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The Spodek Law Group understands how delicate high-profile cases can be, and has a strong track record of getting positive outcomes. Our lawyers service a clientele that is nationwide. With offices in both LA and NYC, and cases all across the country - Spodek Law Group is a top tier law firm.

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Columbus Federal Criminal Lawyers

By Spodek Law Group | October 16, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 17, 2023)

Last Updated on: 17th October 2023, 10:57 pm


Columbus Federal Criminal Lawyers: Your Guide to the Federal Justice System

Dealing with federal criminal charges can be scary and overwhelming. The federal justice system is complex, and the potential penalties are severe. That’s why it’s critical to have an experienced federal criminal defense attorney on your side if you’re facing charges. In Columbus, there are excellent lawyers who focus their practice on federal cases and understand how to navigate the system.

In this article, we’ll walk through the basics of federal criminal law and procedure in Columbus. We’ll look at common federal crimes charged, the federal court process, sentencing guidelines, and strategies for building an effective defense. Our goal is to give you a better understanding of what to expect so you can make informed decisions if you ever find yourself or a loved one facing federal prosecution.

Common Federal Crimes in Columbus

There are hundreds of federal statutes, but some of the most frequently prosecuted federal crimes in Columbus include:

  • Drug crimes – Drug cases make up a large portion of the federal docket. Charges may include drug trafficking, distribution, manufacturing, and possession. Many drug crimes carry stiff mandatory minimum sentences.
  • White collar crimes – Federal prosecutors often pursue complex fraud schemes, tax evasion, embezzlement, money laundering, and other financial crimes. The FBI has a major presence in Columbus for investigating these cases.
  • Child pornography – With the internet, these cases have become prevalent. Possessing, distributing, or producing child pornography are serious federal felonies.
  • Firearms offenses – Charges like being a felon in possession of a firearm are prosecuted federally. The penalties for federal gun crimes are harsh.
  • Immigration violations – Federal law regulates immigration, so offenses like illegal re-entry after deportation or transporting undocumented immigrants may be charged federally.
  • Terrorism – Threats or acts of terrorism are prosecuted at the federal level. Cases can involve charges like material support for terrorism.

Other federal charges like bribery, mail/wire fraud, racketeering, computer hacking, bank robbery, kidnapping, and civil rights violations may arise in Columbus as well. With field offices in the city, the FBI and other federal agencies are actively investigating and bringing cases.

Overview of the Federal Court Process

If you’re charged with a federal crime in Columbus, your case will proceed through the following general court process:

  1. Arrest and initial appearance – If arrested on a federal warrant, you’ll be brought before a magistrate judge promptly for an initial appearance. This is when charges are formally presented and bail is considered. Often, defendants are temporarily detained after an initial appearance while bail is sorted out.
  2. Preliminary hearing – For more serious felonies, a preliminary hearing may be held where the prosecution presents evidence to establish probable cause you committed the crime. Probable cause is a low standard to meet.
  3. Grand jury – Federal cases almost always go to a grand jury. This is a closed proceeding where prosecutors present evidence and witnesses testify. The grand jury decides whether to issue an indictment formally charging you.
  4. Arraignment – At your arraignment, you are brought before the district court judge to enter a plea to the charges in the indictment. Most defendants plead not guilty at this stage.
  5. Pretrial motions and discovery – Extensive pretrial litigation happens in federal court. Your lawyer will file motions challenging evidence, statements, and other aspects of the government’s case. Both sides also engage in discovery to obtain evidence and witness information.
  6. Plea negotiations – Many federal cases end in a plea deal rather than trial. Negotiating with the prosecution can result in charges being dismissed or reduced in exchange for a guilty plea. This may lead to a lesser sentence.
  7. Trial – If no plea agreement is reached, your case will go to trial before a federal judge and jury. The prosecution bears the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. As the defendant, you have no obligation to testify or present evidence.
  8. Sentencing – If convicted at trial or through a guilty plea, the final stage is sentencing. The court determines the penalty often based on federal sentencing guidelines and a presentence report about your background.
  9. Appeal – After sentencing, you have the right to appeal your conviction or sentence to the federal appellate court and potentially to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The complexity of federal criminal litigation makes having an experienced attorney absolutely essential. Rules and procedures vary substantially from state courts.

Sentencing Guidelines and Potential Penalties

One major difference in federal court is the use of detailed sentencing guidelines that judges consult in determining sentences. The guidelines provide a sentencing range based on the crime charged and the defendant’s criminal history. While judges have some discretion, staying within the guideline range is important.

Here are some examples of potential sentences under the guidelines:

  • 5 kilograms of cocaine trafficking – 10 year mandatory minimum; guidelines range of 121 to 151 months
  • $30,000 wire fraud scheme – 0 to 6 month range
  • Felon in possession of firearm – 41 to 51 month range
  • Identity theft with $12,000 in losses – 8 to 14 month range

For the most serious crimes like murder, kidnapping, or major drug trafficking, federal law provides mandatory minimum sentences up to life in prison. White collar crimes generally have lower sentencing ranges but still carry years of imprisonment.

Federal prison time must be served in full, with only around 15% credit for good behavior. Early release programs found in state prisons are rare. The stakes are high, so having an attorney who understands federal sentencing law is vital.

Building an Effective Defense Strategy

Winning a federal criminal case often starts early in the process before charges are even filed. An experienced attorney will engage in pre-charge advocacy with the prosecution to avoid or minimize potential charges. Once charged, a defense strategy focuses on:

  • Vigorous pretrial motions – File motions to suppress illegally obtained evidence, challenge probable cause, exclude prejudicial evidence, and more. This sets the stage for weakening the prosecution’s case.
  • Thorough independent investigation – Prosecutors rely heavily on federal law enforcement. Your attorney needs to conduct an independent probe into the facts and circumstances of your case.
  • Consulting experts – Retaining experts in areas like forensic accounting, computer forensics, economics, psychology and more levels the playing field against the government.
  • Plea negotiations – If a plea is advantageous, your lawyer needs to skillfully negotiate with prosecutors to get charges dropped or reduced.
  • Trial presentation – At trial, emphasize reasonable doubt, question credibility of witnesses, and highlight flaws in the government’s version.
  • Impactful sentencing advocacy – Present mitigating factors about your background and the circumstances of the offense to seek leniency.

An innovative federal criminal defense lawyer will leave no stone unturned. They’ll tenaciously fight to get charges dismissed pre-trial. If charges stick, they’ll seek creative ways to minimize the sentencing impact including through deferred prosecution or cooperation agreements with prosecutors.

Finding the Right Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer in Columbus

When your freedom is on the line, you need a federal criminal lawyer with experience, resources and determination to represent you. Look for attorneys with:

  • Extensive knowledge of federal law, rules of evidence and procedure.
  • A proven track record handling complex federal cases.
  • Resources to assemble a defense team including investigators, forensics experts, and others.
  • Negotiation skills to work out favorable plea deals with prosecutors.
  • Trial skills honed in federal courtrooms.
  • A reputation for achieving successful case outcomes.

It also helps to find a lawyer you feel comfortable with and who will fight aggressively on your behalf. Federal cases are marathons, not sprints, so having a lawyer in your corner you work well with is key.

Columbus has no shortage of accomplished federal criminal defense attorneys ready to help you. Do your research to find one that fits your needs. Schedule consultations and come prepared with documents and questions.

Facing federal prosecution is daunting, but having the right lawyer lessens the burden substantially. Build a strong defense team so you can focus your energy on putting the case behind you.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the first steps if you’re charged with a federal crime?

Don’t say anything to investigators and immediately contact a federal criminal defense lawyer. Instruct family and friends to avoid discussing the case with anyone. Shut down social media to avoid harmful posts. Federal cases move quickly, so having skilled counsel advise you from moment one is critical.

Should you consider a plea bargain in a federal case?

Many federal cases do end in plea deals. An experienced lawyer can advise if it’s advantageous to negotiate based on potential sentencing exposure and prospects at trial. Plea deals can result in charges dropped or reduced as well as sentencing recommendations from the prosecution. Ultimately, it’s your choice whether to accept an offer.

What happens if you can’t afford a federal criminal lawyer?

Federal courts appoint counsel to defendants who demonstrate an inability to afford private representation. While free, appointed counsel handles many cases and may not provide as robust a defense. Hiring experienced counsel is ideal but don’t let lack of funds prevent putting up a strong defense.

Can you get bail in a federal case?

Many federal defendants are detained pending trial due to flight risk concerns. Your lawyer can argue for bail by showing community ties, lack of criminal history, and other factors. Federal judges may impose home detention, GPS monitoring, and other conditions as part of release. Bail reform advocates have pushed for less restrictive federal pretrial release policies.

What’s the difference between a federal and state crime?

Federal crimes involve violation of federal statutes while state crimes involve violation of state laws. Examples are drug trafficking (federal) vs drug possession (state). Federal charges often apply to broader criminal activity crossing state lines. Penalties and procedures also vary greatly between the federal and state systems.

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