Federal Crime Charges
Being accused of a federal crime is a serious event in a person’s life. Without knowing it, you could be under surveillance for months or even years by one or more federal, state, and / or local law enforcement agencies, all coordinated by the federal government. At times, these agencies gather information about you in a way that violates your Constitutional rights. Before long, you could find yourself being interrogated by agents from the FBI, DEA, Secret Service, or other law enforcement agencies. You do not want to go blindly into a situation like this without assistance from attorneys who have experience taking on the federal government. You need a team of defense attorneys who can aggressively pursue the best possible outcome in your case.
Unlike the State system, where crimes are often clearly defined and punishment ranges readily ascertainable, the federal system is complex, convoluted, and confusing. Navigating that system can be a daunting task without experienced counsel to stand by your side the entire way.
Overview of Federal Criminal Charges
Once a federal investigation has begun, federal agents can employ a multitude of techniques to invade every aspect of your life. Federal agents, with the help of prosecutors, can obtain court orders and subpoenas for your bank records and social media records. Often, they can obtain “trap and trace” or “wiretap” orders and track your whereabouts via your cell phone and even listen to your calls and read your text messages. Law enforcement can keep tabs on you by placing cameras in public areas near your home or business and conduct surveillance (sometimes “rolling surveillance”) and follow you wherever you go. Once the prosecutor feels they have built a case, they can seek an indictment against you.
Federal Grand Jury Indictment
A federal grand jury consists of a group of people who live in the court’s jurisdiction. They meet in secret and hear evidence from the prosecution and its witnesses (i.e. law enforcement agents). The rules of evidence do not apply and the grand jurors are sworn to keep testimony and deliberations confidential. Once the prosecution convinces the grand jury that probable cause exists, they can Indict, or charge, that person. The government can seal the indictment so that you do not find out about it until they want you to.
Once a person has been charged and arrested, the court will conduct several preliminary hearings that typically take place before a magistrate judge. The magistrate court determines if there is sufficient evidence to detain the defendant, if the defendant will be detained or make bail (and whether that bail will be secured by any collateral), and if there is probable cause to support the charge.
These hearings occur rather quickly, within days after a charge has been filed.
A federal criminal jury trial closely resembles a jury trial in a state court. The court sends out a group of summons to citizens in the district who then report to the courthouse for jury duty. The judge conducts the jury selection called voir dire. Although traditionally in federal court the attorneys do not have an opportunity to directly question the jury panel, or venire, a modern trend in federal court has grown to allow lawyers for both sides to address the potential jurors. Once concluded, each side excludes, or strikes, a predetermined number of people (usually 6 for the government and 10 for the defense) and the first 12 remaining members become the jury.
The government proceeds with its evidence first. The prosecutor will call witnesses who testify and present evidence to the jury. As with state court, the government bears the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The federal rules of criminal procedure and federal rules of evidence govern the trial. The defense can present evidence, but they have no obligation to do so.
Once evidence has concluded, the jury retires to deliberate on whether the defendant is not guilty or guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If the jury finds the defendant not guilty, the trial ends and the defendant is released. If the jury finds the defendant guilty, the case proceeds to sentencing.
Unlike in Texas State court, once a jury finds a defendant guilty of a crime, the defendant does not have an option to elect the jury conduct the sentencing. In United States District Court, the judge always sentences a defendant. State cases are often subject to a wide range of sentencing options, depending on the crime of which the defendant has been convicted, any previous criminal history, and multiple other factors. However, in federal court, sentencing is strictly controlled by various factors.
Estimating a defendant’s sentence based upon the statutory range of punishment, the federal sentencing guidelines, mitigation evidence, and aggravating factors (e.g. role in the offense, criminal history, etc.) can be one of the most complex tasks in criminal law.
As Board Certified Criminal Defense Lawyers, the attorneys at Vinas & Graham, PLLC have successfully represented clients in federal court in a variety of cases. From bank robbery, to complex fraud cases, to multi-defendant drug conspiracies, the attorneys at Vinas & Graham, PLLC have fought against the federal government on behalf of their clients.
If you are charged with, or are under investigation for:
- Possession of a Controlled Substance
- Drug / Narcotics Trafficking and Distribution
- Bank Robbery
- Money Laundering
- Conspiracy Charges
- White Collar Crimes
- Internet Crimes
- Weapons Charges
- Immigration Fraud
- Illegal Re-Entry
or any other federal crime, contact the Board Certified Criminal Defense Lawyers at Vinas & Graham, PLLC today.
Call Today: (713) 229-9992