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:
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:
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:
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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