Federal Offenses are Prosecuted in United States District Courts

Assistant United States Attorneys, otherwise known as AUSAs, are highly trained and skilled. Few defense lawyers are capable of providing an effective defense to federal charges.

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Felony and Misdemeanor Charges in Federal Court are Divided into Classifications

Federal charges in Michigan are grouped into four classifications depending on their possible maximum penalties: felonies (1 year or more), misdemeanors (1 year or less), infractions (5 days or less), and petty offenses (maximum fines of $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for organizations). Here is what you need to know if you face criminal allegations or federal charges in Michigan.

Felonies and misdemeanors are further classified into classes. They are as follows:


  • Class A — Life imprisonment or death
  • Class B — 25 years or more
  • Class C — 10–25 years
  • Class D — 5–10 years
  • Class E — 1–5 years


  • Class A — 6 mos.–1 year
  • Class B — 30 days–6 months
  • Class C — 5 days–30 days

The classifications of federal charges in Michigan are used primarily in determining additional consequences of sentencing, such as the allowable term of supervised release and whether the government charges by indictment, complaint, or information.

Felonies must be charged by indictment or complaint unless the defendant waives indictment. Misdemeanors may be charged by indictment, information, ticket, or complaint. All felony offenses are tried before a district court judge. Misdemeanors may be tried before a magistrate judge when the defendant consents in writing.

Federal Prosecutors – The United States Attorney’s Office

Increasingly, federal prosecutors work with local law enforcement officials, either directly or through joint federal and state task forces; however, the primary federal investigative agencies for the United States Attorney’s Office are the: Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), Secret Service, Customs & Border Protection Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (“ATF”), Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”), and U.S. Postal Inspectors.

Federal Criminal Investigations

Criminal investigations initiate in one of two ways: (1) law enforcement officials may suspect a crime is being committed and begin an investigation that may lead to felony or misdemeanor charges, or (2) law enforcement officials may respond to the commission of a crime, arrest their suspects, and then conduct a full investigation of the case. Federal charges in Michigan generally arise from investigations and rarely result spontaneously from a crime in progress.

Federal Crimes Charges in Michigan

Federal Law Enforcement’s Power is Not Unlimited

Law enforcement officials must comply with constitutional limitations on their powers, like the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures, and proper procedures under the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. The Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the Constitution govern when and how officers can interrogate potential suspects in custody. Any evidence seized by the government in violation of the law may be subject to suppression. If a judge suppresses evidence in a case, the evidence’s exclusion could lead to a dismissal of all federal charges in Michigan.

Arrest and the Start of Prosecution

In those cases where a suspect is arrested on federal charges in Michigan without a warrant, the officers must file a complaint in the United States District Court. A magistrate judge decides whether there is sufficient probable cause to hold the suspect until formal charges can be filed. If the defendant remains in custody, prosecutors have 14 days to conduct a preliminary examination. At a preliminary examination, the Assistant United States Attorney would have to introduce sufficient evidence to hold the defendant for trial. In practice, preliminary examinations are rarely held in federal court, and in the alternative, prosecutors will opt to obtain an indictment from a grand jury before the 14-day period expires. Every defendant charged with a felony in federal court is entitled to an indictment. If a defendant is charged with a misdemeanor, the prosecutors may file an Information with the court, and an indictment is unnecessary.

If a defendant makes bail and is out of custody following his arrest, prosecutors have 21 days to conduct a preliminary hearing or obtain a grand jury indictment. In some cases, especially those involving lengthy investigations or multiple defendants, prosecutors will obtain an indictment before a defendant is arrested or file a complaint with a request for an arrest warrant. In many cases, the indictment or complaint will remain sealed or secret until the defendant is arrested.

Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney

What do I do if I am charged in federal court?

In the unfortunate event you or a loved one becomes the target of a federal investigation, a complaint, or an indictment, it is critical that you obtain experienced legal counsel as soon as possible. Things happen quickly during investigations and in court. Any delay can cause missed opportunities to gain an advantage for the defendant when facing federal charges in Michigan. If you or a loved one is under-investigated or facing prosecution for a felony or misdemeanor charges in the United States District Court in Detroit or elsewhere in Michigan, call LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. right away and we will take the time to talk with you, answer your questions, and address each of your concerns.

Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete a Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.

We will find a way to help you and, most importantly,
we are not afraid to win!

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