Being charged with a federal crime means you have allegedly violated a law enacted by the United States Congress, as opposed to a law enacted by a state. Federal crimes typically involve federally regulated activities, such as crimes involving the mail, wire communications or transactions, a drug crime, or a white-collar crime such as tax fraud, bank fraud, securities fraud, environmental crimes, money laundering, etc.
Violations of federal laws are typically more serious than breaking a state law, and federal criminal penalties are often much more severe than what you would encounter for violating a similar state law.
Jurisdiction is a key factor that distinguishes federal crimes from state crimes. Jurisdiction refers to a court’s authority to decide legal matters within a specific geographic area or over certain types of cases.
One way to look at jurisdiction is whether the crime occurred on state or federal property. For example, vandalizing your city’s recreation center violates state law, while vandalizing a national park is a federal crime.
Another way to determine jurisdiction is whether a crime violates federal law, such as if it relates to interstate commerce or violates a federal statute.
Federal laws are enforced by federal agencies, such as the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco & Firearms (ATF), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Securities & Exchange Committee (SEC), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
If you are charged with a federal crime, the case will be filed by a United States Attorney in federal court.
Federal felonies are divided into five categories, with Class A felonies being the most severe and Class E felonies being the least severe. The maximum sentence for a single Class A felony is life in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. The maximum penalty for a Class E felony is more than one year and less than five years in prison, and a maximum fine of $5,000.
Misdemeanor federal crimes are divided into categories A, B, and C, with A being the worst. A conviction for a federal misdemeanor crime carries a sentence of less than one year in prison and a maximum fine of $100,000. A class C misdemeanor carries a prison sentence of less than 30 days in jail and a maximum fine of $5,000.
When someone is convicted of a federal crime, the penalties they face are identified in the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. The Federal Sentencing Guidelines were enacted in 1987 in response to perceived sentencing disparities. When sentencing a defendant under the Guidelines, the judge will evaluate the seriousness of the criminal offense and assign it one of 43 levels. Each criminal offense has a base level. If there are extenuating circumstances, the offense level can increase. The offense level can decrease if there are mitigating circumstances. Other factors, such as whether a person pleads guilty, cooperates with the government or is found guilty by a jury, also affect the sentencing guidelines calculation
The judge will also evaluate a defendant’s criminal history and place a defendant into one of six categories. Category I is for most first-time offenders, while Category VI is for people with a lengthy or severe criminal history.
The judge then makes adjustments for an individual defendant based on extenuating and mitigating circumstances and applies the recommended sentence. Even within the recommended sentencing range, the judge can increase or decrease the severity of a defendant’s sentence.
If you have been charged with a federal crime, you need a lawyer with experience defending people in federal court who understands federal sentencing laws. An experienced federal criminal defense lawyer will prepare a defense that anticipates the penalties specified in the Federal Sentencing Guidelines and will minimize the likelihood and potential consequences of a conviction.
New York federal criminal defense attorney Hope Lefeber has dedicated her career to defending people accused of crimes in federal court. She has an in-depth understanding of complex federal sentencing laws that she uses to achieve the best results for her clients. After thoroughly investigating and assessing her client’s situation, Ms. Lefeber will offer straightforward advice about your best course of action.
If you are under investigation or have been charged with a federal crime, experienced, aggressive representation is crucial. Hope Lefeber has defended people accused of crimes in federal court for over 30 years. She is committed to keeping the government out of people’s lives and vigorously opposes government overreaching. She has earned a reputation for extraordinary results at sentencing and leaves no stone unturned when proving grounds for mitigation.
To learn more, contact New York federal criminal defense attorney Hope Lefeber by calling (610) 668-7927.