If you have been charged with a federal criminal offense, or you have reason to believe you are the target of a criminal investigation by a federal law enforcement agency, you need an experienced Orlando federal criminal defense attorney to protect your rights and your future. Federal criminal investigations and prosecutions are typically complex in nature, often spanning months or years and involving multiple defendants. At Haas Law, we have the experience, skill, and resources needed to safeguard your rights and mount a successful defense if you are involved in a federal criminal investigation or prosecution.
The United States Criminal Justice System
The United States operates under a federalist form of government, meaning that there are two levels of government within the same country. In the U.S., we have a broader federal government along with individual state governments. Both governments have the power to make laws, and both have a certain level of autonomy from each other. The U.S. criminal justice system reflects our federalist nature in that both the federal legislature and the individual state legislatures can pass criminal laws and/or prosecute violations of those laws. Likewise, both state and federal law enforcement agencies investigate suspected criminal activity. The U.S. federal government, however, only has jurisdiction over certain types of crimes. Those crimes typically fall into one of the following categories:
- Crimes that occur on federal land or that involve federal officers. This includes things such as assault on a federal law enforcement officer or a crime occurring in a national park.
- Crimes wherein the defendant crosses state lines during the commission of the crime. Kidnapping when the defendant takes the victim across a state line is a good example.
- Crimes involving conduct that crosses state lines. This covers everything from bank robbery to drug crimes to the illegal sale of firearms. It may also to various cyber crimes and “white collar” crimes such as money laundering.
- Crimes involving fraud, deception, or misrepresentation on the federal government. Medicare fraud, counterfeiting, and federal tax fraud are examples of this type of federal crime.
- Crimes involving immigration/customs violations. This refers to crimes such as human trafficking.
Federal Criminal Investigations
Although the basic investigative process is the same for a federal crime as it is for a state crime, federal law enforcement agencies tend to have significantly more resources at their disposal and often investigate much larger criminal enterprises. In practical terms, that frequently means that if you are being investigated by a federal law enforcement agency they have been watching, listening, and/or gathering evidence for weeks, months, even years.
For some federal criminal investigations, a target of the investigation will receive a “target letter” from the government. The target letter tells the recipient several things, including that he/she is a target in a federal grand jury investigation and the crime(s) that the recipient is suspected of committing. Target letters are typically used in “white collar” criminal investigations, such as securities fraud, cyber crimes, and racketeering/RICO charges.
How Is a Federal Criminal Prosecution Different From Its State Counterpart?
Much like the investigation process, criminal cases are also prosecuted in much the same way at the federal level as they are at the state level – with some important differences. Federal criminal prosecutions are handled by U.S. attorneys, who are appointed by the U.S. Attorney General, and usually take place in a United States District Court.
The entire process tends to be more formal than a criminal case tried in state court. One important difference is found in the bond procedures. While most defendants are entitled to bond (as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution), the process by which a bond amount is set can be more complex than in state court. In addition, federal courts may require a “source of fund” hearing that requires the individual who is paying the bond to show proof that the money is from a legal source. This type of hearing is particularly likely in federal drug crime prosecutions to ensure that a defendant does not use drug money to post bond.
Of even more importance is the fact that if convicted, the potential penalties for federal crimes usually are more severe than those for similar state-level crimes. Furthermore, federal prisoners do not get the same “good time” credit as their state-level counterparts. If you are sentenced to federal prison time you can only get a maximum of 54 days (15%) of “good time” credit each year, meaning you must serve at least 85 percent of your sentence. State legislatures determine what type and how much “good time” credit an inmate may earn; however, in most cases, a state prisoner can earn considerably more good time credit than his federal counterpart.
Your Rights in a Federal Criminal Case
As a suspect or defendant in a federal criminal prosecution, you have important rights guaranteed to you by the U.S. Constitution. While there are some differences between the rights of s suspect and those of an accused, it is important to understand your fundamental constitutional rights, including:
- Right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Found in the 4th Amendment the strength of the protection afforded by the 4th amendment has been watered down somewhat by the courts over the years; however, it stands for the concept that a law enforcement officer cannot conduct a search of your person, property, or things without first obtaining a warrant that must be based on probable cause. Probable cause, in turn, requires a logical belief, supported by facts and circumstances, that a crime has been, is being, or will be committed or that evidence of a crime will be found at the location to be searched.
- Right to remain silent. Found in the broader right against self-incrimination in the 5th Amendment, your right to remain silent means just what it sounds like. During an encounter with a law enforcement officer, you do not have to answer questions (other than those used to ascertain your identity). You can invoke, or waive, your 5th Amendment right at any point during an investigation or trial.
- Right to a trial by jury. The 6th Amendment provides you the right to a “public trial, by an impartial jury.” That same Amendment is where you will find your right to confront and cross-examine witnesses.
Get Help from Experienced Orlando Federal Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have reason to believe you are the target of a federal criminal investigation, or you have already been charged with a federal crime, it is imperative that you consult with an experienced Orlando federal criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The sooner your defense attorney is brought onboard, the better the chances are that your attorney can prevent an arrest or prevent evidence from being used against you at trial.
At Haas Law, our Orlando federal criminal defense attorneys have extensive experience with federal criminal investigations and prosecutions. We are committed to protecting your rights during an investigation and providing an aggressive defense if an investigation results in a prosecution.
Call us at 407-755-7675, chat with us online, or submit our online form today. Because we understand that time is of the essence when federal law enforcement authorities are investigating you, our calls are answered 24 hours a day, allowing you to schedule an appointment as soon as possible to discuss your legal options.