Federal Criminal Defense
Many people don't realize that crimes are tried on many different levels. Most crimes are held under the jurisdiction of the state and in almost every instance a crime will be tried on this level. In some cases, however, a crime will fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government. These cases typically involve the more severe of crimes that have harsher penalties. Due to this increased severity, if you have found that you have been criminally charged with a federal crime, you do not have a moment to lose in consulting with an attorney that you can rely upon.
What are the complexities of a federal offense?
Crimes that are usually classified as federal crimes are those that either affect the country as a whole or those that cross state lines. For example, common federal crimes include kidnapping, drug trafficking and terrorism. While these can incorporate the element of violence, not every federal crime is a violent act. In fact, many federal crimes fall under the umbrella term of white collar crimes and include money laundering,
fraud of all kinds, tax evasion and counterfeiting.
In cases such as this, you will not be dealing with local law enforcements leading the investigation. Instead, it will likely be a government agency, such as the FBI, that will be looking into the case. According to the FBI, they have jurisdiction over 200 different categories of federal law; the categories that are considered to be their priority include the following:
- Internet crime;
- Public corruption;
- Civil rights violations;
- Organized crime;
- White collar crimes; and
- Violent crimes and theft
Understanding Federal Sentencing Guidelines
In 1984, Congress passed the Sentencing Reform Act. Designed to create consistency among federal judges' sentences around the nation, the act also addressed the idea that, to date, federal sentences had not been harsh enough. As a result of the act, a U.S. Sentencing Commission created a Guidelines Manual that laid out specific penalties for most federal offenses. The guidelines take into account the severity of the crime and the offender's background or criminal record. Although more recent cases, including
United States v. Booker in 2005, have deemed the guidelines advisory rather than mandatory, most federal judges follow these sentencing suggestions when handing down penalties to federal criminal offenders.
The Guidelines Manual ranks nearly all federal crimes on one of 43 different "offense levels." As the severity of the crime increases, so does the offense level. For instance, on level 43, one will find first-degree murder, while
burglarizing a residence will land an offender on level 17. The levels can be increased or reduced depending on other factors involved in the crime. For example, if a burglar stole more than $800,000 from a residence, he or she would jump five levels to level 22. However, if an individual was not the primary criminal offender, but simply a minimal participant, he or she could drop four levels from the original guideline.
In addition, the guidelines specify six categories for criminal backgrounds. Shaped by the length of past criminal sentences, these categories also take into account how recently any prior crimes were committed. Criminal History Category I includes the least severe criminal backgrounds—first-time offenders often fall into this area. Once they determine the offense level and criminal history category, federal judges can see where these two criteria overlap on a sentencing table, along with a range of suggested sentences to hand down to the offender. An experienced San Jose criminal defense attorney can help you understand federal sentencing guidelines and how they may affect your case.
Defending Federal Crimes
If you have recently been criminally charged with an offense that is classified as a federal crime, you need a heavyweight in your corner. At the Law Office of Thomas F. Mueller, we have over 38 years of attorney experience on your side. By working with a criminal defense attorney from our firm, you will be able to enjoy the difference that a knowledgeable advocate can make in your case.
We have extensive experience of criminal law and we are prepared to go the distance in our efforts to provide our clients with the high-quality and reliable assistance that they can trust. No matter whether you are facing a federal crime or one on the state level, you will be able to rest assured knowing that we will have the experience and the desire necessary to helping you protect your legal rights. Contact us to get the help you need today!