Criminal Defense Practice Areas:
If you are being investigated by federal authorities or you have been charged with an offense and are being prosecuted in Federal Court, chances are you are in a world of hurt. Federal crimes are prosecuted by the United States Attorney's Office assigned to the particular geographical area where the crime took place. The actual lawyers who represent the Government in the court room are all Assistant U.S. Attorneys, sometimes referred to as AUSAs. These lawyers are typically the cream of the crop as far as prosecutors go. Most have spent years as state prosecutors before they are considered skilled enough to appear in Federal Court to represent the federal government. In addition, their case load is much less than a state court prosecutor so they are much more familiar with each individual case they are assigned to handle and the resources at their disposal dwarf those of state prosecutors.
It is said that state prosecutors charge the defendant and then build the case. Federal prosecutors build the case and then charge the defendant. That is why 98.5 percent of all federal cases are resolved with a plea instead of a trial. If you are charged with a crime in Federal Court, chances are very high that you will enter a plea of guilty. Your chances of success at trial are almost non-existent and the penalty for failure at trial is high.
Federal jurisdiction is most often triggered by either criminal activity that involves an interstate transaction or medium, or criminal conspiracies involving multiple defendants. Any offense that uses wire transfers, or the internet or the postal service can trigger federal jurisdiction. This includes such offenses as banking crimes, wire fraud, identity theft and child pornography. Criminal drug conspiracies are a favorite target of federal attention. In these cases each defendant can be charged and and prosecuted for the combined amount of drugs involved, even though a particular defendant might not have actual knowledge of the true breadth and scope of the conspiracy, or know all the people involved.
One of the most important differences between state court and federal court lies in plea bargains. Unlike state court prosecutions where a defendant can agree to plead guilty in exchange for a recommendation from the prosecutor that the judge sentence the defendant to a specific sentence, plea offers from federal prosecutors typically do not include a recommendation for a specific number of years of prison time. In Federal Court a defendant is expected to plead guilty to the charges without knowing what his sentence will be. The plea agreement will always include language to the effect that the defendant understands this. Furthermore, a defendant in federal court cannot appeal his sentence because it turned out to be higher than what he expected.
The amount of time you receive in the way of a sentence in state court is usually something that is part of the plea bargain. State court defendants almost always know what their sentence is going to be before it is pronounced by the Judge. It is not that way in Federal Court. Because so many Federal case involve a plea, the real work in a federal case usually begins with the sentencing phase.
In an effort to make sentencing in federal cases more uniform throughout the States, Congress created the United States Sentencing Commission in 1984. This Commission published Sentencing Guidelines in 1987. Effective representation by your lawyer requires a thorough understanding of how these guidelines are to be applied. After you enter a plea, a member of the U.S. Probation Department will be assigned your case and given the responsibility of preparing a Pre-sentence Report that advises the Court how the Guidelines should be applied in your case and what your sentence should be. A copy of this Pre-sentence Report is provided to the defense counsel and he/she is given the opportunity to file comments and objections to the Report with the Court. Only an experienced and knowledgeable attorney will know how to utilize all of the provisions of the Guidelines to your advantage and best present your case to the Court for sentencing. And this is critical in Federal Court because probation is available in only the rarest of cases and the time that you are given is the time you will do.
Section 5K of the Sentencing Guidelines allows the Court to depart from an application of the guidelines when it is brought to the Court's attention that a defendant has provided substantial assistance in the investigation and prosecution of another individual who committed a criminal offense. A 5K Letter is a document from a federal prosecutor that describes for the Court how and to what degree a defendant has provided assistance. Upon receipt of such a letter, the Court can depart from the guidelines and impose a much more lenient sentence on a defendant, depending of course on how helpful he has been to the government. This is a particularly effective weapon in the hands of a federal prosecutor, especially in conspiracy cases. Typically the prosecutor will target a defendant who is facing a very long sentence and offer them a reduction in their sentence in exchange for their cooperation and assistance in the prosecution of other defendants.
For a free, confidential consultation contact the Law Offices of Daniel & Hudson at 210-222-2297. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.