Federal Pretrial Status

When charged with a federal crime, newcomers to the criminal justice system feel lost, confused and helpless. Lawyers, Pretrial Service Officers, plea agreements, prison sentences, the Bureau of Prisons, and many other issues need to be learned and understood immediately in order to make the best decisions in the coming weeks and months. Trouble is, nobody is an expert in these areas during their first exposure to the system.

We at PCR Consultants have years of experience in each of these areas and can greatly help smooth the process and create better outcomes.


Pretrial Basics

You many not be an expert, but basic information is a great place to start. Here is a crash course on the basics.

Here are some statistics for you.

93.6% of federal criminal cases end in a guilty plea (6.4% go to trial)
75.6% of those that go to trial (the 6.4% left) are found guilty
97% of all criminal defendants are therefore sentenced

**82.8% of all federal defendants get prison sentences**

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics


A lawyers job:

First and foremost a lawyer lands a client by assuring them how strong their case is.

Second, (s)he files a bunch of motions to keep his client out of incarceration while awaiting trial (pretrial status).

Third, (s)he waits to see what the prosecution plans to do, then reacts.

Fourth, the lawyers changes his tune and convinces the client to take a plea bargain.

This usually occurs for a few reasons. 1) Prosecutors win over three-quarters of the cases that go to trial. 2) With a plea agreement the lawyer keeps his entire retainer for the least amount of hours worked.

Lastly, the lawyer submits a bunch of motions to convince the judge to hand out the shortest sentence possible (motions for downward departure). Once sentence is passed down, most lawyers shake hands with their client and say, “Good-bye.” Sometimes the defendant is allowed to report themselves to prison, but other times are taken into custody immediately.


The process by which a federal sentence is pronounced goes in the following steps: a sentencing range is calculated by the probation officer and put into their full report to the judge. This report is called a Pre-sentence Investigation Report (“PSI” or “PSR”). Then the defense reviews the PSI for errors and submits objections to the judge.

Finally, the presiding judge reviews both the PSR and the defense objections and decides if he wants to sentence the defendant below, within, or above this sentence recommendation.

We wrote an entire series on how federal sentencing calculations are done, which give the policy-recommended ranges for any federal criminal case. Start with Federal Sentencing Explained in Plain English to begin reading the 3-part series and get a decent education in how this process all works.

What Happens After Sentencing?

You can read about the process and procedures of the events that comes after sentencing in our blog post about just this subject. Click here to read it.

Below are a few terms and subjects that are very important to the sentencing phase of federal criminal pretrial defendants.


A Pre-Sentence Investigation and Pre-Sentence Report (PSI or PSR) are done by the US Probation Office to make recommendations to the presiding judge about your sentence. This report can make the difference of YEARS off of a sentence if handled correctly. Knowing what it should say, should not say, and needs to contain is the single most important factor in reducing the amount of time a defendant is away from home.

PCR Consultants can review and give invaluable information to maximize the potential this document contains.

Objective Case Review

When an attorney is obtained, he or she is the only lawyer that can speak to you about your case, except if a second attorney is from the same law firm. Many people who are new to the criminal justice system are unaware that a legal “Second Opinion” cannot be given by an objective attorney who does not represent you. They can’t even tell you if your lawyer is doing a good job or not.

However, since PCR Consultants are not a law firm, we can legally give objective opinions about the status and nature of your current defense. This can mean the difference between freedom and serving prison time while appealing a conviction due to ineffective council.

Contact Us for a Free Consultation

Find out how we can help by calling us for a free consultation at (480) 382-9287.

For more ways to contact us, visit our contact us page for contact form and e-mail addresses.

Learn about us and how our services work on our about page.