Experienced Defense Against Federal Charges
Federal Criminal Prosecution—That’s a whole different kettle of fish. Set aside everything you think you know about criminal defense when you walk into the federal courthouse, because the rules all change.
I first began working as a lawyer in federal courts in the 1970’s, mostly in the Eastern and Northern Districts of Texas. I become licensed in the Southern District of Texas in 1981 and the United States Supreme Court in 1982. In the late 1990’s I spent several years working in the Brownsville and Fort Worth Federal Public Defenders Offices. Also, I have trained other lawyers in federal practice over the years. When I worked as an Assistant Federal Public Defender in Fort Worth, I was also an adjunct teacher of trial advocacy at the Wesleyan School of Law, now Texas A&M.
“A jury consists of twelve persons chosen to decide who has the better lawyer.” – Robert Frost
Federal court is more formal. And because the pay is better than in State court, the Feds can hire the best people from State court. Prosecutors tend to be more experienced or have impressive college and law school degrees. The cops are often law school or accounting school graduates. The clerks and court reporters are sometimes cherry picked from the State clerk’s office. The interpreters are marvels, the best educated folks in the courthouse. And the federal judges are impressive. Over the last 50 years, the ones I have known or observed closely usually came from one of two groups, either political wizards or hot shot lawyers with a big firm background and Ivy League pedigrees. The federal magistrates are chosen by the Article III judges for competence to help them with the cases, so they sometimes know more law than the judges. They are the educated Greek scholars helping the Roman Patricians.
In Federal Court, plea negotiations are different because they hardly exist. The prosecution cannot “offer” a certain sentence, because the judge will make that decision, and sometimes you won’t know until you’re standing in front of the judge for the “martillazo.” The judge may make up his mind when he hears the evidence at the sentencing hearing.
There is no parole in the federal system.
Evidence in federal sentencing is different because it is not governed by the Rules of Evidence, so we prepare letters and pictures from family members that would not be admissible in a State Court punishment trial.
Sentences are often much harsher than State Court and this is because of the impact of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.
“An unjust law is itself a species of violence. Arrest for its breach is more so.” – Mohandas K. Gandhi
Federal Crimes are different, too. Occasionally the Feds will have a murder or a sex crime, but for the most part, these are left to the State. I’ve listed types of cases with which I have had experience. The more common crimes are the following:
Immigration Crimes. These were the most common cases we handled at the Federal Public Defenders’ Office. Sometimes the best strategy is to get early pleas and reduction of sentence under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Sometimes, in a transporting case, the intent of the client is important. Reentry of removed aliens, 8 U.S. Code § 1326 can be punished up to 20 years for people with an aggravated felony criminal history. Bringing in and harboring certain aliens, 8 U.S.C. §1324, can range from a maximum of five years to life in prison or the death penalty if someone dies in the transporting.
Drug Cases. Often the issue in these cases is whether the client knew the drugs were in the car or in the house. 21 USC § 841(a)(1) – Distribution/ Manufacturing/ Possession with intent to Distribute Statutory maximum generally is 20 years. The weight of the drugs will determine how serious the crime is. For example, 100 kilos of marijuana: Five year mandatory minimum and maximum 40 years (21 USC 841(b)(1)(B)). 1000 kilos of marijuana: Ten year mandatory minimum and maximum life (21 USC 841(b)(1)(A).
Gun Cases. These are cases in an evolving area of law because of 2nd Amendment issues. I. POSSESSION OR RECEIPT OF A FIREARM OR AMMUNITION BY A PROHIBITED PERSON: 18 USC § 922(g). Punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment. Pursuant to 18 USC § 924(e), may receive minimum sentence of 15years without parole if offender has 3 or more prior convictions for a felony crime of violence (e.g., burglary, arson, extortion, assault) and/or drug trafficking felony.
Computer Crimes/Sex Crimes Against Children. These cases are statistically treated with longer sentences than murder. Clients are often surprised about how much trouble they are in. These cases often involve computer analysis to see where the images came from. 18 U.S. Code § 2251 – Sexual exploitation of children, depending on the facts have mandatory minimums of 15 years, or 25 years, or 35 years and as much as life.
Corruption Cases. South Texas has been plagued by corruption and the Feds are the main watchdogs on this type of crime because the State or County wrong-doers are not likely to prosecute themselves. Most of the time in the past, we have not gotten along well with corrupt officials, but often material witnesses have needed help. They are not in trouble, and they want to keep it that way. 18 U.S. Code § 201 – Bribery of public officials and witnesses usually carries large fines and not more than two years of prison.
Medicaid and Food Stamp Fraud Cases. We have represented doctors and merchants who are in trouble because of their billing practice. Sometimes getting ahead of the case, by bringing the client in under a proffer letter of protection is the best thing for the client. 18 U.S. Code § 371 – Conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud United States carry a punishment of not more than five years and a fine.
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“The law was made for one thing alone, for the exploitation of those who don’t understand it.” – Bertolt Brecht
Federal criminal charges are serious and should be met with a serious defense. To learn more about your rights and options if you have been accused of a crime, schedule a consultation by calling 956-688-9858 or sending an email.