What makes a crime a federal offense?
A federal crime is a violation of a statute passed by the United States Congress. A state crime is a violation of a statute or ordinance passed by the state legislature or a local authority. Usually the federal crime addresses criminal activity or a more national concern. For example, crimes that cross state lines or the international border trigger federal jurisdiction. Some federal crimes involve narcotics, bank robbery, fraudulent activity that affects interstate commerce, wire fraud, mail fraud or tax fraud, any crime in which the United States is defrauded, guns, environmental crimes, and civil rights violations. Some crimes may violate both state and federal laws, such as bank robbery. In these cases, the U.S. Attorney’s Office works closely with state and local law enforcement officials to determine whether a case will be brought in federal or state court.
Can I be prosecuted in both state and federal court?
Yes. In certain circumstances crimes that occur within the boundaries of a state are also subject to federal prosecution. The authority to prosecute a state crime derives from the state government while the United State Attorney’s power stems from the federal government.
What should I do if I am arrested?
Immediately invoke your right to an attorney. Politely refuse to answer any questions until you have a lawyer to assist you. Do not answer any questions or attempt to give your side of the story. Anything you say will be used in the case against you and will not serve to help you. Your attorney is better at negotiating with the police than you are, what he says can’t be used against you. Further, your attorney can turn meaningless “promises by the police” into binding legal agreements with the prosecutor, perhaps obtaining immunity for you.
If the police don't read my rights, can my case be dismissed?
No, not necessarily. We have all heard the “rights” being read to many suspects on television and in the movies, and this has caused some confusion. The police officer does not have to read anybody their “rights” unless that officer intends to obtain a statement or confession from a suspect. If the officer does not want to record what you have to say and use it against you, he does not have to read you your rights.
However, if the officer wants to ask you some questions other than your name and address, he must advise you that you don’t have to answer his questions, that if you do, anything you say can be used against you and that you have a right to a lawyer before you answer any questions. It is amazing how many people will answer the officer’s questions in some vain attempt to cooperate which gives their defense attorney headaches trying to defend the case later on.
Can the police ever search me without a warrant?
Yes. There are numerous circumstances under which a search may lawfully be made without a warrant. Some general areas of exception where a search can be made without a warrant are:
- If the safety of the police officer is involved;
- Whether the police are in hot pursuit of a criminal;
- When they see illegal evidence in plain view;
- If they are engaged in temporary questioning;
- If a person consents to being searched; and/or
- If they have made a lawful arrest.
What is an indictment?
An indictment is a formal written accusation naming specific persons and crimes. An indictment may be issued by a grand jury if they determine that the evidence presented to them is sufficient to support the charges brought against you.
The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution safeguards your right to a preliminary hearing by a grand jury in major federal cases. The U.S. Constitution stipulates that no person may be tried in a federal court for a serious offense without a formal indictment, but beware that less than 50% of the states honor your constitutional right to a preliminary hearing. Make sure that your attorney insists on your Fifth Amendment rights.
What are the federal Sentencing Guidelines?
In federal court, if a defendant is found guilty or pleads guilty, the judge assesses punishment in accordance with the Sentencing Guidelines. The United States Sentencing Guidelines manual contains the rules for determining the range within which a judge’s sentence must fall. Factors that go into the determination include, the offense for which the defendant was convicted; certain factors about the offense such as how much money was involved in a financial crime, the role of the defendant in the overall scheme and other factors concerning the defendant’s conduct; and the defendant’s criminal record. The court must sentence within the applicable guideline range (expressed in a range of months) unless the case is extremely unusual or qualifies for one of the few exceptions allowing the judge to depart from the guidelines. Guideline sentencing is a complicated aspect of federal criminal cases. It is important that a person accused of a federal offense retain an attorney that is familiar with the guideline system.
Do you guarantee the results of a case?
Absolutely not. It would be unethical to state that the results are guaranteed. A lawyer can only warrant their best efforts in representing a client.
What other consequences of a criminal conviction?
In many cases, they can be disastrous. Certain sex crimes require a life long registration. In cases of immigrants, a conviction and sentence of certain crimes can result in deportation, denial of naturalization and citizenship, and permanent exclusion from this country. In short banishment. Furthermore, if a person attempts to cross the border, they face federal charges. In the case of professionals, a conviction can be grounds for license revocation.