Charged or Being Investigated for a Federal Crime?

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.  Over the years, we have represented a wide range of clients facing federal prosecution including attorneys, bankers, executives, and business owners. Because the penalties in federal court can oftentimes be more severe than crimes charged in state court, it is critical that you hire a Miami federal criminal defense attorney with the necessary experience and skills to properly defend you.

Important Differences between Federal and State Cases

Jurisdiction

Both the State of Florida and the federal government have the authority to prosecute crimes in Florida.  Florida and the federal government each have their own criminal laws, court system, law enforcement agencies, and prosecutors.  

The vast majority of prosecutions though take place in state and municipal courts. The State of Florida prosecutes most crimes of violence, like assaults, batteries, homicides, etc. as well as common property crimes like theft. The State is also responsible for prosecuting nuisance crimes, such as prostitution and disorderly conduct, as well as traffic crimes, like DUI and driving with a suspended license.

The federal government prosecutes cases that the State can’t because it lacks jurisdiction.  This includes certain areas of the law where the federal government exercises exclusive authority pursuant to 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, federal tax crimes, frauds against the United States, and crimes of treason and espionage.

The federal government can also prosecute common crimes that the State would normally prosecute in cases where they are 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, as well as airplanes that are in flight.

 

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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 often times in a better position to conduct investigations and pursue prosecutions into larger-scale crimes and sophisticated criminal activity.

Federal prosecutors can also target crimes that state prosecutors normally prosecute when the crimes involve the crossing of state lines.

Due to these differences in jurisdiction as well as policy decisions, the bulk of the federal government’s resources are dedicated  to the prosecution of cases relating to drug importation, distribution of drugs, immigration/customs offenses, financial crimes, large scale fraud, firearm offenses, organized crime, fraud against the United States, and other federal regulatory related offenses.

Investigative Agencies and Prosecuting Attorneys

The U.S. Attorney (not the State Attorney) prosecutes federal crimes. U.S. Attorney’s Offices are part of the Department of Justice. Federal crimes are 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, although there are often-times special task-forces which include members of local police departments.

Resources

Another distinguishing factor of federal criminal investigations and prosecutions are the number of resources devoted to a particular case in comparison 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. The caseloads of federal prosecutors also pale in comparison to the volume of cases that state prosecutors are forced to handle with limited resources.

Federal judges also have far fewer criminal cases on their dockets compared to their counterparts in state court. 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 there is a greater chance that i’s have been dotted and t’s crossed.

Federal Classes of Crimes

The federal criminal code recognizes five classes of felony 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 and carries the greatest punishment. 

CategoryClassMaximum Sentence
FelonyALife imprisonment (or death)
FelonyB25 years or more
FelonyC10 to 25 years
FelonyD5 to 10 years
FelonyE1 year to 5 years
MisdemeanorA6 months to 1 year
MisdemeanorB30 days to 6 months
MisdemeanorC5 days to 30 days

 

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. The district judge alone will decide the appropriate sentence by taking into account the sentencing guidelines as well as many additional factors.  That is why it is so important that the lawyer you retain has significant experience in federal criminal cases.

Finally, if convicted and sentenced to a term of imprisonment, a defendant will be placed in the custody of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (not the state Department of Corrections) to serve his or her sentence.

Examples of Federal Crimes Cases Our Firm Handles

The majority of clients contacting us seeking representation, are either under investigation or have been arrested for the following types of offenses:

Our firm has years of experience defending clients in federal criminal cases at the trial level, as well as experience representing clients in federal appellate courts. Mr. Edelstein is an experienced Miami federal criminal lawyer and has been a member of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida since 1996 and became a member of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in 1997. He is also a member of  the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, which includes the cities of Ft. Myers, Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, and Ocala.

Contact an Experienced Miami Federal Criminal Lawyer

In contrast to state criminal cases, most federal cases begin with a federal agent contacting the defendant to conduct a voluntary interview. Unfortunately, either through fear or ignorance, most defendants proceed to speak with the agent without consulting with an attorney. This is almost always a mistake. If you or someone you love has been approached by a federal agent, it is critical for you to consult with an Experienced Miami federal criminal lawyer.  CALL US NOW for a CONFIDENTIAL CONSULTATION at (305) 538-4545,  or simply take a moment to fill out our confidential and secure intake form. The additional details you provide will greatly assist us in responding to your inquiry.

Click here to learn more about our experience and qualifications.

*Due to the large number of people who contact us requesting our assistance, it is strongly suggested that you take the time to provide us with specific details regarding your case by filling out our confidential and secure intake form. The additional details you provide will greatly assist us in responding to your inquiry in a timely and appropriate manner.

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