Miami Federal Criminal Defense Attorney
As a criminal defense law firm in Miami, a significant portion of our practice is dedicated to the representation of clients who are either under federal investigation or have been charged with committing a federal crime in the Southern District of Florida. Over the years, we have represented a wide range of clients facing federal charges, including attorneys, bankers, executives, and business owners. Because the penalties in federal court can often be more severe than a criminal charge in state court, you must hire a Miami federal criminal defense attorney with the necessary experience and skills to defend your federal charge properly.
Important Differences between Federal and State Cases
Both the State of Florida and the federal government have the authority to prosecute criminal offenses in Florida. Florida and the federal government each have their own criminal laws, court systems, law enforcement agencies, and prosecutors. Also, a federal criminal case is governed by the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which have important differences from the rules of criminal procedure in a state case. Although not identical, the Federal Rules of Evidence are very similar to the Florida Evidence Code.
The vast majority of felony and misdemeanor prosecutions, though occur in state and municipal courts. The State of Florida prosecutes most crimes of violence, like assault, battery, homicide, sex crimes, and common property crimes, like theft. The State is also responsible for prosecuting nuisance crimes, such as prostitution and disorderly conduct, and traffic crimes, like DUI and driving with a suspended license. Although the State also prosecutes white collar crime, usually the biggest white-collar crime cases are prosecuted in federal court.
What Are Federal Crimes?
The federal government prosecutes cases that the State can’t because it lacks jurisdiction. This includes certain areas of criminal law where the federal government exercises exclusive authority under the U.S. Constitution. A few examples of these kinds of federal crimes are counterfeiting of money, customs and immigration offenses, bank fraud, mail fraud & wire fraud, federal tax crimes, frauds against the United States, and crimes of treason and espionage. The wide scope of cases is why it is important that you hire an experienced federal crime attorney who is familiar with the most appropriate legal defenses in your case.
The federal government can also prosecute common crimes that the State would normally prosecute in cases committed on federal property, such as crimes committed in national parks, Indian reservations, federal courthouses, and prisons. Because the federal government regulates certain industries like aviation and sea travel, its jurisdiction also extends to crimes that occur on ships at sea, like cruise ships, for example, and airplanes in flight.
Although the State of Florida has the power to prosecute many types of crimes, it is only allowed to investigate and prosecute crimes that occur within the State’s boundaries. The federal government’s power, on the other hand, extends throughout the entire country. As a result, federal prosecutors are oftentimes in a better position to conduct investigations and pursue prosecutions of larger-scale crimes and sophisticated criminal activity.
Federal prosecutors can also target crimes that state prosecutors normally prosecute when the crimes involve crossing state lines.
Due to these differences in jurisdiction as well as policy decisions, the bulk of the federal government’s resources is dedicated to the prosecution of importation drug crimes, drug trafficking, immigration/customs offenses, financial crimes, large-scale fraud, firearm offenses, organized crime, fraud against the United States, and other regulatory federal criminal charges.
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Federal Investigative Agencies and Federal Prosecutors
The United States Attorney (not the State Attorney) prosecutes federal crimes. United States Attorney Offices are part of the Department of Justice. A federal offense is investigated by any of the federal law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), the Secret Service, the IRS Criminal Investigation Division, and others. Certain law enforcement agencies are dedicated to investigating specific types of crime. The Drug Enforcement Administration, for example, focuses exclusively on drug crimes and related offenses. Oftentimes there are also special task forces that include members of local police departments that can conduct a criminal investigation for a federal offense.
Federal Criminal Law Resources
Another distinguishing factor of federal criminal investigations and prosecutions is the number of resources devoted to a particular case compared to a case in the state court system. The state court system handles all arrests by municipal and county police departments. A domestic violence case or petit theft case, for example, is prosecuted by the State Attorney. Needless to say, the annual budget of the State Attorney’s Office is dwarfed by that of the Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorneys Office. The caseload of a federal prosecutor, known as an Assistant United States Attorney, also pales in comparison to the volume of cases that a state prosecutor is forced to handle with limited resources.
Federal judges also have far fewer criminal cases on their dockets than their state court counterparts. Federal law enforcement agencies have large budgets and tremendous resources compared to their state counterparts. Federal agents are usually better educated and better trained than local police officers.
The bottom line is that far more time and resources are spent investigating and prosecuting each federal case. When a federal agent contacts you, it is more likely that every “i” has been dotted and every “t” crossed. If a federal agent contacts you, contact our federal criminal defense lawyers immediately for a consultation.
Federal Classes of Crimes
Crimes under federal law are contained in the United States Code. The criminal code recognizes five classes of felony federal crime offenses (A, B, C, D, and E) and three classes of misdemeanor crimes (A, B, and C). A Class A crime is the most serious federal criminal charge and carries the greatest punishment.
|Felony||A||Life imprisonment (or death)|
|Felony||B||25 years or more|
|Felony||C||10 to 25 years|
|Felony||D||5 to 10 years|
|Felony||E||1 year to 5 years|
|Misdemeanor||A||6 months to 1 year|
|Misdemeanor||B||30 days to 6 months|
|Misdemeanor||C||5 days to 30 days|
Federal Crimes Sentencing
Perhaps the most important distinction relates to sentencing. A defendant may face mandatory minimum penalties, and the federal sentencing guidelines can often result in long prison sentences. Also, unlike the state system, a federal prosecutor can’t offer a specific sentence in a plea deal. If you plead guilty in a federal case instead of going to trial, you have no guarantee that you will receive an agreed-upon sentence. Federal judges alone will decide the appropriate sentence by taking into account the sentencing guidelines and many additional factors. That is why it is crucial that the federal criminal defense lawyer you retain has significant experience in federal criminal cases.
Finally, if convicted and sentenced to a term of imprisonment for a federal charge, a defendant will be placed in the custody of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (not the state Department of Corrections) to serve their sentence.
Examples of Federal Crimes We Defend
The majority of clients contacting our law office seeking representation by our criminal defense lawyers are either under investigation or have been arrested for the following types of criminal offenses: