Federal crimes are investigated by federal law enforcement agencies like the Secret Service, FBI, DEA, IRS, and ATF. If you’ve been questioned or contacted by a federal law enforcement officer, there is a chance that you are being investigated. Even if the officer tells you that the investigation is not about you, they could be lying. It’s important to talk to a lawyer right away.
Federal cases are very serious and often carry worse penalties than the same crime tried at the state level. In addition, it’s harder to avoid a conviction with a federal crime. State courts have limited resources and budgets to make their cases. But the federal government can keep using their resources to gather evidence and tie the defendant up in legal fees until they get the conviction they want.
With a federal case, you’re less likely to get tied up for years in bureaucracy. The prosecution will move quickly to get a conviction. In addition, US prosecutors tend to have more experience than state lawyers. Depending on the state, a federal judge might also be more experienced. Some states require judges to be elected by the people. When a federal judge is appointed, they serve for life no matter what.
One final concern is that federal agents don’t tend to charge people until they have enough evidence to convict. It’s extremely difficult to defend against charges leveled by these experienced people.
There are also differences to how federal courts function when compared to state courts. State courts prosecute all crimes committed within that state that don’t fall into federal territory. But federal courts have a very limited cope of the crimes they prosecute.
Certain federal crimes pertain to federal legislation. As such, they can only be prosecuted on a federal level, rather than being pursued at the state level. Some crimes might normally be pursued in state courts, but the circumstances involved multiple states, which causes them to fall into federal jurisdiction. Still other crimes might be federally prosecuted simply because the federal government believes the offense is serious enough to warrant federal court proceedings.
What to Do
At the state level, it is very common for law enforcement officials to wait to let a defendant know about an investigation until after they have been charged. But at the federal level, you might receive a letter to let you know that you are the target of an investigation. If you receive one of these, you must contact a lawyer immediately. Targeted investigations mean that the government has already decided you are guilty and is just waiting to have enough evidence to press charges.
You might not be notified about an investigation until you have an official indictment or criminal complaint filed against you. If you’re told that you are the target of an investigation, or you have a search warrant executed against your property, it’s time to talk to a lawyer.
How a Defense Lawyer Helps
If you have a chance to contact an attorney before charges are filed against you, you have a sense of how to prepare. You can avoid making serious mistakes that will work against you in court. Most people’s worst mistakes involve talking to law enforcement or the prosecution without a lawyer during the early stages of the investigation. At this point, they believe that if they explain what they were doing, they can make the investigation go away.
When law enforcement tells you that what you say will be used against you, they mean it. They even mean it when they’re pretending to listen to your side of the story. The only thing that matters to the prosecution is getting a conviction. It doesn’t matter whether you actually committed the crime or not.
Not only are federal officers allowed to lie to you about why they’re questioning you, they receive special training to manipulate people. No matter how friendly or helpful they seem, they are not on your side.
Once you have been charged, a lawyer can help you through the complicated process of the court system. It’s overwhelming to try to navigate federal court alone. You need someone on your side who understands how the system works. They will make sure that you understand your rights and the options available to you.
Your lawyer will also explain the ramifications of the charges you’re facing. If there are ways to reduce those charges or work with the prosecution, your lawyer will help.