Federal Criminal Defense
Federal crimes are crimes against the United States of America and are prosecuted by the US Attorney or other Governmental Agencies. Federal Crimes include illegal reentry into the United States, drug trafficking and sales, extortion, bank fraud, tax evasion, kidnapping, wire fraud, conspiracy, and other white collar crimes.
When you are accused of a federal crime, you will need the guidance of an attorney who is experienced in defending federal crimes. Moreover, experience with the US Attorney and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines is crucial because sentencing guidelines are vastly different between state and federal offenses. Generally federal crimes have higher prison sentences and harsher fines. Therefore, it is extremely important to have an experienced Federal Defense Attorney who is familiar with Federal Sentencing and knows how to negotiate with the prosecuting agency.
- The Federal Criminal Procedure
- Federal Sentencing Guidelines
The Federal Criminal Procedure
There are Six stages in the Federal Criminal Process: Commencement, Initial Appearance, Pretrial Interview, Arraignment, Pre-Trial Motions and Conferences, Trial, and if necessary, Appeal. The criminal charge can be initiated by a Grand Jury Indictment, by information, or by complaint and arrest. After the commencement, you will be arraigned on the charges. Here, you will be given the opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty and the court will assign a judge to your case.
After the Arraignment, the court will initiate a Pretrial Interview. This stage is critical to the outcome of your case.
Pretrial release and that is getting you released hopefully on your own recognizance (allowing you to be released without financial security) or on an unsecured personal appearance bond (which you would not be required to post the bond that is set unless you failed to appear ) In both cases, pretrial services would almost always set conditions required of you for your release based on your offence i.e. no drugs, alcohol, stay away from certain places, individuals, do not commit any further offences etc or you would be taken back into custody.
Before the completion of the Pretrial interview, we will assess your case for strengths and weaknesses, including establishing and proving up any possible or applicable defenses. During the time between your initial interview and trial, we will be making all the necessary pretrial motions, including Motions to Suppress Evidence, motions concerning violations of your Constitutional Rights, and all other motions regarding the introduction of evidence.
Along with exploring defenses we will focus on options of cooperation help mitigate possible sentencing. This office has a retired probation officer on staff that will look at your criminal history as well as all mitigating factors. We will write up an intensive report in order to prepare you for your interview with the US Probation officer. Our report and the US Attorney’s report are delivered to the Judge who in turn looks to Federal Sentencing Guidelines when and if sentencing is an available alternative.
We strongly encourage and emphasize the importance of the Pretrial interview as it is an important step in preparing for mitigation of sentencing, if necessary. It is also important to note that preparation during this phase will not detract nor jeopardize a thorough and detailed defense. The Federal government unlike the state undertakes months (sometimes years) of investigation in putting their case together. Therefore, it is important to hire an experienced federal defense attorney to begin preparation immediately.
If you have valid defenses and/or there is no satisfactory plea agreement reached, then we can set your case for trial. Generally, trial is held 70 days of the arrest or initial appearance, but may be extended if you waive your speedy trial rights or there is other good cause for a continuance. If the trial does not yield a favorable or just outcome, then we have 10 days after the issuance of judgment to file an appeal.
The Federal Sentencing Guidelines were federally promulgated guidelines enacted into law in an effort to eliminate sentencing disparities (extremely different sentences for the same crime and criminal history of the defendants). However, the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Booker (2005) held that the Guidelines violated the Sixth Amendment of the US Constitution. Therefore, the guidelines are not considered “mandatory,” but rather “advisory” only. Still judges must calculate the guidelines and consider them when making sentencing decisions.
The Federal Sentencing Guidelines are composed of two main factors: your “offense level” and your “criminal history.” The offense level is based on the category of crime or crimes you are accused of. Your criminal history is categorized by your “criminal history points.” The amount of points you have will determine which category you fall into. For example, if you have 1 criminal history point you would be in Criminal History Category I, whereas someone with 13 or more points would be in Category VI. Points are determined by the length of each prior term of incarceration. Depending on the Criminal Offense and the Criminal History, you will fall into one of four different zones. Depending on which zone you fall in determines the availability of probation, split sentencing, and good time credits.
Finally, there are adjustments and departures from the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. An adjustment can be an increase or decrease in the amount of time that you may be facing. An adjustment to decrease your sentence will depend on factors such as cooperation and assistance. Increases in sentencing can depend on factors such as motivation, obstruction, and reckless endangerment of others. It is important to talk with an experienced Federal Defense Attorney who is familiar with this sentencing scheme and who knows the how fight to get you the best possible deal if negotiating a plea deal is an option.
Please contact The Law Offices of Debra J. Rice if you are in need of an experienced Federal Criminal Defense Attorney. Because of the complexity of federal criminal cases, we offer an extra 30 minute free consultation.