When facing criminal charges, it’s critical to have an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer on your side. This federal criminal lawyer must understand your case and go the extra mile to ensure your legal needs are met. This way, you can obtain the best possible outcome, which is critical in federal court cases where the sentencing guidelines are incredibly harsh.
If you’re seeking lawyers that handle federal cases, contact the Zoukis Consulting Group. We’ll go over your options, explain the process, and connect you with one of our experienced federal criminal attorney partners.
Table of contents
Why Hire a Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer?
When charged with a federal crime, you need an experienced federal defense lawyer on your side. This lawyer should have significant experience defending federal criminal court cases.
Although you may assume any criminal defense lawyer is a good option, a federal crime lawyer understands the intricacies of the federal court process and can best advise you on how to proceed. You specifically want to avoid criminal lawyers who primarily practice in state courts. When charged with a federal crime, any lawyer won’t do it. You need a lawyer specializing in federal white-collar criminal defense.
While many view federal criminal attorneys as exclusive to the court litigation process, this is inaccurate. Your federal criminal defense lawyer ensures you’re not alone when questioned by law enforcement. This is one of the easiest ways people accidentally incriminate themselves. Additionally, disclosures at the investigation phase often result in enhanced sentencing exposure and the potential for additional charges.
You need a federal criminal defense attorney present when charged with a federal offense. And always remember: remain silent unless otherwise directed by your lawyer.
Are Federal Crimes More Severely Sentenced?
One of the reasons sharp federal criminal attorneys are in such demand is the draconian federal sentencing scheme. While not always the case, federal crimes tend to incur longer sentences than state criminal cases. This is particularly true when mandatory minimums or other sentencing enhancements are imposed. For example, this is common in federal drug trafficking cases.
Defendants are sentenced for federal criminal convictions under the United States Sentencing Commission’s Sentencing Guidelines. In a nutshell, the federal court system utilizes a grid contained in the Sentencing Guidelines to determine a presumptively appropriate sentence. This table accounts for the total offense level and criminal history score.
Total offense levels are determined by assessing a base offense level specific to each federal criminal offense. The court then considers enhancements for explicit offense conduct. Mitigating conduct can also result in total offense level reductions. Finally, the sentencing table calculates a presumptively appropriate sentencing range, which federal judges use when determining the sentence.
While the above is more process-driven, the reality is that the federal Sentencing Guidelines are unduly harsh. It is common for defendants sentenced in U.S. District Courts to receive significantly longer sentences than those imposed in state courts.
Unfortunately, the only way to fight against the federal criminal process is to hire a lawyer for your federal criminal defense. This attorney will review your case, identify weaknesses in the prosecution’s case, and present a vigorous defense. Federal criminal attorneys can work with you through strategic advocacy to secure dismissed charges and reduce criminal sentencing liability.
How Often Do Defendants Win These Cases?
An often-touted statistic is that 99 percent of federal criminal defendants are sentenced, with nearly 88 percent sentenced to a term of imprisonment. While scary figures, these numbers don’t tell the entire story.
According to the Pew Research Center, almost 80,000 defendants were sentenced in federal courts in 2018. Of these defendants, 90 percent pleaded guilty, 8 percent had their cases dismissed, and only 2 percent went to trial. For the same period, 320 federal defendants proceeded to trial, and fewer than 1 percent won at trial.
As discussed above, most federal criminal defendants are convicted through plea bargains. Federal criminal trials are exceedingly rare.
With the above in mind, it’s critical to retain the services of an experienced and trusted federal criminal defense lawyer. While the federal criminal process is designed around case processing and convictions, a competent defense can mean the difference between serving time in a prison cell and walking free.
More critically, considering that most federal criminal actions result in a conviction, it’s even more essential to have a federal criminal lawyer on your side who can argue for the best, most lenient sentence possible. While a distinct practice area, strategic federal sentencing can reduce prison time. Likewise, a term of home confinement or probation may be possible, depending on the case.
Can a Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer Help Me if I’m Already Sentenced?
Any federal criminal defense attorney worth their pay will jump at the chance to help shorten your sentence. This is true if you’ve already been sentenced and even if you are currently serving time in federal prison.
Direct appeals and habeas corpus petitions are the two primary post-conviction options for challenging your sentence. Direct appeals can be considered challenging a legal error at trial. On the other hand, habeas petitions concern either ineffective assistance of counsel at trial or prosecutorial misconduct.
Our federal defense attorney partners can help you run through your options. While their recommendation could be a direct appeal or habeas petition, other options include assisting you in cooperating with the government to secure a post-sentence time reduction. While a taboo topic, it is possible to provide substantial assistance to the government in prosecuting others. This can result in resentencing to a lesser sentence.
While our attorney partners can discuss your case with you and present your options, you must be cautious to avoid getting into trouble. Of course, this is easy for anyone outside to say, but when you’re in federal prison, it’s far easier for trouble to find you. So, do what you can to keep your head down, avoid getting mixed up with the wrong groups, and show that you’re a good person who deserves a reduced prison sentence.
What Can I Do to Better My Chances?
If you’re still nervous, there are several action steps criminal defendants can take to better their chances in federal criminal court. The most important thing is to know your rights.
Law enforcement agencies often do anything to try and get you talking without your lawyer. Don’t fall for this ploy. Repeatedly ask to speak with your federal criminal defense attorney or remain silent until you do.
If federal law enforcement attempts to search your property, ask for a copy of the search warrant. If they don’t have a warrant, make it clear that you don’t consent to the search. This is a prime time to call your federal criminal defense attorney.
They may try to trick you by using off-handed phrases, such as:
- “You don’t mind if I check your property, do you?”
- “You know, only guilty people ask for a lawyer.”
- “We’re just here to clear up whatever this is.”
- “If you speak with us, it will go a long way.”
Don’t be fooled. The only reason law enforcement searches you or your property is to secure evidence for use in criminal prosecution. Likewise, federal agents aren’t your friends, and cooperating with them at an early stage likely won’t result in a reduced sentence. Quite the opposite. Speaking with law enforcement without your federal criminal defense attorney present often results in foreclosed defenses and damning admissions.
The worst action you can take is to needlessly provide information or evidence to the federal government. These disclosures are presented to federal prosecutors who use them to bring federal criminal charges.
Call the Zoukis Consulting Group Today
You need an experienced federal criminal defense attorney to protect your rights if you are under federal criminal investigation. Again, the system is based on case processing, not necessarily justice. Do everything you can to protect your rights, prepare for trial, and walk free.
Whether this is your first time charged in federal court or you’re trying to appeal a conviction, you need an experienced federal defense attorney by your side. While strategic defense decisions abound, the one constant is the need for experienced and competent counsel.
The Zoukis Consulting Group can help. Book an initial case consultation. Our team can help you make the best decisions at the right times to ensure your continued freedom.
Published Feb 15, 2022 by Christopher Zoukis, JD, MBA | Last Updated by Christopher Zoukis, JD, MBA on May 12, 2023 at 10:32 am