There are many types of criminal defense lawyers. The vast majority spend most of their time in state superior courts defending clients in state criminal actions. Most of these attorneys have limited if any trial experience in federal court.
If you are a target in a federal criminal investigation, it is to your advantage to consult an experienced federal crimes attorney. Preferably, one with substantial trial experience in federal court.
Federal Law Different From State Law
A federal crime is any violation of any federal law including those laws promulgated by dozens of federal regulatory agencies. Each of these agencies has its own jurisdiction, federal purpose, and administrative rules and procedures that must be strictly followed.
The federal criminal justice system, its judges, rules of procedure and evidence can be vastly different from state court systems and rules. What’s more, federal rules of criminal procedure tend to be more rigid, the indictment process more complex, and the federal criminal sentencing phase more punitive.
Federal District Courts
According to the 2012 Federal Government Census there are currently 94 federal district courts in the United States. These federal trial courts possesses original jurisdiction over federal matters and issues of law. One or more of these district courts have been established in every state including the District of Columbia. Federal courts are mostly found in large metropolitan areas.
Federal Laws – Federal Acts And Agencies -Jurisdiction
Crimes that involve federal agencies trigger federal jurisdiction. Examples include the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Crimes Handled By Federal Crimes Attorneys
The following types of federal cases are handled by federal criminal defense attorneys: extortion, money laundering, cyber-crimes, immigration fraud, racketeering, drug trafficking and distribution across state lines, securities fraud, asset forfeiture, corporate inside trading, price fixing, medicare fraud, tax evasion, counterfeiting, environmental law violations, and kidnappings which involve crossing state lines.
Business Crimes Demanding Greater Levels of Legal Expertise
The financial collapse of 2008 have implicated the core leadership of major national banks, securities brokerage firms, mortgage companies and a host of other types of financial institutions. Consequently, the focus on prosecuting white collar crimes by federal enforcement agencies has grown in importance in recent years. As a result, federal criminal defense attorneys have been in strong demand and their fees reflect it.
Another consequence of increased criminal filings for financial crimes is that they tend to be more sophisticated and paper-intensive. Federal attorneys are often required to retain financial experts such as forensic accountants and tax specialists that can testify on a wide range of business and accounting practices. This makes defending financial crime cases time intensive, expensive and more complex.
It also requires the federal defense attorney to be more knowledgeable in financial forensics and complex business structures. As a consequence, large business and banking based law firms have been expanding their white collar defense practice and have been known to earn fees in excess of $700.00 an hour for their services.
Locating And Retaining Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys
Finding an experienced federal criminal defense attorney is much easier in larger metropolitan areas, especially in those cities where federal district courts are actually located.
We advise not hiring the first federal crimes attorney you interview. You need to be selective by asking lots of questions about their prior federal experience. How many federal cases have they tried to verdict? What is the lawyers specific expertise within the firms federal practice. Will the attorney you are consulting with be the actual trial attorney in your case?
How To Find A Qualified Federal Criminal Defense Attorney
- Referrals – Go to your own lawyer first for a referral to a federal criminal defense attorney. Most lawyers know other lawyers who practice in different areas including federal criminal defense lawyers. Explain that you want to find a lawyer that practices regularly in federal criminal court.
- Internet Search – This is an excellent way to locate a federal crimes attorney. We suggest you first locate and identify the closest city to you that is home to a federal district court. Once you have located such a city, search under federal crimes attorneys in that geographical area. We recommend reviewing at least five different federal practice sites before choosing a few to actually visit. Take your time here. Visit at least three different federal defense attorneys before making a choice.
- Telephone Books – We would not recommend using a phone book to locate federal crimes attorneys. Any criminal defense lawyer can say they practice in federal court even though there experience in this area could be extremely limited. You will want to dive into the lawyers professional credentials and phone books simply don’t have the bandwidth to provide you with such detail.
- Online Legal Resources – There are a number of online legal resource directories that include detailed profiles of federal defense lawyers, as well as important information on the federal criminal justice process and related services.
Unable To Afford A Private Attorney?
If you are unable to afford representation and if you financially qualify, you may be able to secure a federal appointed attorney at no charge to you.
Technically, the appointed attorney has the same responsibilities and duties as a retained attorney, except that the appointed attorney is compensated by the government rather then you. This is where you need to be careful. The appointed attorney will rarely dedicate the time and resources necessary to provide you with a zealous defense – you will likely get the basics and your case will be settled rather then litigated through trial.