Federal criminal cases often involve significant investigatory work behind the scenes before the U.S. Attorney’s Office ultimately files charges against someone. Many individuals only come to find out that they’re facing federal charges once they receive a grand jury indictment in the mail, asking them to attend an initial hearing in their case.
The federal government’s largely secretive investigative process gives them an advantage when preparing their case that defendants don’t enjoy. This may explain why the federal conviction rate is as high as it is in the U.S. You’ll want to take these conviction statistics into account when deciding how to proceed in your case.
What is the federal government’s track record in terms of securing convictions?
A 2018 Pew Research Center study indicates that a staggering 90% of federal criminal cases end up with defendants pleading guilty to their alleged offenses. That same data shows that 8% of cases end up being dismissed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The other 2% of defendants take their cases to trial. Pew’s research shows that about 62% of defendants used to take their cases to trial back in 1998.
Pew Research Center’s researchers also discovered that of the 79,704 defendants who faced federal charges in 2018, only 320 received acquittals at trial. The U.S. Attorney’s Office secured convictions in at least 99.96% of all other cases.
That same research revealed that a defendant’s decision to pursue a trial by either judge or jury often impacted the outcome in their case. Judges generally acquitted 38% of the defendants in the cases they decided. By comparison, juries only did so 14% of the time.
Don’t take your federal criminal case lightly
Don’t underestimate how much time and money federal investigators invest in building a case against a defendant. You may want to consult with an attorney with a track record of handling federal criminal cases to learn more about potential defense strategies you can employ when the stakes are this high.