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When a person is charged with violating a state law, charges are brought in state (county) court. When the United States Attorney’s Office (usually working with the FBI) charges a person with violating a federal crime, the charges are brought in federal court.
Federal criminal defense is starkly different from state criminal defense. Federal authorities bring far few cases than state district attorney’s offices so they are able to devote a larger percentage of their budget to each case. Federal investigations are generally lengthy and run by well-financed federal agencies (such as the FBI, DEA and IRS).
The reality is that most state and county criminal defense lawyers have never handled a federal criminal case. If you or a loved on is the target of a federal investigation or has been charged with a federal crime, it is important to hire a lawyer who has handled federal cases and is comfortable going toe-to-toe with federal prosecutors and FBI agents.
I have represented many clients in high-profile federal criminal cases including cases that have resulted in multi-week jury trials. I am proud of the positive results I have achieved on behalf of my federal clients and have worked hard to achieve these results.
I have relationships with experts in various fields — private investigators, toxicologists, forensic psychiatrists, polygraphers and others — whom I have used to help me prepare for and successfully defend cases. To be successful as a lawyer in the federal arena, it is important that federal authorities respect you and know that, if necessary, you are ready willing and able to aggressively defend your client at trial.
A target letter is the mechanism by which federal prosecutors inform people that they may be the subject of future prosecution. Targets letters are generally issued in non-violent matters (such as white collar cases) to advise a person that they are under investigation and to warn against destroying any evidence.
A target letter does not mean that an indictment is inevitable, but it certainly means that you should engage experienced counsel. There are times that it makes sense to reach out to the prosecutor running the investigation; there are other times where the smart move is to avoid contact. An experienced federal defense attorney can provide you with the proper guidance.
It is often important to be proactive in dealing with federal prosecutors. Frequently, in a large investigation involving many potential defendants, the first targets to “lawyer up” and get in touch with the prosecutor are in a position to negotiate the best results. This does not mean that it is always appropriate to reach out to the prosecutor. But it DOES mean that anyone facing potential federal charges should immediately hire experienced counsel to fully consider their rights and options.
While I have taken many federal cases to trial, I have also successfully negotiated non-trial (guilty plea) resolutions in many cases as well. There are cases where a positive plea deal is that best possible result. In negotiations with federal authorities, it is very important that the prosecution understand that the defense lawyer is willing, ready and able to take a case to trial if necessary.
A prosecutor who does not respect a defense lawyer — or does not believe the defense lawyer is confident taking cases to trial — will be far less likely to make the best possible plea offer. Prosecutors know when defense attorneys are reluctant to try a case. This is why it is important to hire a lawyer who has experience in the world of federal criminal law and has successfully tried many cases in federal courts.
The Federal Sentencing Guidelines are non-binding rules that create a framework for federal sentences. The purpose of the guidelines is to promote consistency and predictability in sentencing. The theory is that the guidelines make it more likely that people who are convicted of the same or similar crime in different jurisdictions and/or in front of different judges will receive similar sentences.
The federal sentencing guidelines are extremely complex and difficult to navigate. Indeed, the federal sentencing guideline “handbook” — which is designed to explain the guidelines and make them easier to understand and apply — is approximately 2,000 pages.
For anyone subjected to a federal sentencing, it is important to have an experienced federal law attorney on your side. There are numerous aggravating and mitigating “circumstances” set forth in the guidelines that can result in a higher or lower guideline range. No defendant should simply assume that the proper guidelines will be applied in their case. An aggressive and experienced federal defense attorney can ensure that the lowest possible guidelines are applied.
I have handled many federal criminal cases involving a wide range of charges. I have successfully defended clients in federal court who were charged with the following crimes:
Back in the 1990s, I was a prosecutor in the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office in the Major Crimes Unit. Since leaving the DA’s Office in 1999, I have been a criminal defense attorney defending clients in federal and state courts. I am certainly qualified to represent anyone charged with a federal crime.
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