Violations of United States federal criminal laws are prosecuted in federal court. Federal crimes are investigated by federal agencies such as the FBI, CIA, DEA, IRS, SEC, or ATF. These cases are prosecuted by the justice department, meaning that a trial for a violation of federal laws can be a particularly frightening and intimidating experience. The prosecutors and law enforcement agencies in federal cases have almost unlimited resources and smaller caseloads than their counterparts on the state levels.
Federal investigations are high-level and usually conducted months before formal charges are filed. Federal law enforcement officials are highly trained to handle specific crimes, which is why it’s important to have competent and aggressive legal representation to protect your rights and interests during this stressful time. An experienced federal criminal defense attorney will advise you right from the start and ensure your rights are protected. Facts uncovered and statements made during the investigation process can have a significant effect on your case. An attorney at Ringstrom Lawwill provide you with the legal counsel and assistance you need during this crucial time. We know your rights and the inner workings of federal court proceedings. Our attorneys have experience handling a wide range of complex federal criminal cases in Minnesota and throughout the United States. We work to obtain the best possible outcome for our clients by building cases for trial.
Whether you’ve learned that you’re being investigated or have been charged for a federal crime, contact a Minnesota federal criminal lawyer at Ringstrom Law as soon as possible. Call our firm at (218) 284-0484 or fill out our online contact form to discuss your case with our attorneys in complete confidence.
Federal Court Criminal Process
The judicial process in federal criminal cases varies from those in a state court. Once an individual is arrested for a federal offense, court probation or pretrial service officer will interview the perpetrator and review their background. The information obtained during the interview will be used later by the judge when determining whether or not to release the defendant beforea trial commences. The judge has the discretion to impose conditions of the release. Prosecutors at the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of Minnesota are liable for the enforcement of federal laws and the prosecution of persons charged with federal criminal offenses.
They work closely with federal agents to scrutinize evidence collected during an investigation. If they are convinced there’s enough evidence to prosecute, they will present their cases to a federal grand jury who will then determine if the evidence is enough for a defendant to stand trial. Once this is done, the prosecutors will file a federal indictment in the United States District Court that has prerogative over the case.
Typically, a federal judge will advise the respondent of the charges filed against them and will decide if there is probable cause to believe the defendant has committed a federal offense. After a plea bargain or trial, the Judge is responsible for making a ruling and sentencing a defendant. However, federal judges are required to consult the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. This means that a judge cannot use his or her discretion to determine an appropriate sentence. Sentencing guidelines typically requiremuch harsher penalties that than is the case with those imposed in state courts. Also, it’s difficult to obtaina plea bargain in federal courts.
If you or loved one is charged with a federal crime in Minnesota, please consult a criminal defense attorney at Ringstrom Law to help you build a strong defense against any imminent action against you. By retaining our legal services, we can conduct a thorough review of the details surrounding any criminal charge against you. We can present your case in such a way that it is not subjected to the federal sentencing guidelines.
Federal Crimes vs. State Crimes
Federal criminal laws differ from state laws because they are designed to punish activities that are deemed serious crimes against the nation rather than states therein. Whereas state laws are prosecuted by the Minnesota District Attorney’s office and handled within the Minnesota Superior Court system, federal crimes are prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office and the United States Department of Justice.
States have their own rules and procedures. Minnesota’s laws are compiled in a series of statutes in Chapter 609. Criminal Code. These laws clearly define state-level violations, and their penalties are included in the section dedicated to offenses. Federal laws, on the other hand, are compiled in the United States Code and cover all laws handled at the federal level. Federal laws cover issues that pertain to the Federal Government. For example, transporting quantities of cocaine from Minneapolis to Clay County is considered a state felony because you’ve transported narcotics over county lines under the control of the state of Minnesota. However, if you transportedcocaine from Minnesota to North Dakota, you have crossed federal borders, which means that your trafficking charge becomes a federal crime.
In some cases, however, you may face state and federal level charges for the same offense. In this example, you may be charged with a Minnesota felony for drug trafficking across state lines and additionally charged with a federal crime for transporting drugs across state lines. This will certainly complicate your defense because each case will be handled separately.
Federal Sentencing Guidelines
To determine the appropriate punishment for an individual convicted of a federal crime, federal court judges rely upon Federal Sentencing Guidelines. These guidelines were established by the U.S. Sentencing Commission and became effective in 1987. Found under 18 U.S. Code §3553, these guidelines provide federal judges with consistent sentencing, based on the individual offender’s criminal history as well as how serious the crime was. In other words, the guidelines seek to create consistency in punishment and avoid instances where defendants committing the exact same offenses are treated differently because of being sentenced in different federal courthouses or having different judges. Any federal judge who deviates from the guidelines must be able to give reasons for their decision.
The guidelines are intricate and rely on numerous aspects to determine the sentence in a given case. The first step under the guidelines is to establish the base level of the crime the individual was convicted of committing. The Guideline includes 43 levels of offenses and 6 criminal history categories. These depend on a defendant’s criminal history and how recent that criminal history is. The highest level is serious crimes with the harshest penalties. The Sentencing table will show a point of intersection between an offense a criminal history and offense level, and this determines the range of penalties.
For instance, the highest number is assigned to the highest level of a criminal offense. First-degree, premeditated murder has a base offense level of 43. Specific offense characteristics and adjustments will be subtracted from the base offense number in order to reach the final offense level. Each crime has specific characteristics which can alter the offense level. In addition, there are victim-related adjustments and adjustments related to the defendant’s role in the crime, which will raise or lower the offense level.
Another step in arriving at an offense level is the defendant’s acceptance of responsibility. If the offender pled guilty, truthfully admitted his/her role in the offense, or made restitution before a guilty verdict is entered, a judge may lower the offense by two levels. Once the offense level is determined, the second element involves the offender’s criminal record. There are six categories of criminal history starting with 1 for first-time offenders or those with the least serious criminal record to 6 for individuals with a serious criminal history.
Federal Court Judges have the option to depart from the federal sentencing guidelines based on factors related to the case, which may include:
- Gang connection to the crime
- Defendant’s use of a weapon to commit the crime
- The victim was a child
- Severe injuries inflicted upon or death of the victim
- Act of torture or cruelty by the defendant
It’s clear that determining a federal sentence can be extremely compound. It’s best to have in your corner a Minnesota federal crime attorney who can work to have the charges dismissed completely,minimize the potential sentence, obtain a “not guilty” verdict. The attorneys at Ringstrom Law have an in-depth understanding of the guidelines and have used them to gain lesser sentences for their clients. Having the right federal crimes lawyer can make a substantial difference in your federal case.
Adjustments to Federal Sentencing Guidelines
If a case has mitigating or aggravating circumstances that may have been taken into account by the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, a federal judge has the authorityto inflict a sentence above or below the range provided for in the guideline. However, the judge must state the reason for thedeparture in writing. The departure can be appealed by the government or the offender. If a defendanthas helped with the investigation or prosecution of other offenders, he or she may be eligible for a downward departure from the sentence determined by the guidelines. Typically, adjustments are made to the level of the offense depending on the factors below:
- Motivation of the crime
- Defendant’s role in committing the crime
- Prior criminal record of the defendant
- Amount of money or the value of the property taken
- Number of crimes or counts
Other Important Issues Associated With Federal Crimes
Any offender facing federal criminal charges has the right to an impartial jury. This is a critical issue you’ll want to discuss with your lawyer. A jury can make or break a case. As your attorney knows, jurors can have a wide range of experiences. In some instances, however, a particular group could be under or over-represented in a jury pool, creating a possible challenge.
Your criminal detention hearing is another pertinent issue you should discuss with your attorney. Detention may be requested if you’ve been charged with drug crime carrying a potential sentence of years, any offense characterized by a violent crime, any offense with potential sentencing of life imprisonment or death, or if the U.S. state attorney believes there’s a flight risk. The request to have you detained must be made at your initial appearance, followed by hearing 3-5 days later.
When deciding whether you’ll be released while your case is pending, a federal judge will consider four factors, including:
- The nature and circumstances of the alleged crime,
- The evidence against you,
- The potential of danger to a specific person or the community if you were released, and
- Your criminal history, employment, character, physical and mental condition, financial resources, family ties, length of time you have resided in the community, history of drug or alcohol abuse, and record of appearance at court proceedings.
Potential Penalties for Federal Crime Convictions
While the range of potential prison sentences and fines for most crimes is clearly established by the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, additional penalties can be imposed under various federal statutes. Depending on the charge(s), the possible penalties for the conviction of a federal crime may include:
- Fines: Statutory fines for individual and corporate offenders are different. But in all cases, the collective fines inflicted for federal crimes can by far exceed what most individuals and organizations can afford to pay.
- Imprisonment: The majority of serious federal crimes carry the potential for a minimum of several years of imprisonment. There are factors that can contribute to the increase of the potential prison sentence indicated by the sentencing guidelines. Also, defendants can be at risk for spending decades behind bars when the prosecutors pursue multiple counts of charges.
- Probation:If penalties are inevitable, a defendant can be put on supervised probation. As such, the defense needs to focus its strategies of securing probation instead of term imprisonment.
- Recoupment, compensation, and other possible financial penalties: A conviction for certain crimes will have the defendant sentenced to recoupments, restitution, and other possible financial penalties.
- Other penalties: In some cases, additional statutory penalties can also be imposed. Examples include exclusion from Medicaid and Medicare (in case of healthcare fraud) and loss of eligibility for SEC and DEA registrationin securities-related and prescription offenses.
Even after completing a court-imposed sentence, the consequences of a federal conviction can continue to affect your life. Some of the longer-lasting implications include:
- Travel restrictions
- Restrictions on types of employment
- Asset forfeiture
- Loss of professional licenses
Federal Offenses We Defend
There are more than 100 distinct offenses under the general category of federal crimes in the U.S. A crime may be prosecuted at the federal level if you’re found to have committed an offense that violated the United States criminal code or an offense associated with federal government property.
If you’ve been charged with a federal crime, it’s important to understand that charges of this nature are serious and could put your freedom at risk. What’s more, federal prosecutors have unlimited resources at their disposal to convict you. Therefore, retaining a seasoned and skilled defense attorney is your best bet at ensuring that your constitutional rights are not violated. Our attorneys have vast experience in handling federal cases and are all set to help you with your case. At Ringstrom Law, we handle all types of federal crimes, including (but not limited to):
- Accounting Fraud
- Tax Crimes
- Controlled Substance Violations
- Computer Crimes
- Corporate Crimes
- Drug Manufacturing
- Import/Export Crimes
- Bank Fraud
- Internet Fraud
- Healthcare Fraud
- Securities Fraud
- Immigration Law Violations
- Social Security Fraud
- Murder as a Federal Offense
- Child Pornography
- Drug Smuggling
- Mail Fraud
- Identity Theft
- Drug Violation
- Sex Crimes
- Money Laundering
- White Collar Crimes
- Interstate Crime
- Credit Card Fraud
- Check Fraud
Find a Minnesota Federal Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Federal criminal charges are the most serious in the U.S. and are prosecuted by highly trained and aggressive prosecutors. In most cases, federal crimes are more complex than state crimes with federal defendants facing harsher penalties and mandatory minimum sentences.
Federal prosecutors are notoriously tough, have extensive investigation experience, and use cutting-edge technology. What’s more, federal crimes often involve issues of search and seizure, entrapment, and confessions obtained from a suspect. Being charged with a federal crime is stressful and frightening, but the skilled criminal defense attorneys at Ringstrom Law can help ensure you’re in the best hands. Our attorneys have a proven record of success in federal courts, formulating defense strategies, and providing aggressive representation. A successful challenge can end in a favorable plea agreement, a reduction in the charges, or a dismissal of the case.
Time is of the essence when it comes to federal criminal cases. You need to act quickly when you’ve been charged with a federal offense or the subject of a federal investigation.Ringstrom Law understands your future is at stake and will begin building your defense to ensureyour rights are not violated at any step of the process. You can count on us to provide tireless attention to your freedom and aggressive legal representation.
We defend clients facing federal crimes throughout Minnesota as well as throughout the nation. Call our law office at (218) 284-0484 to schedule a free initial consultation, where we can begin exploring your options.