Crimes are classified into different categories based on the statutory violations you engage in. While each state operates on its own set of laws and penal code provisions, the entire country has also incorporated a code that provides the same regulations, prohibitions, and penalties for some crimes. Therefore, breaking such federal laws warrants arrest and prosecution following a uniform federal system. The federal crimes committed attract the same penalties regardless of the state you were in at the time of commission, meaning you may face prosecution in any US state. Typically, federal crimes involve dangerous activities that may lead to the detriment of crime victims and other third parties. Consequently, facing federal charges should be taken seriously, as it often ends in severe sentences that may last for years.
If you face charges for a federal crime, you will need a skilled lawyer who is conversant with Federal criminal defense systems, to help you raise persuasive defenses for your case. Getting in touch with a lawyer from San Diego Criminal Attorney is a great way to start the federal criminal process. We provide excellent professional services to guide you through facing your charges and court arraignment until the final trial stage. Over the years, we have worked with numerous clients in San Diego, California, to provide the best legal support we can for a favorable case outcome.
The Nature of Federal Crimes
As discussed above, a federal crime is an offense with the same laws and penalties in all states in the country. Consequently, committing a federal crime in a different state from where you live will not enhance or decrease the punishment you are likely to receive, nor will the criminal elements for the prosecutor to prove. Usually, after facing arrest, your case will be handled by a special prosecutor from the United States Attorney's Office who will be appointed to your matter.
Therefore, you may have a prosecutor sent from the head office to deal with your case, meaning that your criminal defense attorney will be interacting with new officers. They may not necessarily be keen to consider several negotiation strategies. Nevertheless, your criminal defense lawyer works hard to push for possible, less severe outcomes in your court trial, in the different court stages mentioned below.
Additionally, different bodies are responsible for conducting investigations in federal crimes, mainly because such offenses often involve inter-state operations. Among the leading investigating organizations are the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security, and the United States Postal Service (USPS). The investigation body dispatched for your case depends on the type of crime you engage in, and the circumstance surrounding committing the offense.
Common Federal Crimes Committed in the Country
The laws guiding law enforcers, federal prosecutors, and federal magistrate judges are found in the United States Code. The statutory provision mentions all federal crimes and their penalties for reference in the court trial and sentencing hearings. Thus, each state uses the code to determine whether your offense falls under the normal state or federal violations. As a result, it is essential to learn about several different crimes that amount to a federal offense and prepare yourself for the federal criminal process that often incorporates more stringent measures. Some of these crimes include:
Bank Fraud and Embezzlement
If you are charged with bank fraud and embezzlement, the prosecutor must prove that you knowingly and willingly presented or attempted to give fraudulent or misrepresented information to a bank, to gain monetary funds unlawfully. In such a crime, the prosecutor doesn't need to show that you received the money or proceeded to use it. It will be enough to show that the fraud and embezzlement were in your plans and that you had begun executing the illegal activities.
The crime contravenes 18 USC, §656, and §1344. If the prosecutor successfully proves all elements, you will be found guilty and proceed to face up to $10,000,000 in fines or imprisonment for up to thirty years.
Internet and Computer Crimes
Computer and internet crimes is a blanket category for many offenses conducted online and may include several different illegalities. Therefore, the prosecutor handling your case will have to identify the crime you participated in and present all necessary elements of crime and evidence to prove your criminal engagements. Common computer/internet crimes are:
Hacking involves wilfully gaining access to other users' personal computers or online accounts, with an unlawful intention to obtain or corrupt specific data. Hacking may also prevent the owner of the device or account from accessing it, leading to an inhibited connection that allows the hacker to continue engaging in unlawful activities. Some consequences of hacking include leaking private information to the public, accessing passwords to bank accounts and other critical transactional platforms, or malicious intent to blackmail the owner of the hacked account or device.
A fraudulent action involves using pretenses or false statements to trick people into providing certain benefits, often for monetary gain. Internet fraud may arise by making inaccurate advertisements that lead people to leave their details on fake websites. Alternatively, you may create a false narrative to try and persuade people to invest with you or help you raise funds. All these actions amount to internet fraud.
Like talking in person, cyberstalking involves following a person's online engagements without their knowledge and consent to obtain information about their life or threatening/blackmail them in the future. A cyberstalker often commits the offense to get more details of the stalking victim for use in determining identity theft, which is another type of computer and internet crime.
All these activities are provided for 18 USC §1030, and warrant different penalties, depending on the type of illegality you commit. Typically, you may receive a five-year prison sentence for engaging in cybercrime.
The USC defines kidnapping under different subsections, each providing different scenarios that would amount to the crime—It willfully takes a person against their consent or knowledge to a different location that may be across states, intending to demand ransom or imposing blackmail on the affiliated persons to the crime victim. Moreover, kidnapping may involve foreign officials in the country like ambassadors or other delegates, or even officials operating aircraft.
The prosecutor has to prove several primary crime elements for the judge to find you guilty of kidnapping as a federal crime. First, you must have wilfully taken another person against their consent using force or coercion. You must have also transported the person across states and intended to use the kidnapping as a chance to have your way with obtaining a ransom.
Under 18 USC 1201, you are eligible to receive the punishment that may range between a minimum of twenty years to life imprisonment based on several factors. If in the engagement in kidnapping activities, you caused the grievous injury or death of your victim, the federal judge presiding over your case may enhance your life sentence. However, if your criminal activities resulted in less severe outcomes, and the victims escaped free of bodily harm, you may face the minimum sentence of twenty years.
A defendant who engages in obtaining and distributing child pornography material online or through other mediums will also be guilty of a federal crime. When charged with the offense, the prosecutor will look into several key elements to present before the judge or jury for a possible conviction. The details involve knowingly possessing or obtaining child pornographic material by engaging a minor in indecent acts and recording such sessions, or downloading and distributing the content online or in hard copy.
Moreover, the prosecutor is at liberty to present additional information and identify it as aggravating to the crime. For example, if the nature of the photos shows children in a gory way, the judge will consider the element to enhance your sentence. Also, the children's age may lead to severe penalties, especially if the child is very young and unaware of the nature of activities during the recording of such pornographic events. Lastly, if you are found to have had a close relationship with the minor, such that the parent or guardian responsible for the child entrusted your care for them, the judge may also consider the details and enhance your punishment.
Following subsection 2251 of 18 USC, you will receive a prison sentence of fifteen years(minimum) and thirty years (maximum) as a first time offender. If you are a repeat offender, you will likely face an enhanced sentence of twenty-five years minimum and fifty years maximum.
Tax Fraud and Evasion
Every working citizen must pay taxes, depending on existing terms stipulated by the IRS. Therefore, engaging in tax fraud crimes involves trying to find a way to evade paying taxes by disguising your channels of income or creating numerous accounts under different names. Moreover, you may create fake tax reports for presentation in case of any probes, leading to making fraudulent presentations to the relevant authorities.
Upon your arrest, your case may require your criminal defense attorney to gather many documents, in readiness for rebuttal of the prosecutor's statements and evidential sources. However, if the prosecutor succeeds in proving your guilty engagement in tax fraud, you will face fine penalties for a maximum of $100,000 or a maximum prison sentence for five years.
The Federal Criminal Process
The federal criminal procedure follows similar guidelines as any other state process, meaning that you will undergo several preliminary stages before deciding whether to face the final trial stage for the charged offense. We recommend hiring a criminal defense lawyer as soon as you begin the process to reduce the risk of suffering severe penalties based on the lack of adequate information on your rights to a proper defense counsel. The criminal process involves:
Usually, each criminal process begins when you face arrest for the suspected engagement in an offense. Before an officer arrests you, he/she should form a probable cause, to avoid making unlawful operations that result in the apprehension of innocent people. Consequently, the relevant appointed body may conduct investigations for a while before finally obtaining a warrant of arrest and taking you in police custody. As you face arrest, the officer should explain your rights and the reasons for an arrest to avoid providing self-incriminating evidence that may become of use to the prosecutor.
Court Arraignment for a Bail Hearing
Some offenses afford you the option for release on bail, usually at the federal magistrate's discretion. He/she will assess the nature of the charges you face and consider some factors before deciding whether you are eligible for bail release. The most important consideration the judge makes is whether you pose any immediate threat to community members, especially if you were arrested for crimes like kidnapping or child pornography possession and distribution.
Moreover, the judge will analyze your criminal record to check whether you are a repeat offender. In most cases, you will have minimal chances of release as a repeat offender, mainly because of the impression the judge takes of difficulties in reform. If you are a flight risk, the judge may push the determination of your release to a later date, until his/her orders to obtain your passport and other personal belongings for safekeeping until your case is done prevail.
If the judge agrees to a bail release, your defense lawyer will be ready to begin the necessary steps to post the bail amount as soon as possible to get you out of jail. However, you will have to report to a pretrial services office before leaving to receive additional compliance orders. The pretrial services offer similar regulations as probation officers to impose compliance on your side, even as you prepare for trial. A failure to follow the requirements issued may lead to a re-arrest without the bail option until the conclusion of your test.
After a secure release, you are ready to proceed with taking a plea for your charges. During the plea arraignment, the judge will read out the charges you face for your federal offense and ask you how you plead to each charge. Without proper advice from a defense attorney, you may opt to plead guilty. If so, your case will proceed directly to the trial stage, where the prosecutor will present the necessary evidence for your conviction. While pleading guilty may bring about several plea deals with the prosecution like lowering a sentence significantly, it works to your detriment as a defendant. You will have a permanent criminal record and a penalty to complete regardless of the plea deal.
We advise pleading not guilty, to allow your criminal defense lawyer to proceed with the other stages up to trial where he/she will raise defenses for your case. Once you plead not guilty, the judge will set a later date where ascertainment of all evidence and its sources occurs for both parties to the situation.
The Discovery Arraignment
During the discovery stage, the prosecutor appointed from the Attorney General's office will provide all the information and evidence provided by the investigation body that handled your matter, including police reports, photographs, and surveillance footage. Often, the evidence will appear overwhelming because of the thoroughness and scrutiny that federal investigators apply to each case. The prosecutor must also state the relevance of each evidence presented to help your defense attorney identify any concerns that he/she may need to raise.
In return, your lawyer also has to present any documents that should be brought to the prosecutor's discovery before the case proceeds to trial. The importance of these procedures is to ensure that each party is aware of the exact information for use in the federal criminal court, to promote a fair trial. It would be inconvenient and unfair if each party engaged in an element of surprise to throw off the entire process. Moreover, the unfair introduction of evidence may lead to the fabrication of information to throw off the other party.
During the discovery presentation, your lawyer may also have a chance to present several negotiations to the prosecutor to secure a reduced charge sheet for the offenses you committed. However, federal prosecutors have very little room for discretion in handling such federal crime cases, mainly because the United States Code provides stringent regulations and minimum requirements. Thus, a reduction of charges and penalties that come with the charge may be difficult to obtain. Nevertheless, your defense attorney may secure a better deal for you after negotiations, although it will be challenging and unguaranteed.
The Trial Process
A confirmation that both parties are ready to proceed leads to the trial stage, whereby the federal offense is argued out by both parties. The trial process is arguably the most crucial stage for any criminal procedure. It provides your lawyer with an excellent opportunity to counter the prosecution's claims and cross-examines any witnesses testifying against you. It begins with opening statements from each party, to let the judge or jury know your case argument outline, and the general points you will be making later on. Since the prosecutor carries the burden of proof in showing that you engaged in a federal offense and are therefore liable to face sentences, he/she makes the first presentation. Afterward, your criminal defense lawyer will present your opening statement to emphasize the doubt of guilt on your side.
The prosecutor's presentation of each element of crime follows after the opening statements. In this stage, he/she will carefully analyze each detail of your unlawful activities and relate it to the United States Code provisions to show your violations. The presentation of evidence to support the federal crimes prosecutor's claims depends on the type of offense you committed. For example, for kidnapping charges, the prosecutor will introduce evidence to prove that you got hold of another person wilfully using witness statements from the victim or any other person present during the occurrence of the crime. Moreover, the prosecution will involve introducing evidence of your inter-state travel with the victim by showing the number plate of a vehicle you used and any other information.
Once the prosecutor is done, it will be your defense attorney's turn to present evidence that disputed the prosecution's claims, by setting valid reasons for doubt. For example, your lawyer may cross-examine a witness and display an inaccuracy of essential details in the witness's record of events. Such strategies are critical in ensuring that the federal judge takes serious consideration of all information received before agreeing with the prosecutor's presentation.
The argument and defense stage may take a long time to conclude. It involves calling witnesses to the stand, cross-examination of the witnesses, and giving detailed information on each evidential source and its relevance in the federal offense case.
Your case's final determination is dependent on the persuasive nature of your legal defenses compared with the prosecutor's statements. If the judge determines that the prosecutor succeeded in proving your guilt beyond any reasonable doubt raised by your defense lawyer, you will face sentencing for your federal offense.
For federal crimes, the judge follows regulations that impose harsh punishments for guilty defendants, including minimum sentences. Moreover, federal offenses typically attract more severe penalties and prison sentences because of their dangerous nature as provided for in the USC. Therefore, the judge will impose heavy sanctions that are still significantly more, even as minimum requirements. For example, the minimum sentence for drug trafficking (that also falls in the federal crime category) is ten years imprisonment.
On top of this, the judge will have to consider certain aggravating factors that inevitably lead to a sentence enhancement. Some of them are:
- Previous criminal record
- Causing death or severe harm to a victim
- Acting in gangs or corporations
- Engaging a minor
Overall, facing charges for federal crimes attracts more significant challenges that require criminal defense services from a highly experienced lawyer to offer legal assistance in the process.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Fighting federal criminal charges is no easy task, especially without a criminal lawyer's help. We recommend seeking professional legal services for you and your loved ones, to put yourself in a better position when handling the charges. At the San Diego Criminal Attorney, we do our best to provide excellent defense services to our clients in the San Diego area for any federal charges they may face. To get started with us, call us at 619-880-5474.