Navigating the Legal System After a Federal Criminal Arrest in Tampa

If you have been arrested for a federal crime in Tampa, not all hope is lost. Each trial and the post-arrest legal proceeding is unique and may involve a few steps, or it may involve many steps. 

Your Tampa federal defense lawyer has an intimate understanding of the criminal justice system and will not only be able to help you navigate these difficult, complex stages after your arrest but will help to fight for the most favorable outcome for your case.


Before your arrest, federal agencies, such as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), will have already employed criminal investigators to gather and record information for United States Attorneys in Tampa. They provided the information that they collected to the prosecutors who began to take the next steps of investigation. Often, this is when search warrants will be obtained.

After you are arrested, the gathering of two types of evidence will continue. The first type of evidence is direct evidence, which is evidence that supports a truthful fact without the need to infer. For example, eyewitness testimony would be considered direct evidence. The second type of evidence collected is circumstantial evidence, which includes statements or information that are indirectly obtained that do not include a first-hand account or experience. Circumstantial evidence requires a level of inference and impression that comes from someone who cannot provide a first-hand direct account.


With the prosecution examining the evidence gathered from the investigation, as well as with statements from all parties involved, there will be a decision as to whether to present the case to the grand jury, an impartial group of randomly-selected citizens, for charging. If the prosecution decides to indict the defendant, they will be given notice that there is a federal charge against them, including the basic information regarding the charges.

After you are charged with a federal crime, you can hire your Tampa criminal defense attorney to represent you and provide legal counsel regarding your case.

Initial Hearing and Arraignment

On the next day following your arrest, if not the day of, you will be brought to a magistrate judge for an initial hearing. Here, you will learn more about your rights during the trial process and arrangements will be made concerning if you will be held in prison until, or released before, your trial, including your bail-granting decision. 

The judge will consider gathered facts about you, including your prior criminal record, your living situations, and your perceived potential danger to the community, and you will be asked to plead either guilty or not guilty to the charges.


The discovery period of a trial is the step where your defense is being built. Your Tampa criminal defense attorney is collecting witnesses to testify in court, gathering evidence for your claim, strategically auditing and investigating the prosecution’s evidence, referred to as exculpatory evidence, and creating arguments against it. There is a chance that the prosecution’s evidence will show your innocence. 

This intense preparation is meticulous and lasts from the beginning of the case up until the trial.

Plea Bargaining

If the government has a strong case against the defendant, it may offer a plea deal. This will help the defendant avoid trial and reduce the possibility of longer sentencing and harsher punishment. Pleading guilty should only occur if the defendant committed the crime and will admit to it in an open-court setting. The judge will then determine the punishment, usually to a lesser state of degree. Sometimes, accepting a plea deal is a favorable strategy for some cases and may be encouraged by a lawyer.

If the defendant pleads guilty, then there will be no trial but a sentencing hearing, where the defendant will learn the elements and implications of their sentence.

Preliminary Hearing

Alternatively, if you plead not guilty, a preliminary hearing will be held. The preliminary hearing can be considered a miniature version of the standard trial. The prosecution will usually call witnesses and present evidence, while the defense will cross-examine the witnesses. 

The judge will consider the claims and evidence and will decide whether the crime was committed by the defendant. If so, the trial will be scheduled, and if not, the charges will be dismissed.

Pre-Trial Motions

Prior to the trial, motions can be made by either the prosecution or defense. A motion is a request that the court decides either the case or the evidence before the trial begins. These motions include a motion to dismiss, a motion to suppress, and a motion for a change of venue.


The trial is the most infamous and important part of the legal proceedings. During the trial, the facts of the case are presented by both sides to the jury and judge who decide whether or not the defendant is guilty. The prosecution and defense both present witnesses and evidence to strengthen their side and claim. 

In federal criminal trials, the jury must make a unanimous decision regarding the innocence or guilt of the defendant. The verdict will then be read and announced in the open court with all parties present. If you are found innocent, you will be allowed to go home.

Post-Trial Motions

If you are convicted during the trial, there is another chance to file a post-trial motion. These motions include a motion for a new trial, a motion for judgment of acquittal, and a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct a sentence. Your attorney will decide whether to pursue a motion for your defense, understanding your case, your charge, the prosecution, and the judge.


After a few months, if the defendant has been found guilty, they will return to the judge to receive their sentence. The sentence is supported and influenced by presentence reports, the trial, the evidence, and other aggravating or mitigating factors, such as regret for the crime, the nature of the crime, or how many times the defendant has committed the crime.


Even if the defendant is found guilty, an appeal can be made to the Circuit Court because they were wrongly convicted or given too harsh of a sentence. This provides an opportunity for you to raise specific concerns about errors that were made during a trial.

Let The Rickman Law Firm Help You Navigate The Lengthy Criminal Justice Process

The Rickman Law Firm is equipped with the best Tampa criminal defense lawyers to help fight for your justice. We have the skill, experience, and success to walk with you through each step of your federal criminal trial. Make the right decision and immediately hire a trustworthy attorney to help you navigate this intensely challenging process.

Our law firm is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help fight for you. For your free legal consultation, fill out our consultation form or call The Rickman Law Firm any time at 813-999-0502.


Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.


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