedings are recorded verbatim by a stenographer and are secret. It is a crime for a prosecutor or a member of the grand jury to discuss grand jury proceedings in public.
Also, a prosecutor may not disclose grand jury information to another prosecutor or investigating officer, unless that prosecutor or officer is also involved in the same criminal investigation.
Information gathered by a grand jury may be disclosed only upon the order of a federal court. Such permission is rarely given. Of course, evidence obtained by the grand jury may be used later at trial, if the grand jury formally indicts one or more persons for a criminal offense. In complex crimes such as most bank frauds, the involvement of a grand jury from the beginning is essential to an effective investigation. In such cases, the prosecutor and investigator will work very closely together from the start of the investigation. The Arrest of the Defendant. In the federal system, accused persons are usually arrested after a grand jury formally charges them with a crime.
As noted above, a judge may issue an arrest warrant before indictment upon the filing of a complaint setting forth sufficient evidence to establish probable cause. Generally, the AUSA will apply to the court for the issuance of a warrant of arrest for the person named in the indictment. These factors include the seriousness of the crime, the criminal history of the accused, and the likelihood that he or she will become a fugitive.
A judge determines whether a defendant is to remain in prison or is to be released, and, if released, on what conditions. These conditions may include a requirement that the defendant, or someone acting on the defendants behalf, pledge money or other property that will be forfeited if the defendant fails to appear for trial. Soon after the defendant is arrested, he or she will be brought before a judge. The judge will inform the defendant of the charges against him or her and ask whether the defendant pleads guilty or not guilty to the charges. This proceeding is called the arraignment.
The Trial of the Defendant. Under the U.
Constitution, a person accused of all but very minor offenses has a right to be tried by a jury. The defendant has no obligation, to testify or to call any witnesses on his or her behalf. At a jury trial, the jury determines whether the evidence against the defendant is sufficient for conviction. The jurors must base their determination only on the evidence presented at trial. The judge presides over the trial and rules on all issues of law, including whether evidence is admissible i.
The judge also instructs the jury on the legal principles it is to apply in deciding whether the defendant is guilty or not. A defendant may waive his or her right to a jury trial. A trial the judge may, on occasion, question a witness.
However, the questioning of witnesses is primarily the responsibility of the prosecutor and the defense attorney. They do most if not all of the questioning. A court reporter makes a verbatim record of everything said at trial by the witnesses, prosecutor, defense counsel, and judge.
This includes everything said at so-called bench or sidebar conferences in which the prosecutor and defense lawyer argue points of law, e.
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How a Criminal Trial Works
Share via email. Share link. Read more! Get our weekly email Enter your email address. Scientific and technological advances have resulted in the development of laser and alternative-light sources that can reveal latent fingerprints, stains, hairs, fibres, and other trace evidence. For example, luminol, a substance that fluoresces when in contact with blood, is capable of detecting blood traces that have been diluted up to 10, times, making it useful for searching crime scenes that were cleaned in order to conceal evidence. In addition, the patterns of blood stains often indicate many of the dynamics of the crime; investigators trained in blood-pattern analysis, for example, can determine whether a victim was standing still, walking, or running at the time of death.
Although some larger police departments have specialists to take photographs and fingerprints and to collect trace evidence, most CSIs are generalists who are trained to perform all these tasks.
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