Criminal representation in federal court requires extensive knowledge of the complex federal rules of criminal procedure and practice. It is a completely different type of representation than state criminal practice. The rules and procedures are heavily slated in favor of the United States Attorney, which enjoys all of the charging power and law enforcement resources. There is a vast array of crimes that the United States Attorney can charge that implicate potential mandatory minimum sentences. 

Attorney John E. MacDonald has practiced in Rhode Island and Massachusetts District Courts since 2001. He has been lead and co-counsel in a number of high-profile federal trials, including United States v. Richard Hatch – the first winner of the reality television show Survivor charged with tax evasion and fraud offenses. Attorney MacDonald enjoys an excellent working relationship with the prosecutors in the United States Attorney’s Office in Rhode Island since so many of them are former Rhode Island state prosecutors.

What You Need to Know About Federal Crimes

Dealing with a criminal charge on the federal level is a much more complex process than at the state level. This is why it’s critical to work with a criminal defense attorney that has a strong background in federal criminal laws and federal criminal defense strategies. Below are some common questions and concerns that clients may have when being accused of a federal crime. Contact our law firm immediately if you believe you will be charged with a federal crime. 

What is a federal crime

In the simplest of terms, a federal crime is a violation of federal law. A federal crime can also be an act that Congress has deemed a crime under federal court jurisdiction. When you’re charged with a federal crime, your charges are handled by federal judges as well as federal law enforcement officers. How the federal court defines a federal crime is complicated by design. To understand what your charges are and if you’ll be charged at the federal level, contact our law firm as soon as possible to discuss your case with a federal criminal defense attorney. 

What are examples of federal crimes?

There is a wide range of crimes that the United States Attorney can charge an individual with that can lead to harsh consequences and severe punishments. Here are some examples of federal crimes:

  • Mail fraud
  • Aircraft Hijacking
  • Carjacking
  • Kidnapping
  • Lynching 
  • Bank Robbery
  • Child Pornography
  • Credit Card Fraud
  • Identity Theft
  • Computer Crimes
  • Federal Hate Crimes
  • Animal Cruelty
  • Tax Evasion
  • Counterfeiting

If you believe you will be accused or charged with any of the above mentioned federal crimes or if you’re accused of a federal crime that is not on this list, contact our law office immediately to discuss your case. The sooner you speak with a criminal defense attorney about your federal charge, the sooner an aggressive defense plan can be developed. 

Who investigates federal crimes? 

There are various federal agencies that investigate a potential federal crime. Remember that the United States Attorney has endless resources when it comes to an investigation. This is one of the reasons why it’s crucial to hire a federal criminal defense attorney immediately if you suspect you’ll be facing a federal criminal charge. Your federal criminal defense attorney will have to conduct their own investigation into your charges and design a powerful defense strategy to counter the federal agency’s investigation. Sometimes the federal government will work with one of these agencies, but many times, multiple agencies are involved in any given investigation into a federal crime. These agencies include: 

  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
  • Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
  • Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF)
  • United States Secret Service (USSS)
  • Homeland Security Investigation (DHS/HSI)

If you’ve been questioned or served a warrant by any of these federal agencies, contact our law office today to understand your rights and obtain immediate legal representation by a federal criminal defense lawyer. 

What types of federal crimes does your law firm handle? 

There is no federal crime that our law firm doesn’t handle. It doesn’t matter if it’s mail fraud or tax evasion, we have the experience and the dedication to tackle any federal criminal charge. To learn more about our extensive knowledge and experience in defending those that have been charged at the federal level, call our law firm today to speak with an attorney. 

How is a federal crime processed?

The federal criminal justice system is a powerful entity that has long and complex procedures for investigating, charging, and going to trial. Here is a step-by-step guide of how a federal crime is processed according to the Offices of the United States Attorney:

Investigation

A federal government agency conducts an investigation into a potential crime. This can involve search warrants, speaking to witnesses and alleged victims, and gathering evidence. Depending on the circumstances of the case, the first step may be an arrest. If the police have probable cause to arrest a suspect, they will likely go forward with an arrest. 

Being Charged

After the prosecutor reviews the information collected by the federal investigators and any other individuals involved, the prosecutor decides whether to present the case to the grand jury. When a person is indicted, they are given official notice that the federal government believes they have committed a crime. The indictment contains the basic information that informs the person of the charges against them. 

Once the defendant is charged, they can either hire a criminal defense attorney or they may choose to be represented by an attorney provided by the government – a public defender. The defendant’s criminal defense attorney assists the defendant in understanding the law, the facts of the case, and represents the defendant to the fullest extent. 

Arraignment Hearing

Soon after a defendant is arrested and charged, they are brought before a magistrate judge for an initial hearing on the case. At that time, the defendant learns more about their rights and the federal charges against them. The federal judge decides if the defendant will be held in prison or released on bail until the trial. Before the federal judge can make a decision on whether to grant bail, they must consider factors such as how long the defendant has lived in the area, if they have family nearby, a prior criminal record, if they have threatened any witnesses in the case, or if they pose any potential danger to the community.

If the defendant cannot post bail, the judge may order the defendant to be remanded into the custody of the U.S. Marshals pending trial. The defendant will be asked to plead guilty or not guilty to the charges. It is never recommended to attend an arraignment hearing without a criminal defense attorney by your side. 

Discovery

Discovery is the process in which the federal prosecutors must provide the defendant and their federal criminal defense attorney with copies of materials and evidence that the prosecution intends to use at trial. At this stage, both the prosecutor and the criminal defense attorney will become familiar with the facts of the crime, talk to the witnesses, study the evidence, anticipate problems that could arise during trial, and develop a trial strategy. 

Plea Bargain

At this point, if the federal government has a strong case, they may present the defendant with the option of a plea deal in lieu of going to a trial. It’s never recommended to accept a plea deal without speaking to a federal criminal defense attorney first. 

Pre-Trial Motions 

Before the trial, the prosecution must respond to or file motions. A motion is an application to the court made by the prosecutor or defense attorney, requesting that the court make a decision on a certain issue before the trial begins. The motion can affect the trial, courtroom, defendants, evidence, or testimony.

Trial 

At the trial, the facts of a case are presented to a jury and they decide if the defendant is guilty or not guilty of the charge offered. During the trial, the prosecutor uses witnesses and evidence to prove to the jury that the defendant committed the federal crime. The defendant and their criminal defense attorney will present their side of the story using witnesses and evidence. The federal judge will decide what evidence can be shown to the jury. 

Sentencing 

If the defendant is found guilty, there will be a separate hearing for sentencing. The United States Sentencing Commissions uses a set of sentencing guidelines that recommend certain punishments for certain crimes while considering various factors.

Appeal 

Even after a defendant is found guilty, they can speak to their criminal defense attorney about appealing to the Circuit Court if the defendant believes they were wrongly convicted or the sentence was too severe. An appeal is not another trial but an opportunity for the defendant to try to raise specific errors that might have occurred at trial.  A specific conviction may be reversed, a sentence altered, or a new trial may be ordered altogether if the Appeals Court decides that particular course of action. Even after an appeal is decided by a circuit court judge, a defendant can try to appeal that decision to the United States Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.

As you can see, this process involves many steps and can take years to carry out. Without the help of a criminal defense attorney, you can easily get lost in this system and you may face punishments and charges that are unjust. To learn more about how a federal crime is processed, contact our law firm today. 

What are the benefits of hiring a federal criminal defense lawyer?

There is a long list of benefits of hiring a federal criminal defense lawyer. When being charged on the federal level, your rights need to be protected. The primary focus of a federal criminal defense attorney is to make sure that a defendant understands their rights, has access to a fair trial, and is being properly represented in a federal court of law. The federal government has a lot of power and resources, but an experienced criminal defense attorney can spot weaknesses or flaws in the prosecutor’s case. This allows your criminal defense lawyer to create an aggressive defense strategy to prove your innocence or create holes in the prosecution’s case. A criminal defense attorney can make sure that you’re not facing biased verdicts or unfair punishments. A defense lawyer always has your best interest in mind and will be the most important person you can count on while your federal crime is being processed. It is never recommended to represent yourself or work with a court-appointed public defender when dealing with something as serious as a federal criminal charge.

If you are under federal investigation or have further questions about the federal criminal law, or your federal case please call today to schedule a free consultation with federal criminal lawyer John E. MacDonald.

Contact a Federal Criminal Defense Attorney 

If you’ve been accused of a federal crime or charged with a federal crime, you want to have criminal defense attorney John E. MacDonald on your side. The Law Office of John E. MacDonald is open 24-hours a day, 7-days a week. Contact us today to discuss your federal criminal case.

Criminal Defense Attorney John E. MacDonald

Attorney John E. MacDonald’s interview by the media after the verdict in United States v. Richard Hatch.