A person who is charged with a crime in federal court, generally speaking, has four options. Option #1 is to proceed forward to trial. That can boil down to two separate categories there, which would be a jury trial or a bench trial. A jury trial, like you see on TV or if you’ve ever gotten jury duty, members of the community come in, listen to the case, and determine whether a person is guilty or not guilty. A bench trial is a trial in front of a judge. That judge would hear the evidence and then determine whether a person was guilty or not guilty. Most of the time, we do not recommend a bench trial. We like to have jury trials for a variety of reasons. Juries tend to have a more interesting view. They tend to be a little bit more favorable than judges do in criminal defense cases, at least in this area.
The second option a person has is to plead guilty, and you can either, #1, do an open plea where the judge could sentence you anywhere in the applicable sentencing range; #2, you could do a plea agreement with the Central District of Illinois,the U.S. Attorney’s office here. Their plea agreements tend to bind them through the federal sentencing guidelines, which is a huge discussion for another time, but it would be an agreement with the United States Attorney’s office.
The fourth option would be a plea agreement whereby the person has cooperated with the government. Cooperation generally means that they have informed on somebody or produced evidence against a third-party. Again, you would cooperate pursuant to a plea agreement, and then the government would or should move for a downward departure, so you should get a lower sentence than if you did not cooperate.
But, in sum, you can go to trial or plead guilty, and there’s different options for each of those, but, without knowing the facts of the case or what your potential guideline range may be, those are things that we would have to discuss in-person. If you have been charged with a federal crime or you are being investigated for a federal crime, please do not hesitate to contact our office, and we can set up an appointment for a free consultation to discuss your case in-depth.