Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you have been arrested and/or indicted for a federal offense, you face fierce prosecution by the United States Government. The federal government possesses unlimited resources at its disposal and federal investigators often build their case over months or even years before prosecutors present the case to a grand jury. In fact, by the time the United States Attorney’s Office presents evidence to a grand jury, the AUSA (Assistant United States Attorney) is ready for trial and fixated on obtaining a conviction. Approximately ninety-seven percent (97%) of federal criminal trials result in conviction. However, Elliott C. Crawford is among the three percent (3%) of federal criminal defense attorneys who have secured “NOT GUILTY” verdicts in federal court.
FEDERAL CRIME AND INVESTIGATION
A federal offense is a crime that is made illegal by U.S. federal legislation. The jurisdiction of the federal courts is set forth in Article 3, Section 2, of the United States Constitution. Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction because they can hear only two (2) main types of cases: (1) Diversity of Citizenship and (2) Cases Involving Federal Question. For a federal court to have jurisdiction over a criminal case, the crime to be prosecuted must either have been created pursuant to an express or implied constitutional grant of authority, or must have been committed in an area owned by or under the exclusive control of the federal government. Federal crimes include but are not limited to:
- Drug Offenses
- Fraud Crimes
- Theft and Embezzlement
- Public Corruption
- Extortion and Blackmail
- Violent Crimes
- White Collar Crimes
- Weapon Offenses
- Internet Offenses
- Conspiracy Offenses
- Counterfeiting and Forgery
- Mail Fraud
- Crimes Involving Interstate Commerce
Federal offenses are investigated by federal law enforcement agencies such as:
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- Drug Enforcement Administration
- United States Secret Service
- Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives
- United States Marshals Service
- United States Postal Inspection Service
- Immigration and Customs Enforcement
If you have been contacted by federal law enforcement, simply ask whether you are a suspect, person of interest, or possible witness. If you are either a suspect, person of interest, or law enforcement refuses to disclose your status, INVOKE YOUR RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT and request to have an attorney present during questioning.
FEDERAL GRAND JURY INDICTMENT
The 5th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States provides in part that “no person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury . . . .” A grand jury, which normally consists of 16 to 23 members, hears evidence presented by the AUSA and determines whether there is probable cause to believe that a crime was committed and that a specific individual committed the crime. If the grand jury finds probable cause (12 grand jurors must vote in favor of the indictment) then it will return a written statement of the charges called an “indictment” or “true bill”. In contrast, if the grand jury does not find probable cause, the grand jury will return a “no bill/not a true bill”.
Grand juries are held in secret and the law forbids anyone other than the grand jury, the government attorney, the witness under examination, the court reporter, and an interpreter (if necessary) from being in the grand jury room. This exclusion also applies to defense counsel. However, if the suspect is under examination, he/she may leave the grand jury room to consult his/her attorney prior to answering a question (it should be noted that it’s rare for the subject of an investigation to testify before a grand jury). The person under investigation is prohibited from questioning witnesses and/or presenting evidence to the grand jury because the purpose of the grand jury is to test the sufficiency of the government’s evidence, not to determine guilt/innocence.
ARRAIGNMENT, DETENTION, AND PRE-TRIAL RELEASE
If the grand jury returns with an indictment, the Court will contact your attorney (assuming that you have retained counsel at this juncture) to schedule your arraignment and instruct you to contact the United States Probation Office, Pretrial Services. An officer with Pretrial Services conducts a pretrial investigation, gathering and verifying important information about the defendant including but not limited to: the defendant’s education, employment history, sources of income, residence, family members, ties to the community, and alcohol/drug history. The officer then prepares and provides the Court with a report and makes a recommendation to detain or release the defendant during the pendency of the case. The sole purpose of conducting this investigation is to ascertain whether the defendant poses a flight risk and/or danger to the community. Your attorney will be provided a copy of this report at the arraignment.
Pursuant to Rule 10 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, an arraignment must be conducted in open court. At the arraignment, the following will transpire:
- The magistrate will ensure that the defendant has been provided a copy of the Indictment or Information,
- The magistrate will instruct the AUSA to read the Indictment or Information in open court,
- The magistrate will ask the defendant to plead to the Indictment or Information,
- The magistrate will address pre-trial release or detention,
- The magistrate will set a trial date and notify counsel of various deadlines.
Once you have been arraigned, you will proceed to the United States Marshals Office where you will be photographed, fingerprinted, and processed.
Click on the following link to access the federal court flowchart: Federal Court Flowchart
ROCKET DOCKET: 18 U.S.C. Section 3161(c)(1)
Pursuant to Title 18, Section 3161(c)(1), in any case in which a plea of not guilty is entered, the trial of a defendant charged shall commence within seventy (70) days from the filing of the information or indictment. In fact, it’s not uncommon for a defendant’s case to proceed to trial within forty (40) days of Indictment. Because the federal courts strongly enforce this “rocket docket”, you need to retain an attorney who will be able to quickly review discovery, ascertain witnesses and evidence favorable to your case, file pre-trial motions, and develop trial strategy.
If your case proceeds to trial, you will need an experienced federal trial lawyer to litigate your cause. The United States Government has the burden to prove each and every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Approximately ninety-seven percent (97%) of federal criminal trials result in conviction. However, Elliott C. Crawford is among the three percent (3%) of federal criminal defense attorneys who have secured “NOT GUILTY” verdicts in federal court.
SENTENCING AND FEDERAL SENTENCING GUIDELINES
If the defendant is found guilty, the Court is mandated by Title 18, Section 3553(a) of the United States Code, to impose a sentence sufficient, but not greater than necessary, to comply with the following purposes:
- To reflect the seriousness of the offense, to promote respect for the law, and to provide just punishment for the offense,
- To afford adequate deterrence to criminal conduct,
- To protect the public from further crimes of the defendant,
- To provide the defendant with needed educational or vocational training, medical care, or other correctional treatment in the most effective manner.
In determining the minimally sufficient sentence, § 3553(a) further directs sentencing courts to consider the following factors:
- The nature and circumstances of the offense and the history and characteristics of the defendant,
- The kinds of sentences available,
- The need to avoid to avoid unwarranted sentence disparities among defendants with similar records who have been found guilty of similar conduct,
- The need to provide restitution to any victims of the offense.
The Court uses a Sentencing Table which provides guidelines based upon the offense level (vertical) and the criminal history category (horizontal) of the accused. Where the vertical and horizontal calculations intersect is the sentencing range (in months of incarceration) available to the Court. The defendant may be entitled to, or subject to, a downward or upward departure from the sentencing range. Sentencing options available to the Court are based on the “Zones of Calculation”:
- Zone A: Fine, straight probation, or imprisonment.
- Zone B: Imprisonment, imprisonment plus supervised release with community confinement or home detention, or probation with intermittent confinement or community confinement or home detention.
- Zone C: Imprisonment, or imprisonment with community confinement or home detention.
- Zone D: Imprisonment only.
Click on the following link to access the Federal Sentencing Table: Federal Sentencing Table
If you have been arrested and/or charged with a federal crime, you need an experienced federal criminal defense attorney with a proven record of success in federal court. The Law Office of Elliott C. Crawford, P.C. zealously represents clients charged with federal crimes in the United States District Courts for the Western, Northern, and Eastern Districts. Call now and schedule your consultation.