If you are facing a federal prosecution or receive a target letter indicating that you are a target in a federal criminal investigation, you need an experienced federal criminal defense attorney on your side to protect you and your rights. When federal authorities are involved in a criminal investigation, they typically spend a considerable amount of time building a case before referring it for prosecution. Consequently, a criminal prosecution in federal court is often more complex than a similar case prosecuted at the state level. At Haas Law, we have the experience and resources needed to zealously protect you during a federal criminal investigation and/or defend you in a federal prosecution.
Understanding the Criminal Justice System in the United States
In the United States, we have what is referred to as a federalist form of government, meaning we have both a central federal judicial system and individual state judicial systems. As a result, both our federal government and each individual state can enact and enforce criminal laws. The federal government’s authority in a criminal prosecution applies to:
- Criminal offenses that occur on federal land or involve federal officers. If a criminal offense occurs on federal property or is committed against a federal officer, the federal government can assert jurisdiction over the prosecution.
- Criminal conduct that crosses state lines. The federal government has jurisdiction over any criminal conduct that crosses state lines. In today’s fast-moving society, “state lines” conduct jurisdiction is used to assert jurisdiction over a wide range of criminal investigations and prosecutions, including major drug trafficking operations, white-collar crimes such as money laundering and cyber-crimes, and bank robbery if the bank is a member of the Federal Reserve System.
- Criminal offenses where the accused crossed state lines during the commission of the crime. Unlike state lines conduct jurisdiction which focuses on conduct related to the crime, this requires the defendant to physically cross a state line for the federal government to assert jurisdiction. For instance, kidnapping is often charged as a federal crime if the defendant moved the victim from one state to another.
- Criminal offenses involving fraud, deception, or misrepresentation on the federal government. When the federal government is effectively a victim, it can assert jurisdiction over the prosecution of the case. For example, if a defendant is accused of fraud against any federal agency, tax evasion, or counterfeiting U.S. money, it may be prosecuted in federal court.
- Criminal offenses involving violations of federal immigration/customs law. Immigration laws and the enforcement of those laws fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government. As such, criminal cases involving things such as illegally crossing a border or human trafficking are prosecuted by the federal government.
Understanding the Significance of a Target Letter
One significant difference between a state and a federal criminal investigation is that, unlike state governments, the federal government may directly inform you that you are the target of an investigation by sending you a “target letter.” Not all federal criminal investigations will result in target letters being sent out; however, if you receive one it should be taken seriously. While a target letter may also include additional information and/or requests, at a bare minimum it should notify you that you are the target in a federal grand jury investigation and the crime(s) that you are suspected of committing. Never ignore a target letter! Contact an experienced federal criminal defense attorney right away if you receive one.
Rights of a Suspect or Defendant in a Federal Criminal Investigation/Prosecution
If you are a suspect in a federal criminal investigation or a defendant in a federal criminal prosecution you have several important constitutional rights of which you should be aware, including:
- Your right to remain silent. Your5th Amendment right against self-incrimination is one a well-known – but frequently not asserted – constitutional right. Other than verifying your identity you do not have to answer questions during an encounter with a law enforcement officer. Your right to remain silent can be asserted or waived at any time during an investigation or criminal prosecution.
- Your right to bond. In most federal criminal prosecutions, the defendant is entitled to a bond; however, the individual posting the bond may be required to appear at a “source of funds” hearing to prove that the funds used to post your bond are from a legal source.
- Your right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. As a general rule, the 4th Amendment prohibits a law enforcement officer from searching 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. Evidence seized during an illegal search may be excluded from trial, meaning the government will not be able to use that evidence.
- Your right to a speedy trial and to confront and cross-examine witnesses. Your right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury as well as your right to confront and cross-examine witnesses against you can be found in the 6th Amendment.
Get Help from Experienced Tampa Federal Criminal Defense Attorney
If you received a target letter, suspect you are under investigation by a federal law enforcement agency or have been charged with a federal crime, it is imperative that you consult with an experienced Tampa federal criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected and to get started on your defense.
At Haas Law, our Tampa federal criminal defense attorneys are committed to using their extensive experience and resources to protect you, your freedom, and your future if you are involved in a federal criminal investigation or 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.