The list of crimes that may give rise to federal charges may not be lengthy compared to North Carolina state offenses, but that does not mean they are any easier to defend. At the same time, you are still entitled to the basic constitutional protections that govern any criminal matter. The key to safeguarding your rights is navigating the elaborate laws and procedural rules of the federal justice system.
Federal crimes are among the most challenging, complex, and demanding cases, so the question should not be whether you need an attorney, it should be which criminal defense law firm offers the most qualified, knowledgeable advocacy to fight the allegations in federal cases.
Brad Polk and Raymond Tarlton possess the sophisticated legal proficiency necessary to defend your interests against federal charges and obtain a favorable outcome. Our approach begins with an in-depth consultation where we examine every detail of your case. We then build a defense strategy to attack the allegations and present arguments intended to impart that shadow of a doubt that may help you beat federal charges. Our number one priority at Tarlton | Polk is to achieve justice in your case.
Facing federal charges? Our lawyers provide experienced advice and counsel throughout all stages of a federal criminal case. Contact us today to discuss your case!
Comprehensive Legal Services in Cases Involving Federal Charges
Our skilled legal team covers a wide array of federal offenses, having represented clients in over 130 cases related to fraud, white collar crime, public corruption, bank robbery, international drug schemes, and more. Federal criminal cases involve very specific subject matter jurisdiction, giving the courts exclusive authority over:
- Patent issues.
- The U.S. Post Office.
- Tax matters.
The Commerce Clause is the foundation for a significant amount of legislation, the violation of which can lead to federal criminal charges. Drugs and firearms are examples. Crimes that cross state lines is a sizeable category because courts interpret the U.S. Constitution rather broadly, so any activity or fraud through usage of mail, the internet, and telecommunications networks could lead to federal charges.
Overlap Between Federal and North Carolina Laws
There may be some overlap between federal and North Carolina laws, especially considering the broad language of the Commerce Clause. This concurrent jurisdiction can have a devastating impact on your case, because the rule against double jeopardy does not apply to prohibit prosecuting a person twice: Separate federal and state statutes means separate offenses, so a state prosecutor could still pursue your case even if you are acquitted at the federal level.
Penalties Structure for Federal Crimes Convictions
Punishment for a conviction on federal charges is established by the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which is a set of laws intended to create uniformity when courts issue sentences for criminal activity.
The Sentencing Guidelines apply to all felonies and Class A misdemeanors, and there are two factors to determine sentencing:
- Nature of the Offense: The Guidelines list 43 levels of offense, grouped by the severity of the crime; and.
- Criminal History: There are six categories of criminal history, based upon points. Generally, the more points you have, the higher the category number. A person accumulates points for the length of the sentence in a previous criminal case, such as three points for a sentence that was more than 13 months’ incarceration, two points for an imprisonment sentence of 60 days to 13 months, and one point for any sentence of less than 60 days in jail. In addition, you may accumulate points for:
- Committing an offense while under a sentence that includes probation, parole, work release, or similar status.
- Committing an offense less than two years after release from incarceration.
- Committing a crime while in prison or after escaping.
To determine your punishment under these two factors, a judge would match up the offense level with the criminal history to get the sentencing range measured in terms of zones.
Zone A ranges from 0-6 months and may include the probation instead of a prison term. At the other end of the scale, Zone D would be any sentence in excess of one year.
Note that your sentence may be subject to adjustment that increases or reduce the time you must serve. For instance, if you accept responsibility or take action to mitigate the impact of your criminal activity, a judge may cut the duration of incarceration. An increase may apply for hate crimes or where an offense involves a vulnerable victim.
Enhancements may lengthen your sentence for activity amounting to obstruction of justice, reckless endangerment, or using a firearm in commission of a drug crime.
Federal Case Proceedings
Our Tarlton | Polk provide experienced, exceptional advice and counsel throughout all stages of a federal criminal case. While every matter is unique, the proceedings will typically include:
- Investigation: Federal agencies may initiate a case by investigating and gathering the evidence necessary to make an arrest. You may not even be aware of an investigation under certain circumstances.
- Arrest on Formal Federal Charges: Once officials have enough information, they may arrest you and outline the formal charges. An arrest is not a conviction, so prosecutors still have the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
- Arraignment: This initial appearance is the official reading of the charges against you, and you will be required to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest.
- Discovery: Though authorities may have gained substantial information during the investigations phase, they will still have the opportunity to conduct discovery. You may be required to provide certain documents, answer written questions, or present for a deposition.
- Trial: If you are unable to reach an agreement on plea bargaining, your case will go to a full trial on the merits. You are not required to testify, and we will advise you on the implications.
In addition, our attorneys will take every opportunity to engage in motion practice throughout the stages of a federal trial. Pre-trial motions may be proper in the event of civil rights violations, and post-trial motions are appropriate if some aspect of the trial process was unlawful.
Target Letters and Grand Jury Subpoenas
If you receive a target letter or a subpoena to testify before a federal grand jury, you need to speak with a lawyer immediately. Target letters and grand jury subpoenas are clear signs that a federal criminal investigation is in progress. A target letter is a notification that you are under investigation for having committed a federal offense. Target letters usually advise you of your right to a lawyer and your right to remain silent throughout the course of the government’s investigation. If you receive a target letter, you are at risk of being indicted by a federal grand jury and charged with a crime.
A grand jury subpoena is a document issued by the United State’s Attorney’s Office which compels you to testify before a grand jury. Even if the subpoena suggests the government merely needs your testimony as a potential witness to a crime, you still need to consult with a lawyer. The Government uses the federal grand jury process not only to charge persons with crimes, but also as an investigative tool. In fact, if the government believes you have committed a crime, or that you are a party to a criminal conspiracy, but they do not have enough evidence to formally indict you, they may compel you to testify before a grand jury in a related case in hopes of collecting more evidence against you.
Federal grand jury proceedings are operated in secret. There is no judge present to oversee the process and defense attorneys are not allowed inside. Even though defense counsel cannot be in the proceedings with you, your lawyer can wait outside the grand jury room for you. You will then be able to step outside the proceedings and consult with your lawyer if you have questions about the process or need advising. It is crucial to consult with a lawyer before being compelled to testify in grand jury proceedings so you know what to expect and how to assert your Fifth Amendment rights.
The attorneys at Tarlton Polk are experienced federal criminal defense attorneys. We can help you navigate the grand jury and target letter process. Give us a call today to learn more about your rights and obligations if you or a loved one has been served with a target letter or federal grand jury subpoena.