Facing the federal justice system can be a harrowing experience. There are over 4,500 federal crimes on the books and over 400,000 regulations. All this legislation makes it easy for anyone to get jammed up if they are not careful. The federal courts are not focused exclusively on serious crimes but may obtain jurisdiction over even less serious matters that involve immigration, alcohol law violations, tax evasion, U.S. mail crimes, bank fraud, and identity theft.
In defending against these crimes and other more serious crimes such as drug trafficking, human trafficking, public corruption, and murder, all comes down to experience. There is no other way of overcoming the learning curve in litigation. Litigation is a practice where attorneys have to engineer their pleadings, their objections, and their appeals to understand what and what doesn’t work. In doing so, they progressively develop their skills and do so much faster if they have a talent for the work and a way with words.
Overview of the Federal Criminal Procedure
A federal crime is initiated when you are arrested and charged with a federal crime or several. The federal courts may have simultaneous jurisdiction over the same crimes and can prosecute you for the same events even if you were acquitted in the state courts. Although this has not happened in Seattle a whole lot, one famous case occurred in Pennsylvania where the local police had tried to cover up a racist murder.
Once you are arrested, you have the right to a bail hearing within 72 hours. If you post bail, you may be released with conditions. In any regard, you are entitled to a hearing within 10 days of your arrest where the prosecutor must show probable cause. Establishing probable cause does not require the prosecution to prove that you are guilty beyond every reasonable doubt but merely a likelihood that you committed the crimes in question.
Although this standard is broad and allows for a range of cases of all different strengths, it can also include cases that are based on pure speculation because you were remotely related to the events that took place such as being at the wrong place at the wrong time. These types of weak cases can be dismissed by a skilled defense attorney.
The criminal process will be initiated with either an indictment that requires a grand jury to validate the existence of a case or a criminal information supported by an officer’s testimony of probable cause for the arrest. In either case, the information or indictment and its accompanying documents must set out the nature and cause of why you are being prosecuted.
You cannot just be given a generic recitation of the statute and told that you violated it. These documents violate the Sixth Amendment when they are deliberately vague, ambiguous, or misleading.
After this, you will be formally arraigned. This is your opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty. You will be given instructions regarding the nature of the accusations and your rights. After this phase, you can move for discovery evidence and can file motions for relief. These motions can include motions to dismiss and many others to limit the evidence or compel the prosecutor to produce evidence.
After all the pre-trial motions are settled, you will have a trial scheduled. You may be able to take depositions of the prosecution’s witnesses before trial to build a defense. The trial is the main event, however, and is live before a jury of your peers. Jury selection and instructions are important elements of the case that only a skilled attorney with decades of experience can master.
Finally, if you are acquitted, you go home and everything is though it never happened. The charges are regarded in law as a legal nullity and can never be refiled or brought back against you. However, if you are found guilty, you will face a pre-sentencing investigation report and then eventually be sentenced by the judge. The federal sentencing guidelines have many mandatory sentences that can make it hard to mitigate and reduce the sentence.
For this reason, many defendants (over 97 percent) choose to take a plea bargain instead. The beauty of having skilled counsel for plea bargaining is that you can increase the hypothetical risk of the prosecutor blowing trial and force them to reduce the punishment. You may be able to pursue appeals and post-conviction habeas corpus relief in either case. However, most guilty pleas waive direct appeal errors and can be hard to undo after the fact.
If you have been charged with a federal crime, it’s always in your best interest to hire an attorney to represent you throughout the legal process. An attorney may be able to help you obtain a favorable outcome in your case, which would likely be a plea deal that involves minimal jail time. Let’s take a look at a few of the federal crimes that people are most likely to be charged with as well as some more reasons why you need to hire a Seattle Federal Criminal Lawyers to help with your case.
What Constitutes a Federal Crime?
There are several reasons why a person might face a federal charge as opposed to a state charge. For example, if you are caught violating the law on land owned by the federal government, you will likely be prosecuted by that entity. If you commit a crime that involves victims in multiple states, the federal government will likely have jurisdiction in that case. In most cases, violations of immigration laws are handled at the federal level as opposed to the state level.
Which Federal Laws are Violated Most Often?
The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) is one of the most commonly violated federal laws currently being enforced. This legislation is designed to serve as a catch-all for federal anti-drug policies. Anyone who knowingly possesses, consumes or sells any item on that list could be subject to civil or criminal penalties.
Crimes involving computers, smartphones or other electronic devices are also fairly common. You could be charged with a federal computer crime for committing acts such as sending an email that contains malware or sending lewd pictures to someone who doesn’t want to receive them. You could also be charged with a cyber crime for altering documents using a computer or for hacking into a government server.
If you cross the border without permission to do so, you will likely be charged with violating federal immigration laws. However, if you do cross the border illegally, you will likely be given a chance to claim asylum. It’s also possible that you can speed up the legal process by volunteering to go back to your home country.
Almost Anything That You Tell Your Attorney Is Kept Private
Hiring an attorney means that you have someone to talk to about your case without potentially incriminating yourself. As a general rule, everything that you say to your Seattle Federal Criminal Lawyer is privileged information. This means that your attorney cannot tell anyone about the contents of a phone call, email or conversation that takes place in his or her office.
In most cases, you can tell your attorney that you committed the crime without losing any of your legal rights. However, your counselor may be required to tell the court about any future crimes that you have said that you want to commit. This is most likely true if you talk about a desire to hurt or kill a judge, prosecutor or anyone else who is connected to your case.
However, as a general rule, you should feel confident in your ability to speak freely to your legal representative. Having the ability to do so may make it easier to build a defense that allows you to avoid a guilty verdict in your case. For example, information provided to your attorney might allow that person to find evidence of police misconduct, which could lead to a full exoneration in your matter.
An Attorney May Protect You From Providing Incriminating Statements to Others
You probably don’t know that the police are allowed to lie to those who they believe may have knowledge about a crime. Furthermore, they may also be trained to question suspects in a manner that makes it easier to extract incriminating statements from a person of interest. Therefore, it can be very easy to make yourself look guilty in the eyes of the authorities even if you have done nothing wrong.
However, an attorney will work to ensure that you don’t answer any questions that aren’t related to the case. In addition, an attorney will likely advise you not to answer any questions that you are not obligated to answer as part of an investigation. Finally, this person will generally have input into whether you should testify at trial.
In most cases, it makes sense to say as a little as possible, which means that you probably won’t take the stand. However, you may be advised to do so if it might help you gain sympathy with the jury or help to put your actions into a favorable context. It’s worth noting that you are the one who gets to decide if you testify in your case.
If you’re convicted of a federal crime, you will likely spend many years in jail. It’s also possible that you will pay a fine, be placed on probation or face other sanctions if found guilty in your case. Therefore, it’s important to hire legal counsel who may be able to take steps to improve your chances of obtaining an acquittal or favorable plea in your proceeding.