Practice Area Criminal Law – Federal

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United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas

Federal Criminal Trial Law

Federal criminal law jurisdiction is in the United States District Court.  All felonies find jurisdiction in the United States District Court with the United States Magistrate Judge assisting the United States District Judge, if so desired by the District Judge.  A candidate for a United States District Judgeship is nominated to the bench by the President of the United States, and confirmed by the United States Senate.  Once appointed, a United States District Judge is appointed for life according to the United States Constitution.  A United States Magistrate Judge is selected by the United States District Judges sitting in a particular district, and is appointed for a multi-year term. You can learn how a criminal case progresses through the federal system here.

A trial can be before a federal judge, or a federal jury.  If convicted in the United States District Court, whether by plea or by trial, sentencing is done by the United States District Judge only.  The sentencing is determined by consideration of theUnited States Sentencing Guidelines as promulgated by the United States Sentencing Commission.  There is no right to have a jury to decide punishment as there is in Texas state law, except in a federal capital murder prosecution wherein the Government is seeking the death penalty.


Federal Criminal Appellate Law

Appellate law consists of both direct appeals and post-conviction collateral attacks.  In the federal system, a direct appeal is the appeal of the judgment from the United States District Court to a United States Court of Appeals.  The Eastern District of Texas is in the Fifth Circuit.  Therefore, any appeal is taken to theUnited States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, located in New Orleans, Louisiana.  It also includes a Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the United States Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court is not required to grant review.

A collateral attack is a post-conviction attack of the judgment and conviction, such as an Application For A Writ of Habeas Corpus.  It usually follows the exhaustion of a person’s direct appeal remedies.

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