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Aug 5, 2018

Niagara Falls Federal Criminal Lawyers

In any legal proceeding, you’re always benefited by working with an attorney, but this is especially true where you’re facing federal criminal charges. This type of criminal case is often complex and usually carries stiff penalties in the form of prison sentences or significant fines. Learning more about federal criminal charges and what the process of facing a federal trial entails can help you understand why it’s so vital to your livelihood to consult an experienced attorney as early in the process as possible.

What Constitutes a Federal Crime?
In our system, laws are established at several different levels, including the federal level. When a state enacts a law that establishes certain activities as crimes, those acts are only illegal within that state. However, federal crimes are generally illegal everyplace within the United States and have been established as crimes by federal legislation.

Many states mirror the federal government in making certain crimes illegal. For instance, every state has laws against kidnapping, even though there is an existing law that establishes kidnapping as a federal offense. As is true of most rules, there are exceptions. Crimes that are committed on Native American reservations or on federal property are federal crimes, though they’re not illegal at the state level.
When a federal crime has been committed, the government authorizes certain organizations to investigate the incident. One of these organizations may conduct the investigation exclusively, or investigators from several of the following groups may work together to build a case:

  • FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation)
  • ATF (Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives)
  • DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency)
  • IRS (Internal Revenue Service)
  • ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement)
  • U.S. Secret Service

While there are literally hundreds of crimes established as federal offenses, there are some crimes that are more commonly committed than others. These include the following:

  • Terrorist activity
  • Counterintelligence
  • Cybercrime
  • Public corruption
  • Violations of civil rights
  • Organized crime
  • White collar crime
  • Theft of art, jewelry, gems, and other precious cargo
  • Drug-related crimes
  • Bank robberies
  • Indian country crimes
  • Acts of violence against children
  • Interstate acts of kidnapping, rape, or murder
  • Immigration law violations
  • Assassinating (or attempting to assassinate) the U.S. president or vice-president

U.S. laws designate a time limit on how long the government has to prosecute specific crimes. This is known as the statute of limitations and it varies based on the crime. If a crime has a three year statute of limitations, the countdown begins on the date upon which the crime was committed and prevents prosecution from beginning after the three years have elapsed.

There are some crimes that do not have a statute of limitations, meaning the crimes can be prosecuted anytime. At the federal level, crimes without a time limit involve those punishable with the death penalty, some acts of terrorism, and some federal sex crimes. Many other federal crimes are regulated by a five-year statute of limitations, though the law allows for exceptions in certain cases. The complexities regarding the statute of limitations for federal crimes show why it’s vital to enlist the help of an experienced federal criminal defense attorney with a good track record. Only a professional legal advocate will know how to apply the statute of limitations to your specific circumstances.

The Steps in a Federal Criminal Investigation
As previously mentioned, you should consult an attorney as early as possible, so he can handle your defense more efficiently. In fact, as soon as you become aware that you have become the focus of an investigation, you should consult an attorney to serve as your advocate. If the attorney is hired early in the investigation process, he can better ensure all of your rights are protected and he can better develop a strategy for your defense.
The process of prosecuting a federal crime is similar to the process at the state level, which includes the following steps:

  • Investigation of the crime
    This is the process of gathering evidence against a suspect, or suspects.
  • Filing of charges
    Once the prosecutor believes he has enough evidence, he will formally file charges against a suspect. At this point, the suspect is named as the defendant and the prosecution process can move forward with the arraignment.
  • Arraignment
    At this hearing, the defendant will appear in court and will be informed of his rights and of the charges filed against him. If the defendant hasn’t already hired an attorney, arrangements will be made either for hiring a lawyer or for applying for a court-appointed attorney. The judge will also either set or deny bail at this time.
  • Discovery
    This is a process designed to help the prosecutor and the defense attorney prepare their cases. They must share evidence, reveal witnesses, and answer questions pertaining to the case to ensure each side has access to the same information.
  • Plea Bargaining
    Once discovery is complete, the criminal defense attorney will be able to better assess his client’s situation. If an acquittal seems unlikely, he may negotiate a plea arrangement with the prosecutor. He may advise his client to plead guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence.
  • Preliminary hearing
    The preliminary isn’t always necessary and the defense attorney often recommends waiving this step. It’s simply an opportunity for the prosecutor to show the evidence it will use against the defendant and resembles what the actual trial will look like. The prosecution will call witness and show evidence, which may or may not be permitted at the actual trial.
  • Pre-trial motions
    This is an opportunity for the defense or prosecution to present motions, requesting the judge to settle an issue. Most commonly, the defense may ask to have the case dismissed or either side may request that specific pieces of evidence be suppressed.
  • Trial
    The trial is the time at which the prosecution presents evidence and calls witnesses to testify in order to prove their case. The defense can respond and present their case, or the defendants own side of the story.
  • Post-trial motions
    This is another opportunity for each side to request the court to take action. Typically, motions at this step involve asking for a new trial, a judgment for acquittal, or for sentencing to be vacated or set aside.
  • Sentencing
    At this hearing, the judge will hear arguments and sentencing recommendations from the prosecutor and the defense attorney. Although mitigating factors may influence his decision, the judge will usually follow the guidelines established by the United States Sentencing Commission. These guidelines provide a minimum and maximum sentence recommendation for each crime to discourage biased sentences.
  • Appeal
    Although the prosecution of a federal crime is closed by this point, the defense attorney may be able to find a reason to appeal a guilty verdict. Usually, new evidence won’t be accepted, during this phase. An appeal must be based on errors in the prosecution process, a violation of the defendant’s rights, or an unfair sentence.

Each phase of the prosecution of federal crimes is a complex matter and requires more than simply the knowledge of the legal system. The expertise and the familiarity with the process possessed by federal criminal defense attorneys are your best weapons in protecting yourself. If you’re facing the possibility of a federal criminal trial, hiring a lawyer now can significantly impact the outcome of your case.

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Manhattan

85 Broad Street, 30th Floor
New York, NY 10005

Phone

888-977-6335

Queens

35-37 36th St,
Astoria, NY 11106

Phone

888-977-6335

Brooklyn

195 Montague St.
14th Floor,
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Phone

888-977-6335