Federal Criminal Case Timeline
The following timeline is a broad overview of the progress of a federal felony case. Many variables can change the speed or course of the case, including settlement negotiations and changes in law. This timeline, however, will hold true in the majority of federal felony cases in the Northern District of West Virginia.
Use the menu on the right to navigate the timeline, or view the entire timeline in PDF format.
In the majority of federal cases, the defendant pleads guilty and does not go to trial. A defendant can plead guilty "open," or without a plea agreement, or can strike a deal with the prosecutor and have a written contract (a plea agreement) drafted with the terms of the plea.
A defendant has a right to be informed of every plea offer made by the government. The defense attorney will also explain the terms of the plea agreement, will discuss a defendant's sentencing exposure at trial or through the proposed plea, and will review the good and bad evidence that awaits a defendant at trial. Ultimately, however, it is the defendant's decision alone on whether to take a plea offer from the prosecutor.