What to Do If You’re Charged with a Federal Crime

capitol, building, architecture-5319095.jpg

Imagine the weight on your shoulders as you receive the news: you’re facing federal charges. The uncertainty, fear, and the overwhelming realization that your life is about to take an unexpected turn can be paralyzing. In such a critical moment, every decision matters. 

Being charged with a federal crime is a serious matter, and your next steps are crucial. It’s essential to approach this situation with caution, armed with knowledge and a plan. This article aims to guide you through the complexities of federal charges, empowering you to make informed decisions. If you find yourself in this challenging position, remember: you don’t have to face it alone. Arora Law is here to provide the experienced federal criminal defense you need.

What Is a Federal Crime?

Federal crimes are offenses that violate United States federal laws. These extend to criminal activities involving a federal agency or agent, occurring on federal premises, or traversing state lines or international borders. These offenses are investigated by federal agencies such as the FBI, DEA, or IRS, and are prosecuted in federal courts. 

Federal crimes cover a broad spectrum of offenses, including but not limited to:

  • Drug Trafficking: Distribution, manufacturing, or trafficking of controlled substances.
  • White-Collar Crimes: Fraud, embezzlement, insider trading, and other financially motivated crimes.
  • Federal Conspiracy: Planning or participating in a criminal conspiracy that violates federal law.
  • Bank Robbery: Robbing or attempting to rob a federally insured bank.
  • Kidnapping Across State Lines: Unlawful transportation of a person across state lines.
  • Cybercrimes: Hacking, identity theft, or other computer-related offenses.
  • Terrorism: Acts of terrorism against the United States or its citizens.

What to Expect: The Federal Court Process

Understanding the federal court process is crucial for anyone facing federal charges. The process generally involves the following stages:

  1. Investigation: Federal agencies gather evidence to build a case against you. Federal investigators might reach out to you if you are a person of interest in a federal criminal investigation, and they may or may not disclose their identity. Seek legal representation if you suspect you are being investigated to avoid inadvertently waiving your rights.
  1. Charging Decision: The U.S. Attorney’s Office decides whether to file charges based on the evidence.
  1. Initial Appearance: Once arrested, you are brought before a federal magistrate judge to be informed of the charges.
  1. Arraignment: You enter a plea of “guilty,” “not guilty,” or “no contest.” It is advisable to have your lawyer accompany you to the arraignment to enter a plea of not guilty and advocate for your release on bail.
  1. Pretrial Proceedings: Both sides gather evidence, file motions, and prepare for trial.
  1. Plea Bargaining: Negotiations for a plea deal may occur, leading to reduced charges or penalties.
  1. Trial: If no plea deal is reached, the case goes to trial where evidence is presented and a verdict is reached.
  1. Sentencing: If convicted, a separate hearing determines the penalties. The sentencing of an individual found guilty typically takes place several months after the trial. Beforehand, federal authorities conduct an investigation and compile a presentence report for the defendant’s scrutiny and the judge’s examination. 

A person facing sentencing needs a skilled lawyer to make sure their case is presented fairly, that the court follows federal sentencing rules, and to argue for the least severe sentence possible.

What Should You Do If You Are Charged with a Federal Crime?

  1. Understand the Charges: When facing a federal crime, it’s crucial to know the exact charges against you. This allows you to start building your defense. Begin by reviewing the charging document, which might be called an information, indictment, or complaint, depending on who filed it and the charges. 

Take a close look at the specific statute that’s been violated to understand the allegations. Keep in mind that not all federal crimes are the same—the seriousness of the charge and potential penalties vary based on the specific crime you’re accused of committing.

  1. Consult a Federal Criminal Defense Attorney: Securing legal representation is paramount if you’re facing federal charges. Federal crimes carry significant consequences, often involving substantial fines and lengthy prison terms. A federal criminal defense attorney can guide you through the legal process, steer clear of obstacles that may hinder a favorable outcome, and enhance your chances of achieving a positive result.
  1. Exercise Your Right to Remain Silent: Anything you say can be used against you. It’s crucial to invoke your right to remain silent and not provide self-incriminating statements.
  1. Case Preparation: Work closely with your attorney to gather evidence, identify legal issues, and prepare a strong defense.
  1. Negotiate a Plea Deal or Go to Trial: Depending on the circumstances, you may choose to negotiate a plea deal for reduced charges or go to trial to contest the allegations. Make sure you thoroughly discuss and understand your options and their implications with your attorney.

Felonies and Misdemeanors: Punishments

The penalties for federal crimes vary widely based on the nature and severity of the offense. Federal felonies often result in more significant penalties, including lengthy prison sentences, substantial fines, and other collateral consequences. Misdemeanors, while less severe, can still lead to imprisonment and fines.

Federal felonies come in five categories: A, B, C, D, and E. The most serious is Class A, with a maximum life imprisonment and up to $250,000 in fines. The least serious is Class E, carrying up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $5,000.

Federal misdemeanors fall into three categories: A, B, and C. Class A is the most severe, with a prison term of one year or less (minimum six months) and a maximum fine of $100,000. Class C has a prison term of 30 days or less (minimum five days) and a maximum fine of $5,000.

State and Federal Criminal Charges

State and federal criminal charges operate independently. Being charged with a federal crime doesn’t necessarily mean you’re also facing state charges. Yet, there are instances where both the state and federal governments might pursue charges for the same offense.

Generally, minor offenses like traffic violations are handled at the state level due to their lower severity, and states have more resources for such cases. Federal agencies, on the other hand, tackle more serious offenses such as drug trafficking across states and borders, terrorism, and white-collar crimes. 

It’s important to know that you can be charged with both federal and state crimes simultaneously. For example, if you commit a robbery on a federally protected Indian reservation, both the state and federal governments could charge you. If found guilty of both, the state sentencing is typically added to the federal sentencing. Even if acquitted of a state crime, the federal government can still charge you with a federal offense.

Why Federal Criminal Defense Is Crucial

Many assume they’ll never face federal charges, but the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate globally, and the government aggressively prosecutes federal offenses with severe penalties. Even for first-time offenses, the “U.S. Sentencing Guidelines” determine the criminal sentence. Regardless of personal circumstances—whether you’re old, pregnant, or have children depending on you—if the Guidelines say you should be imprisoned, you will be imprisoned. 

A skilled attorney can significantly impact the outcome, especially in the face of extensive criminal codes and mandatory minimum sentences. Your attorney can ensure a fair defense for you when facing prosecution.
Being charged with a federal crime is a daunting experience, but remember: you have rights, and you have options. Arora Law is here to provide the guidance and representation you need during this challenging time. Let our proven and extensive experience in federal criminal cases be your lifeline. Don’t face federal charges alone—reach out to us for a confidential consultation today.


Related Posts