We represent clients charged with a variety of crimes, including but not limited to:
Federal criminal law is often more complex than state law and can involve major consequences. Federal crimes usually involve conduct or contraband, which has traveled across state lines. Our attorneys are familiar with the different procedural rules and can take your case to trial, or can negotiate an advantageous deal if that is the best option. It is vital to employ high quality representation as early as possible to avoid an unfortunate result.
There are over 4,000 offenses that carry criminal penalties in the United States Code. The federal criminal system should not be navigated without having an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side. Some federal offenses include:
Threats against public officials
Bribery of public officials
Fraud via the mail system, computers, or telephones;
Fraud involving public and private health care facilities;
Possession, manufacture, or distribution of obscene materials or child pornography;
Certain firearms offenses;
Tax evasion; and
All manner of computer crimes.
An informed client is key to a successful defense. Below is a general overview of the federal system:
Initially, it is important to understand that the federal system is often a sentence-driven system. Criminal defendants in this country are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Unfortunately, many jurors tend to look at it in the opposite fashion. Realistically, once the United States government charges you with a crime, you are presumed guilty unless and until you can prove yourself innocent.
In federal cases, federal agents and prosecutors are not under the same time constraints as in state prosecutions. Federal agents tend to wait until they have an “airtight” case, usually by using confidential informants, extensive surveillance, wire taps, and other sophisticated means of obtaining evidence typically not seen in state cases.
Many times, you first learn that you are being investigated when you are charged with an offense. However, it is not unusual for law enforcement officers to ask to speak with you. Be warned that the officer IS NOT YOUR FRIEND! If officer approaches you, it is normally in your best interest immediately invoke your right to remain silent and ask to speak with an attorney. This should end questioning. Then, you should immediately contact an attorney.
Criminal charges can be filed several different ways. Normally, a law enforcement officer submits a sworn statement to a judge accusing someone of a crime. If the judge finds that probable cause exists to believe that the accused committed the crime, the judge signs the complaint (and issues an arrest warrant if the person is not in custody).
Alternatively, an individual charged in a complaint can waive his right to an indictment or preliminary hearing and allow the government to charge him/her by way of an Information. The Information has the same effect as an Indictment. However, the government has been relieved of its burden to present evidence to the grand jury. Often, a defendant will waive Indictment or preliminary hearing if a quick resolution is contemplated and plea terms have already been worked out.
Upon arrest, the accused learns whether the government has filed a motion to detain them pending trial. Typically, the accused would be arrested by the officers investigating the case or by law enforcement and transported to a jail. The accused is entitled to an immediate hearing, notified of the charges, and given a chance to seek bond. In most instances a bond will be set. However, the government may move for detention without bond based on danger to the community or risk of flight. If it does, the court will set a detention hearing within a few days of arraignment.
Once charges are filed, the accused can plead not guilty and dispute all charges. Subsequently, a probable cause determination will be made. Either be a preliminary hearing will be held where the Judge determines whether sufficient probably cause exists for the charges to be maintained, or a Grand Jury (which consists of members of the community) will hear evidence in secret and determine if probably cause exists. If you decide to fight the charges, a jury of twelve will decide whether you are innocent or guilty. If you are found not guilty, the case is over. However, if you are found guilty, you will have a sentencing hearing sometime after the jury verdict. However, if the jury cannot reach a unanimous decision, the court will declare a mistrial. The government will have the option of retrying the case or dismissing the charges.
Another option is to plead guilty based on a negotiated resolution normally including reduced charges or a recommendation a lower sentence that may have otherwise been the case.
If an accused is either found guilty or pleads guilty, the next step is sentencing. Sentencing is many times the most crucial point in a federal criminal matter. Our attorneys are very experienced in making sure that the sentence is calculated correctly, as well as recognizing potential factors that could result in a lower sentence.
After pleading guilty, or being found guilty after a trial, the first step is for the probation office to prepare a pre-sentence report, which is provided to all of the parties prior to the sentencing date. The presentence report will set out a history of the offense, the accused’s history and characteristics including prior criminal history and discuss relevant sentencing factors.
When appropriate, we will object to the presentence report and argue those objections before the court. Additionally, a sentencing memorandum can be submitted to the court, setting out all factors that the court should consider in determining a just and appropriate sentence.
If you are convicted, even if you pled guilty (unless the right to appeal is waived), you have the right to appeal your case. You must inform your attorney immediately after sentencing if you wish to appeal, there is a ten-day time period allowed for filing a notice of appeal.
An appeal is an opportunity to tell the appellate court exactly how the trial judge did not follow the law, or what rights you were denied, including errors in sentencing. Typically, an appeal will take six months to a year to be decided. While your case is on appeal, you do not have an automatic right to be released on bond, and it is unlikely that you will be released.
The Stewart Law Group has significant experience is all aspects of federal criminal litigation.
Disclaimer: The information contained below is for general guidance on matters of interest only and NOT legal advice. The application and impact of laws can vary widely based on the specific facts involved. Given the changing nature of laws, rules and regulations, there may be omissions or inaccuracies in information. Accordingly, this information is provided with the understanding that it should not be used as a substitute for consultation with a competent attorney.