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Legal Defense for Federal Criminal Charges

Jim kontos
By James Kontos

Kontos Law – Experienced Federal Criminal Lawyer

If you were charged with a federal crime, you need the best defense to protect your freedom. The federal criminal justice system can be intimidating, and you need a federal criminal attorney defending you in Court. Kontos Law is here to help you if you were wrongly accused of a federal crime that you did not commit. Were you told by law enforcement, detective, or investigating officer that you are under federal investigation? If the FBI, DEA, Health and Human Services Department, DOJ, or other federal organization says that a case has been opened against you it is time to call our criminal defense law firm so we can start building your defense. Contact Kontos Law for a free consultation and to learn more about your legal options and possible defense strategies.

You should know that finding an attorney experienced with federal cases and the federal Courts in Texas is of the utmost importance. Your defense counselor will discuss your case and possible defense strategies with you, along with any known evidence and the federal investigative process that in many cases spans several years. Our defense counselors will also explain the possible punishment for a conviction, including prison time so you understand the severity of the federal charges. Our law firm does not discuss these things with you to alarm you, we believe that treating clients with honesty and integrity is the right thing to do.

Federal Criminal Charges We Defend

Federal criminal charges encompass a wide range of offenses, from violent crimes such as interstate kidnapping to white collar crimes such as mail fraud. The following is a list of some of the more common federal crimes:

  • Counterfeiting: As outlined in U.S. Code, Title 25, counterfeiting is a serious federal felony charge that can carry high prison sentences and large fines. The exact penalty depends on what has been counterfeited. For example, counterfeiting of U.S. securities can lead to up to 25 years in federal prison and up to $250,000 in fines; these penalties can be increased in the convicted defendant benefited financially from the crime or if a third party suffered financial loss.
  • Tax Fraud and Tax Evasion: Both using illegal means to escape paying taxes (otherwise known as tax evasion) and fraudulently filing a tax return are felonies under federal law. Under Title 26 of U.S. Code, punishment includes up to five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines. 
  • Bank Fraud and Securities Fraud: Bank and securities fraud encompasses a range of illegal actions, including insider trading, misrepresentations and churning. Punishment for a bank fraud or securities fraud conviction includes up to five years in prison per count, and can also cost millions of dollars in fines if the victims lost money.
  • Mail Fraud, a.k.a. Wire Fraud: Mail and wire fraud–that is, any attempt to defraud another using the postal system or wire communications like email, text messaging, or even mobile app communication. According to Title 18 of U.S. Code, a conviction of email fraud, mail, or wire fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, and fines up to $1 million. If the alleged victim of fraud was a financial institution, or resident of a federal disaster area the possible prison time for a conviction increases to 30 years plus up to one million dollars in fines. Credit Card Fraud: Using a stolen, lost or otherwise fraudulently obtained credit card is illegal under Title 15 of the U.S. Code, with a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $10,000.
  • Health Care Fraud: Two different federal laws cover health care fraud issues: Title 18 of the U.S. Code and the Anti-Kickback Statute. The former applies penalties of as much as 10 years in prison and $500,000 in fines to those who intentionally attempt to defraud a healthcare benefit program (such as Medicaid), while the latter imposes prison time of up to five years with fines up to $25,000 for offering a kickback for a Medicaid or Medicare referral.
  • Identity Theft: The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act makes it a crime for a person to knowingly use another person’s identity; convicted defendants face up to two years in prison (or up to five years if the identity theft was terrorism-related).
  • Internet Crimes: A wide variety of offenses fall under the umbrella of federal internet crimes, including wiretapping, hacking and other forms of illegal access. Under Title 18 of the U.S. Code, sentence and fines vary depending on the specific nature of the crime, the extent of the damage and any human threat.
  • Drug Possession, Drug Manufacturing and Drug Trafficking: Several sections of the U.S. Code make drug possession, manufacturing and trafficking illegal, including Title 21 and Title 46. While potential sentences and fines vary depending on the amount and type of substance held, fines and penalties are typically very high. 
  • RICO Violations: The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (also known as RICO) applies to illegal actions taken in furtherance of an ongoing criminal organization, and is usually used to target organized crime. An action can be prosecution under the RICO Act when a certain number of predicate offenses are met, including fraud, embezzlement, money laundering and other violent crimes.
  • Interstate Kidnapping: While kidnapping is usually a state felony crime in Texas, it becomes a federal offense if the kidnapping victim is transported across state lines. 
  • Illegal Firearm Possession and Sale: Both possessing a firearm illegally (for example, due to a prior felony conviction) and selling firearms outside of legal avenues carry high penalties. Title 18 of the U.S. Code provides for up to 10 years in prison for illegal firearm possession (with increased time for repeat felony offenders) and similar penalties for illegal sales.
  • Immigration-Related Offenses: In recent years, immigration-related offenses (such as entering the country illegal) have accounted for half of all federal arrests. Under Title 8 of the U.S. Code, penalties can range from six months in prison and fines for a first offense with sentences and fines growing with each subsequent offense; a convicted defendant may also be deported.

The Federal Criminal Investigation Process Explained

While state-level crimes are generally investigated by local police departments, country sheriff departments or state investigative agents, investigation into federal crimes is handled by a wide range of federal agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Department of Homeland Security, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Border Patrol, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Postal Service, the Health and Human Services Department and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF).

The federal agency conducting the investigation varies depending on the nature of the crime; for example, the IRS investigates tax fraud while the Health and Human Services Department handles Medicaid and Medicare abuse. In certain cases, multiple federal agencies may participate in a single investigation, such as for identity theft.

If the appropriate federal agency finds enough evidence to justify a federal criminal charge, the case is prosecuted in federal court by an Assistant U.S. Attorney. In general, federal cases take longer than state-level cases due to the relatively small number of federal prosecutions each year.

Why You Should Hire an Experienced Federal Criminal Lawyer

If you are under investigation or facing criminal charges for any crime–state or federal–hiring a skilled and experienced attorney is key. However, when facing federal charges, the importance can be even greater.

  • Only a Handful of Defense Attorneys Have Experience in Federal Courts.
  • Minimum Punishment & Prison Sentencing is Higher in Federal Cases.
  • Federal Judges are Not Required to Honor Plea Deals Between the Prosecution & Defense.

Why don’t most defense attorneys have experience with federal cases?
There are many fewer federal criminal prosecutions than state criminal prosecutions; in any given year, federal courts process a million cases, while state courts face 30 times the number of prosecutions. Because there are less federal cases, fewer lawyers have experience with federal courts and procedure than with state courts. Since the differences between the rules and regulations in the two types of court can be significant, choosing a lawyer who has a track record of representing clients in federal court is crucial.

Can a Federal Judge Reduce Sentencing Terms?
No. Most federal crimes carry mandatory minimum sentences, and federal judges are bound to follow these sentencing guidelines. In general, these guidelines are much stricter than state-level minimums, meaning that federal defendants who are found guilty are likely to face significantly longer sentences than state defendants.

Can a Plea Deal be Overturned by a Federal Judge?
Yes, and it happens often because federal judges are not bound to following certain sentencing considerations included in plea deals made between federal prosecutors and the defense.

Together, the possibility of harsh sentencing underscores the importance of obtaining representation from a knowledgeable attorney with a background in federal criminal defense.

Contact Kontos Law to Discuss Your Legal Options

Sources

https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/tax_evasion
https://www.irs.gov/compliance/criminal-investigation/related-statutes-and-penalties-general-fraud
https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL30722.pdf
http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/10/immigration-offenses-make-up-a-growing-share-of-federal-arrests/
https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/15/1644
https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/criminal-ccips/legacy/2015/01/14/ccmanual.pdf
https://www.justice.gov/usao-sc/programs/ceasefire/brochures-and-talking-points/federal-firearms-laws
https://www.ussc.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/research-and-publications/quick-facts/Quick_Facts_Counterfeiting_FY14.pdf
https://www.justice.gov/usam/usam-9-43000-mail-fraud-and-wire-fraud