Pennsylvania Federal Criminal Lawyers
Federal criminal charges in Pennsylvania can have serious consequences, including long prison sentences and hefty fines. That’s why having an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer is crucial. This article provides an overview of federal crimes, the federal criminal justice process, and how a knowledgeable lawyer can defend your rights.
Overview of Federal Crimes
The federal government has jurisdiction over several types of crimes:
- Crimes that occur on federal land or involve federal officials, like military bases or federal courthouses.
- Crimes that cross state lines, such as drug trafficking or kidnapping.
- Financial crimes like wire fraud, mail fraud, or Medicare fraud.
- Firearms offenses.
- Child pornography crimes.
- Organized crime activities.
- Immigration violations.
So if your alleged crime involved any interstate or federal component, you could face federal charges. The penalties are usually harsher than similar state charges.
Key Differences Between State and Federal Charges
While state and federal charges can overlap, there are some key differences:
- Federal crimes typically have mandatory minimum sentences, meaning judges have less flexibility at sentencing. There is no parole in the federal system either.
- The federal sentencing guidelines are also stricter than state guidelines. So the potential penalties you face in federal court are usually higher.
- Federal crimes almost always involve pretrial detention, meaning you’ll sit in jail awaiting trial instead of being released on bail.
- Federal prosecutors have massive resources and high conviction rates around 95%.
- Even if a crime can be charged at the state or federal level, federal prosecutors often take the case because the penalties are more severe.
So facing federal charges exposes you to a complex and unforgiving criminal justice system. Having an experienced federal criminal lawyer on your side is critical.
Stages of a Federal Criminal Case
Here is an overview of how a federal criminal case typically unfolds:
- Investigation: Federal agencies like the FBI, DEA, ATF, IRS, or others investigate potential crimes. This can go on for months before any charges are filed.
- Charging: The U.S. Attorney’s Office will obtain an indictment from a federal grand jury to charge you with federal crimes.
- Arraignment: Your first court appearance where charges are formally presented and you enter a plea.
- Discovery: The evidence gathering phase where prosecutors and your defense lawyer exchange information.
- Plea negotiations: Your lawyer will negotiate with prosecutors to get you the best possible plea deal. Over 90% of federal cases end in a guilty plea.
- Trial: If no plea is reached, your case will go to trial before a judge or jury.
- Sentencing: If convicted, the judge will impose a sentence based on federal guidelines. This is a complex process.
- Appeal: You can appeal your conviction or sentence to a higher federal court.
As you can see, the federal criminal justice system has many complex rules and procedures. Having an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer is key to navigating it.
How a Knowledgeable Federal Criminal Lawyer Can Defend You
The skilled federal crime lawyers at Oberheiden P.C. and other top firms use many strategies to protect your rights and freedom:
- Intervening early: The sooner they can get involved, the better. If they can prevent charges from being filed through early intervention, that’s ideal.
- Thorough investigation: They will do an independent investigation to examine the prosecution’s evidence and build a strong defense.
- Motion to suppress: They may file pretrial motions arguing to exclude illegally obtained evidence.
- Plea negotiations: They have experience negotiating favorable plea deals with federal prosecutors. Over 90% of federal cases end in a plea bargain.
- Trial: If necessary, they have the courtroom skills to argue for acquittal at trial. They will rigorously contest the prosecution’s evidence.
- Sentencing mitigation: Federal sentences are complex, but skilled lawyers know how to argue for the lowest possible sentence under the guidelines.
- Appeal: They understand how to identify issues to potentially overturn your conviction or reduce your sentence on appeal if needed.
The attorneys at Oberheiden P.C. have successfully defended doctors, lawyers, business executives and others against federal charges like healthcare fraud, wire fraud, drug crimes, and more. Every federal criminal case is different, but an experienced lawyer intimately familiar with federal law and procedure can make all the difference.
How to Avoid Common Mistakes When Facing Federal Charges
If you or a loved one are facing federal charges, it’s important to avoid common pitfalls:
- Don’t try to talk your way out of it or make excuses when questioned by federal agents. Remain silent and politely ask for your lawyer. Anything you say can be used against you.
- Don’t wait to get an experienced lawyer involved. Federal prosecutors build cases methodically over time. Early intervention by counsel is key.
- Be wary of lawyers claiming they can make federal charges “disappear.” No one can guarantee an outcome.
- Don’t let the prosecutor intimidate you into accepting an unreasonable plea deal at arraignment before your lawyer negotiates. Early pleas are rarely advisable.
- Don’t assume pleading guilty and cooperating means you won’t serve time. Federal sentences are rigid even for cooperators. Your lawyer needs to manage expectations.
- Don’t plead guilty without an ironclad written plea agreement in place. Oral promises mean nothing. Get all deals in writing.
- If offered a deal, don’t take the first one without having your lawyer scrutinize it and negotiate further. There may be room to bargain.
Questions to Ask When Hiring a Federal Criminal Lawyer
If you or a loved one are facing federal charges in Pennsylvania, here are key questions to ask when hiring counsel:
- How much experience do you have specifically with federal cases versus state cases? Look for at least 10 years handling federal criminal defense matters full-time. Many state lawyers dabble in federal court but don’t understand the complexities.
- What is your track record of success in federal criminal cases similar to mine? Ask for specific examples of past favorable outcomes in federal court.
- Are you a former federal prosecutor? Former prosecutors understand how the government builds cases and can anticipate their moves.
- How quickly can you intervene in my case? Time is of the essence in federal probes.
- Will you personally handle my case or pass me off to junior lawyers? Insist on senior-level attention.
- How much communication can I expect? Make sure they are readily available to explain developments.
- Do you charge flat fees or hourly? Flat fees provide cost certainty. Make sure they don’t also bill excessive costs on top of fees.
- Can you take my case to trial if needed? Pleading is common but you want counsel capable of trying the case.
- Do you know the federal judges and prosecutors in my district? Local knowledge and connections can help.
Facing federal criminal charges in Pennsylvania can be daunting. But an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer can vigorously protect your rights at every stage. Federal cases require specialized knowledge. Do your research to find a lawyer with a proven track record of success in federal court. The consequences of a conviction are too high to take chances with your defense. With an experienced lawyer guiding you, you can emerge from this challenge stronger than before.