Federal criminal law refers to the body of statutes or rules made by the federal legislative authorities that define what criminal conduct is and the punishment assigned to the commission of each crime.
Infringements of federal criminal law are investigated and prosecuted with the vast resources of the federal government. As such, the government is able to secure a criminal conviction 98% of the time when prosecuting such infringements.
If you’re facing federal criminal charges in Chicago, Illinois, the odds are against you, considering the high conviction rate.
But there may be a way to increase your chances in federal court; by working with a criminal defense attorney who can argue your case and defend you aggressively. Getting professional help from skilled Chicago federal criminal lawyers, such as those from the Hirsch Law Group, can make a remarkable difference in your case.
In our years of experience fighting for federal criminal defendants, we’ve found that there are a lot of misconceptions about federal criminal law. Acting on those misconceptions without legal counsel could jeopardize your case. Here we explain the basics of federal criminal law in the US to keep you informed while showing you how our reputable Chicago criminal defense lawyers can improve things.
A federal offense is any conduct prohibited under federal laws. It includes all offenses committed with a federal element, including the following:
Crimes committed on federal property, including any land, building, or real property that is owned or leased by the federal government or a department of government.
Crimes committed across state lines or that occurred in more than one state. A typical example of this kind of crime is drug trafficking.
Crimes in which the victim was a federal agent.
Crimes that are committed by using a federal entity or against a federal entity, such as the U.S. postal service.
There are many federal crimes under the United States Code, but some of the more common examples include the following:
Immigration law violations
White-collar crimes such as counterfeiting, wire fraud, and money laundering when they cross state lines or affect federal agencies or the national banking system
Sexual offenses such as the distribution of child pornography through interstate commerce or sexual trafficking across multiple states
Federal drug crimes prohibited under the federal Controlled Substances Act, such as drug trafficking across state lines
Acts of treason or terrorism against the US
Federal crimes are different from state crimes. The latter is prescribed by the criminal law of a state and applies to crimes committed within the boundaries of that particular state.
The state and federal criminal justice systems operate as parallels, and every US citizen is subject to the federal criminal laws and those of the state where they live.
Still, in some cases, the systems overlap, and the same conduct can amount to a crime under federal and state law. When this happens, the state and federal governments have concurrent jurisdiction to prosecute the offense.
The unique detail in this situation is that a person can be tried twice under federal and state law for the same criminal incident. For example, if a person committed kidnapping in a state and transported the victim across state lines, the federal and particular state authorities can prosecute the perpetrator separately. If the state prosecutes and acquits the perpetrator, the acquittal does not affect the federal government’s right to prosecute on the same set of facts and vice versa.
If a state court has acquitted you for a concurrent jurisdiction crime, and you’re facing new charges in federal court, your previous state court acquittal or discharge cannot be used as a defense in your new case since the double jeopardy rule does not apply. You’ll need to fight your federal charges with the help of an experienced criminal defense lawyer if you hope to avoid a conviction.
For federal criminal offenses, the prosecution process usually begins with an investigation into a suspected violation of federal law by federal law enforcement agencies, like the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) or the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Sometimes, their investigative tools and methods could violate individuals’ rights and encroach on their privacy. A skilled federal criminal lawyer can identify such breaches and get the evidence illegally obtained thrown out on that basis.
Once federal investigators can gather sufficient evidence against the suspect, the matter will be transferred to a federal prosecutor from the Department of Justice. The federal prosecutor may file a criminal complaint straightaway or pursue an indictment before a grand jury, depending on the offense.
Indictment proceedings question whether there is reasonable cause to bring charges against the defendant in federal cases. The procedure is compulsory for all federal felonies or capital offenses. If the grand jury finds ‘reasonable cause’ after considering the evidence against the defendant, they will issue an indictment (formal charge) against them.
After an arrest or indictment, the defendant in a federal criminal case will be arraigned before the appropriate federal court. They’ll be required to plead guilty or not guilty at the arraignment. Each choice of plea has different legal implications that could determine the course and outcome of your case. Your criminal defense lawyer can help you determine which option best benefits you after considering the entire situation from a legal perspective.
After the arraignment, both parties usually engage in a process called discovery of evidence. The evidence obtained from the prosecution at this stage is significant and can help you prepare a solid criminal defense. An experienced federal criminal defense attorney is necessary at this stage to ensure that you obtain the evidence necessary for your defense.
Federal prosecutors may resort to plea bargaining to save time and resources as against going to trial. They often offer plea deals to criminal defendants, promising them some concessions in exchange for a guilty plea. But a plea deal is only appropriate in some cases, and wrongly accepting one could jeopardize your chances with future legal reliefs such as an appeal. Let a qualified criminal defense lawyer assess the situation and the terms of the agreement and determine whether or not accepting a deal benefits you before you take any steps.
If the plea deal falls through or you cannot achieve a fair plea deal or refuse to plead ‘guilty,’ the case will then proceed to trial in a federal court. At this stage, you need strong legal representation from a criminal defense attorney at this point to cross-examine witnesses, fight for your innocence, and thoroughly disprove the evidence brought against you.
After both parties make their case, the jury would come to a decision and reach a verdict of guilty or not guilty. You will be free to leave the court if you are found not guilty. If found guilty, you will face another hearing regarding your sentencing.
The sentence for federal crimes upon conviction may include the following:
The extent or severity of the punishment depends on the nature of the offense; felonies typically attract stricter punishment than misdemeanors.
The prosecution and the defense attorney may recommend a sentence to the judge. But Ultimately, your sentence will be up to the judge’s discretion and the provisions of the federal sentencing guidelines.
At Hirsch Law Group have what it takes to take on your case and fight aggressively on your behalf. Some of the ways we can help with your federal trial include the following:
We can evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your case and formulate a working defense strategy to match your situation
We are also prepared to file any pre-trial motions that could advance your case.
Nothing gets past us during the discovery process. We understand the evidence to look out for in each case. We can ensure that the prosecution does not hide evidence that could exonerate you. The evidence we gather will help us solidify your defense or determine whether alternative courses, such as a plea deal, will be more beneficial. In the appropriate circumstances, we can help you negotiate your plea deal with the prosecution and help you get better terms.
To win a criminal case, the federal prosecutor must establish your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Our goal is to disprove the prosecution’s evidence against you and introduce reasonable doubt in the jury’s minds using our advanced legal skills. In that case, they’ll be less likely to convict you.
Our federal criminal defense team at Hirsch Law Group includes former prosecutors who know the ins and outs of criminal law. Using our substantial experience with federal criminal cases and the federal court system, we can fight to ensure you get the best possible outcome for your case from the get-go.
If you suspect you’re being investigated for a federal criminal offense or you’ve already been charged, do not hesitate to contact us by scheduling a free consultation with our law firm. Let us discuss your legal options, advise you on your case, and develop a strong criminal defense on your behalf.