If you have been charged with a federal crime it is important that you consult with an experienced federal criminal defense attorney. A federal attorney is a defense attorney that is licensed to practice in federal court. Not every defense attorney is qualified or permitted to represent individuals facing federal charges.
A crime is considered a federal crime if it is an offense that is illegal under Title 18 of the United States Code or a crime that occurs on U.S. federal property. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is responsible for investigating federal offense. Some federal crimes include the following:
• Bank fraud
• Bank robbery
• Check fraud
• Child Abduction
• Child pornography
• Civil rights violations
• Computer crimes
• Dog fighting
• Drug trafficking
• Identity theft
• Illegal gambling
• Illegal immigration
• Indian County Crimes
• Mail fraud
• Making false statement
• RICO offenses
Federal crimes are handled much differently than state crimes. An experienced federal criminal lawyer will be able to explain the often complicated and confusing set of federal rules and sentencing guidelines.
The federal sentencing system is based on a set of sentencing guidelines that judges are required to follow. Determining the sentencing guideline of a specific offense is based on the offense level and an individual’s criminal history score. A federal criminal defense attorney can help you understand how the sentencing guidelines apply in your case. Every federal crime has a specific offense level assigned to it. The Sentencing Guidelines Manual describes the different offense levels for all of the various crimes. The guidelines also allow for adjustments to the offense level based on certain circumstances some of which include:
• Whether the crime involves certain categories of victims
(i.e. law enforcement, elderly, etc)
• The role the individual played in the crime
• If the individual abused a public or private trust or used a special
skill in the commission of the crime
• If the individual used or attempted to use a minor to commit the offense
• If the individual obstructed or impeded the administration of justice
during the investigation, prosecution, or sentencing in the case
• If the crime involved the use of a firearm or body armor
• If the individual accepts responsibility
• If the individual provides a truthful statement to law enforcement also
known as the “Safety Valve” or “Escape Hatch” clause
• If the individual cooperates with the Government
An individual’s criminal history category depends on their prior criminal convictions and sentences. An individual must make a list of all their prior convictions, including the sentence they received on each one, the dates when they were released from each prison term, and the date they were discharged from their most recent parole or probation. Each conviction is assigned a point value depending on the type of conviction and sentence. Some convictions don’t count as priors or are counted only if they meet other requirements. Some sentences imposed for an offense committed prior to an individual’s 18th birthday count only under certain circumstances. Some special considerations can also raise the criminal history score.
Once an individual determines the final offense level and their criminal history points and have taken into account the special categories that might raise the offense level or the criminal history category they can use the Sentencing Table to determine the applicable sentencing guideline range.
Drug-related federal crimes carry special penalties. Almost all federal drug crimes involve statutorily required minimum and maximum penalties. For drug crimes, the most common statutory sentencing ranges are 0 to 20 years, 5 to 40 years and 20 to life. The lower number in each range is the “statutory minimum,” or the smallest sentence that the judge can impose. The higher number in each range is the “statutory maximum” of the greatest sentence that the judge can impose. These statutorily required minimums overrule the sentencing guidelines. For example, if you are convicted of a crime with statutory penalties of 5 to 40 years, but the guidelines are only 48 months, the judge will still have to sentence you to the 5-year mandatory (statutory) minimum.
In drug cases all of the drugs an individual was involved with are added together to determine the proper offense level. Even if an individual plead guilty to one count and the other counts are dismissed the drugs in the dismissed counts will be added together with all the drugs plead to determine the total that will be used to calculate the offense level. Conspiracies are also taken into account. For example, if you conspire to deliver 5 kilograms of cocaine but only deliver one, the amount for purposes of determining the offense level is 5 kilos.