Facing Federal Charges in Oklahoma City? Here's Why You NEED a Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer.
Federal criminal law deals with the most serious of crimes in the United States of America, and the sentencing guidelines for those found guilty of a federal crime reflect this level of seriousness. If you or someone you love is facing federal criminal charges, it is important that you know the difference in gravity between federal crimes and Oklahoma City state criminal offenses.
In comparison to state criminal offenses, federal crimes are tried in a federal court and are subject to much stricter sentencing guidelines that are applied systematically throughout the entire country. This means that a person facing federal criminal charges for drug trafficking in New York will be subject to the same federal sentencing guidelines as an individual being charged with the same federal crime in Oklahoma City.
In addition to this, federal criminal investigations are often far more extensive than state criminal investigations, as federal law enforcement agencies have a huge amount of resources. A federal prosecutor will usually have a wide range of experience in prosecuting federal crimes and will be backed by a team of federal agents who have thoroughly investigated your crime.
Attempting to go up against federal prosecutors without the backing of an experienced federal criminal defense attorney is a huge risk, and in most cases will result in a guilty federal criminal conviction.
Here at Cannon & Associates, our law office has the experience you need to fight against a federal defense attorney and win your case.
Our team of federal criminal defense attorneys will ensure that you receive the highest standard of legal representation possible and that your criminal defense is foolproof. We will fight tooth and nail to ensure that you do not fall victim to the federal court system. Our law office offers a free consultation for you to come in and receive legal advice about your federal charges at no cost.
Don’t waste any time before calling us. The sooner you do, the more time we have to build up a strong criminal defense on your behalf.
Call us today at 405-591-3935 to speak to an Oklahoma City federal crimes defense attorney.
WHAT IS A FEDERAL CRIME?
In simple terms, a federal crime is an action that is in violation of federal laws, which are laws set up by the U.S. federal government. All citizens of the U.S. are required to abide by laws established by the state they reside in and, on top of that, federal laws, which essentially represent an entirely separate criminal system.
Most of the criminal charges that individuals are charged with in Oklahoma City are state crimes, which are prosecuted by local prosecutors and investigated by the local police force or state agents. In comparison, when a person is charged with a crime at the federal level, they are subject to a major investigation by federal agencies, such as the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). These agencies have an almost unlimited amount of resources and will carry out extensive investigative work on your case.
Some examples of federal crimes include:
- Drug crimes such as possession, distribution, sale, manufacturing, trafficking, and conspiracy.
- Organized crime, such as participating in gang activity.
- White-collar crimes, such as racketeering, money laundering, wire fraud, embezzlement, anti-trust violations, bank fraud, bribery, counterfeiting, embezzlement, extortion, forgery, health care fraud, identity theft, mortgage fraud, securities fraud, tax evasion
- Immigration crimes.
- Cyber crimes.
- Tax fraud.
- Some violent crimes such as bank robbery, crimes against children, gang violence, homicide, Indian country crime, kidnapping, and threats to public officials.
- Some sex crimes.
If you are suspected of committing a crime at the federal level in the U.S., you will be subject to extensive investigation on behalf of federal district agencies, most likely in cooperation with the state police or sheriffs. If they can gather sufficient evidence to prove that you have committed the crime, the matter will be brought before a grand jury and you will be arrested.
FEDERAL SEX CRIMES
The state court often deals with sex crimes in Oklahoma City. However, if a sex crime occurs on state property or if it involves the internet, impacted interstate commerce (i.e. if the crime crossed a state border, such as sharing a sexual image), or involved telephone communication, it will be tried as a federal criminal case.
Federal sex crimes are subject to strict sentencing guidelines, and those found guilty will often face time in federal prison. Some examples of these crimes include:
- Sexual exploitation of a child – Sex crimes involving children are mostly dealt with under 18.U.S. Code § 2252A. Sexual exploitation of children involves possessing or distributing images or videos of a minor under the age of 18 engaging in sexual acts or being sexually exploited by another individual. The penalty for this crime ranges from 15 years to 30 years in prison, and those with a prior conviction will face 25-50 years in prison.
- Possession of child pornography – If you are found guilty of possessing child pornography, you can face up to 20 years in federal prison. This penalty increases to 5-20 years in prison for the receipt of child pornography, and if you are caught soliciting a child to engage in sexual acts for the production of child porn, you can be charged with 15 years to life.
- Sex trafficking of minors – Section 2423 of U.S. Code 18 makes the transportation of minors across state lines for the purpose of engaging in illegal sexual activity punishable by 10 years to life imprisonment.
- Solicitation of child pornography -If you are found posting “any notice or advertisement seeking or offering to receive, exchange, buy, produce, display, distribute, or reproduce any visual depiction involving the use of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct“, you can be found guilty of committing a federal sex crime, as provided under section 2251 of U.S.C. 18.
- Traveling to have sex with minors – It is a federal crime to travel across state lines or to another foreign jurisdiction for the purpose of having sex with a minor. Federal sentencing guidelines for this crime include a fine and/or imprisonment for up to 30 years.
- Sexual abuse or aggravated sexual abuse – Although sexual abuse is typically dealt with under state law in Oklahoma City, if the abuse or aggravated abuse occurred on federal property or territories, it can be charged in the federal courts.
If you have been charged with a federal sex crime in Oklahoma City, it is important that you contact a federal criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. It is one thing to be charged with a sex crime under Oklahoma state law however; it is a whole different situation if you find yourself facing federal criminal laws.
At Cannon & Associates, we can offer you the help of a highly experienced federal criminal defense attorney who will do everything in their power to ensure that you are not found guilty in a federal court.
Investigations in Federal Criminal Cases
You have likely heard of federal investigations performed by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA); however, you may not be aware that nearly every federal agency has an investigative body that can present federal criminal investigations for prosecution. Other than the FBI and DEA the following federal investigators are responsible for a large percentage of federal criminal prosecution: Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Secret Service, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). In additional to these federal investigation agencies, local and state law enforcement assist in and present a large number of investigations for federal prosecution.
In Oklahoma, subsequent to the McGirt decision by the Supreme Court, there has been a massive increase in the number of cases prosecuted in federal courts in Oklahoma for both the Northern District of Oklahoma and the Eastern District of Oklahoma. In fact, many cases that were originally prosecuted in state courts across Oklahoma have been removed to federal court for prosecution by the United States Attorney’s office and their federal prosecutors.
All federal criminal cases begin with the investigation of federal crimes.
Federal criminal investigations are the starting point of federal prosecution. The agencies identified above and others, including the FBI, Homeland Security, and ICE investigate violations of federal criminal laws, typically involving conduct that crosses state lines or impacts federal commerce. These investigations are staffed and approved or detailed additional work by federal prosecutors.
Prosecutors in state courts are typically called Assist District Attorneys, as they prosecute cases in a judicial district within the state. Conversely, prosecutors in the federal system are Assistant United States Attorneys, as they prosecute cases on behalf of the United States. Due to the sophistication of federal prosecution, oftentimes federal prosecutors will work with the federal investigators to develop strategy and determine what crimes or what suspects the U.S. Attorney’s Office is most interested in investigating or prosecuting.
Federal Criminal Investigators
In federal drug investigations, the DEA, ICE, the FBI, or even the Secret Service will investigate federal drug crimes, oftentimes spanning multiple states and upwards of 100 involved parties or potential federal criminal defendants. Financial fraud is often handled by the IRS; however, all federal agencies have investigative branches that audit accounts and look for fraudulent activity; each of these agencies investigations can and do result in federal prosecution across the country.
Firearm and explosives cases are often times investigated by the FBI or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). Interestingly ATF could and probably should have the initial for Explosives “E”; however, it was founded in 1972, prior to the modern prevalence of explosives; therefore, it is ATF, not A(E)TF.
Investigations into violations of federal wildlife laws and regulations are typically investigated by the Department of Wildlife and or federal game wardens. In Oklahoma for example, multiple federal criminal cases originate from the Wildlife Refuge outside of Fort Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma. These cases are prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Oklahoma, where the federal Wildlife Refuge is situated. The same is true for national parks and forests across the country.
On the other hand, violent crimes are typically prosecuted in state court, rather than federal court, due to the lack of a federal issue. However, post McGirt v. Oklahoma, more cases typically prosecuted in state court are being handled in federal criminal court. These cases are often investigated by state agencies, rather than federal and give federal criminal defense attorneys multiple opportunities to identify weaknesses in the investigations or violations of the defendant’s Fourth Amendment or other Constitutional Rights.
Not to scare you, but to make you aware; the most important takeaway concerning federal investigations is that they exist in every state and cover every aspect of our day-to-day life. Before moving on, it is important to remember that before you speak to any investigator, you should contact and retain experienced federal criminal defense counsel, before you say something you can never take back.
TOOLS USED IN FEDERAL CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIONS
In most cases, the individual being investigated by federal investigators will be unaware that they are a suspect. Investigative teams are skilled in building cases over a lengthy period of time, gathering evidence against the suspect by using some of the following tools:
- Wiretapping and surveillance – It is common for federal investigators to use wiretaps during an investigation, to try and gain information on planned or past criminal activities. In addition to this, federal officers often surveil their suspects by tailing their vehicles, parking outside of their property, and checking out their businesses.
- Undercover agents – Just like in a lot of movies, federal investigations are sometimes centered on an undercover agent who has infiltrated a gang or criminal organization. Undercover operations are often held to try and catch criminals who are high up in an organization. This type of operation will involve a federal officer, such as a member of the FBI, going undercover and befriending suspects and organization members. They will then try to use their associations to gather evidence to help build a case.
- Informants – A lot of the time, it is easier to arrest low-level criminals within an organization than it is to arrest the leaders. For this reason, federal agents will often get lower-level criminals to inform on their bosses to get more information and to try to successfully arrest them. In many cases, these informants and their families will then be given witness protection to ensure they are not harmed.
One of the reasons that federal criminal cases are so successful is that they have access to a wide range of tools that are not available to investigators and prosecutors in a state court.
What Happens in a Federal Fraud Investigation?
Federal fraud investigations and federal financial crime investigations are different from drug and violent crime investigations. It is important to begin with the understanding that spouses and loved ones of someone under investigation for federal financial crimes or federal fraud crimes can be wrapped into investigations and following prosecutions without intentional involvement or minimal involvement. In order to protect your rights and the rights of your loved ones, you should contact an experienced federal criminal defense attorney, if you believe you or anyone in your family is under federal fraud investigation.
What is considered a federal fraud crime? Federal fraud crimes are intentional acts or omissions that through deception cause a party to receive funds or resources to which they are not entitled that impact interstate commerce. Stated another way, cheating someone or some entity that act impacts banking or interstate commerce.
When one party is aware that their spouse is guilty of federal financial crime or fraud, compliance may result in both parties being indicted. However, if one spouse is truly unaware of the illegal activity, then they are not guilty of aiding and abetting and should avoid prosecution. Yet, they will increase the chance of avoiding prosecution altogether by retaining a federal criminal defense attorney to tell their story to investigators.
In cases involving large sums of money, even millions of dollars lost, the chances of avoiding federal prison are reduced unless restitution and other steps to correct the harm done can be completed. When the harm done can be corrected through restitution or other means, your federal criminal defense attorney will have a greater chance of securing a resolution in your case that avoids or minimizes federal prison.
It is important to note that no ethical federal criminal defense attorney will guarantee any result, including avoiding prison, other than fighting for your interests. The ultimate decision on whether or not you will be required to serve a federal prison sentence lies with the sentencing judge on your case, if your defense attorney is unable to secure a dismissal or reduction of your charges. All that said, following the advice of your counsel will increase your chances of minimizing the negative outcome in your federal criminal case.
What Happens First in Federal Criminal Court?
Once a federal prosecutor, U.S. Attorney believes sufficient evidence exists to prosecute a case, they will call a Grand Jury. The Grand Jury is a confidential group of citizens in the federal district where the crime allegedly occurred that hears evidence similar to a jury trial and decides whether or not sufficient evidence exists to file a federal criminal case against a defendant.
Grand Jury proceedings do not require evidence beyond a reasonable doubt and evidence inadmissible in a trial may be considered by the Grand Jury. When or if the Grand Jury decides, sufficient evidence exists to file a federal criminal case, an indictment will be issued by the Grand Jury and the suspect of the Indictment will face charges in federal court.
Some federal criminal defendants that are indicted in federal court are not arrested and they can simply appear in federal court themselves. In retaining an experienced federal criminal attorney, you can get clarity on the process and communicate with the federal prosecutors through your defense team, not simply on your own. Additionally, by working with a federal criminal defense attorney, you may be able to avoid the Grand Jury process as a whole and instead have your case proceed by Information, instead of an indictment.
By working with an experienced federal criminal attorney, you will have a layer of protection between you and all the parties involved in federal prosecution. Your federal criminal defense attorney can help you in developing a plan to not only fight your case, but remain out of custody during your federal case.
What Happens First in Federal Criminal Court After Indictment?
One of the most identifiable differences between state criminal court and federal criminal court is the pace of the case. In a federal criminal prosecution, the case will move from Indictment to trial or resolution in a very short period of time. The first step after being charged in federal court is the Federal Detention Hearing. Whether you are in custody or not, the U.S. Probation Department will conduct an assessment on whether or not the federal criminal defendant is a flight risk and/or a threat to the community.
Further, the federal magistrate judge conducting the Detention Hearing will consider whether there is property or a signature bond for the defendant’s release, while the case is pending. An experienced federal criminal defense attorney can meet with the U.S. Probation Officer and provide information that will impact the evaluation of your status as a flight risk and/or danger to the community. Additionally, when your criminal defense attorney prepares an impactful Motion for Pretrial Release and presents arguments to the Court, your chances for pretrial release are increased.
The federal system is unlike the state court criminal system as bail bondsmen do not participate in the process. Rather, it is within the Court’s discretion to grant or deny pretrial release during your case. However, your federal defense attorney may file a motion for reconsideration of pretrial release before the magistrate judge over your criminal case or the federal district judge over your case. You do not want this important step in your federal criminal case to be handled by an unexperienced criminal defense attorney. You need a skilled federal criminal defense attorney to increase the chances of pretrial release and remaining out of custody during your federal criminal case.
Additionally, during your initial appearance in your federal criminal case, you will be provided a copy of the Indictment or Information, which lists the charges and statutory basis for the federal criminal charges pending against you. You will be required to indicate your federal defense attorney and that you understand the nature of the charges brought against you. The judge will assign your case to a magistrate judge within that federal district and the next court dates will be set in your case, again at a much faster rate than in state court criminal proceedings.
Indictment or Information and Bail in Federal Court
When you cooperate with federal investigators, it may result in federal prosecutors agreeing to file your federal case by Information, instead of by Indictment before the Grand Jury. The information is a faster process than an Indictment which requires a grand jury. The information is presented to a judicial officer that makes a factual determination if sufficient evidence exists to charge an individual. However, you are entitled to require a grand jury proceeding and Indictment, if you do not wish to waive indictment.
After you are taken into custody or ordered to appear before the judge, you will appear in federal court. You will be provided a copy of the charging document in your case and the issue of your being released, while your case is pending or being detained will be decided. You will be under strict conditions from the U.S. Probation Officer, if you are granted pre-trial release; however, it is far better than being detained pretrial.
In many instances, where the Court determines that you are not a flight risk, you will be granted pretrial release with a signature bond, which gives the government the ability to seek forfeiture of your home or another valuable item of property, if you fail to appear in court. However, unlike state court bond procedures, you pay nothing unless you fail to appear in court.
Alternatively, a more serious form of bond in federal criminal court is a property bond, in which you sign over your interest on property to the government, basically a deed, and if you fail to show up to court the government could forfeit your property and keep the funds. Unlike state court criminal proceedings or bail bondsmen, you do not pay anything on federal court “bail” unless you fail to appear.
What Happens After Initial Appearance in a Federal Criminal Case?
Once you appear before the federal district judge over your case, you are advised of your charges, and the issue of pretrial detention is determined, your case will be set for trial and the accelerated federal criminal docket begins in your case. The court will determine whether or not you qualify for representation by the Federal Public Defender’s Office, if you do not appear with a defense attorney.
The government, U.S. Attorney’s Office, will be obligated to provide your federal defense attorney all discovery both inculpating you and exculpating you, i.e. proving your potential guilt and innocence; additionally, the case will be set for a scheduling conference where the court will evaluate the status of the parties seeking resolution or jury trial. In nearly all federal criminal prosecutions the prosecutor will seek to resolve the case without trial by exploring options for resolution with your federal defense attorney.
When you work with experienced federal defense counsel, you maximize your opportunity for this process to weigh in your favor. However, if you are falsely accused of charges and/or innocent in your federal criminal case, you and your defense attorney will need to immediately prepare for jury trial and motion practice to protect your rights.
Whether you want to work towards a plea agreement or go to jury trial in your federal criminal case, it is important to have an understanding of each criminal charge in your indictment or information. At the least, you and your federal criminal defense attorney should do the following prior to considering the next steps in your federal criminal case:
- Review each charge in your indictment or information;
- Identify the federal statutory basis for each charge and the corresponding range of punishment for that statute;
- Calculate an estimated sentencing guideline range in your case
The highly complex issues of federal sentencing guidelines will be discussed in more detail later on; however, it is important to state at this point that you want to ensure you and your federal criminal defense attorney evaluate and calculate the sentencing guidelines range. Once you have a fair estimate of the top end and bottom end of your sentencing range, you can better prepare for potential outcomes in your case. It is vitally important that you work with a federal criminal defense attorney that is experienced in sentencing guideline calculations and that they can explain them to you and your family.
Should I Cooperate with the Feds on my Federal Criminal Case?
In many instances, it is not in your interest to cooperate with the Feds in your federal criminal case. Additionally, you should never speak to the Feds or prosecutor without a defense attorney. The Feds are often only interested in your prosecution and seeking to secure enough information from you to guarantee a conviction. Therefore, the decision to cooperate with the Feds should only be made after consulting with your federal criminal defense attorney.
However, in some instances you may only be a small player in a larger criminal enterprise or falsely accused in your criminal case. After evaluating the situation with your federal criminal defense attorney and considering the pros and cons, only then should you consider speaking with the Feds during your federal criminal case. These meetings are called a “Rule 11”, as in Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. When you meet with the Feds the information in a Rule 11 meeting cannot be used against you, if you decide to go to trial; however, your testimony can be impeached or rebutted by what you say during the Rule 11 meeting.
Some of the benefits that may result from meeting with the federal prosecutors on your case include your federal charges being dismissed or never filed if the prosecutor is confident that you are in fact innocent of the federal allegations pending against you. We have clients that are fortunate enough to have conducted one of these meetings and never been charged in federal court. Additionally, federal prosecution and the Sentencing Guidelines are set up to benefit defendants that assist the government or cooperate with investigators. These are widely considered 5k departures and will result in your serving less time in federal custody if your case gets to that point.
Entering a Plea and Fighting Your Federal Criminal Case
After the issue of pretrial detention is determined and you are advised of your federal criminal charges, the federal magistrate judge that will handle the early stages of your case and the federal district judge will try your case, if necessary, will be determined.
The next important phase of your federal criminal case is reviewing all discovery with your defense attorney: police reports, reports by federal agents, video recordings, audio recordings, wiretaps, and photographs. The federal judge in your case will order the federal prosecutor to provide your attorney with all evidence immediately after your first appearance.
It is important to work with not only an experienced federal criminal attorney, but also one with the staff and resources to review all the discovery in your case in a short period of time, as many cases involve thousands of documents, hours of videos, and many other forms of evidence, which all require time to review by your defense team. Beware, when you work with a cheap federal defense attorney, you can assume that office will not review all of the evidence in your case, as they simply do not have enough time with large dockets.
Additionally, your federal defense attorney will schedule multiple meetings with you to review discovery and if you are granted pretrial release, our office will provide you the discovery directly for your review at this time. We have a secure client portal that allows clients to access and review all discovery from anywhere in the world.
Once your defense attorney has discussed the evidence with you and reviewed it thoroughly, the next step is planning what motions can be filed in your case. Your defense attorney may file suppression motions regarding search and seizure issues, expert witness motions, motions in limine to prohibit the government from certain actions in your trial, and many other potential motions. Outside of evaluating what motions to file to fight your federal criminal charges, your federal defense attorney will speak with the prosecutor about other potential options to resolve your case.
Can I Negotiate with Federal Prosecutors?
Yes, it is possible to negotiate with federal prosecutors in your federal criminal case. One of the first decisions you need to make with the advice of your federal defense attorney, after reviewing discovery in your federal case, is whether you want to fight or resolve your federal criminal case with the best outcome or agreement possible. The options to fight or work towards a plea agreement both require very different strategies and approaches in your federal criminal case. In this section, we will discuss the process and option of negotiating with federal prosecutors in your case.
The first step towards working out a plea agreement with the Assistant United States Attorney prosecuting your case is for your chosen federal criminal attorney to begin a conversation with the prosecutor. This is the aspect of your federal criminal case that is most similar to criminal defense in state court criminal cases. Your federal criminal defense attorney will confront the prosecutor about weaknesses or issues in the government’s case and/or present ways in which you could assist federal prosecutors in other or ongoing federal investigations.
There are many tools available in federal criminal defense that do not exist in state court criminal proceedings, for one the Rule 11 proffer. Your statements to federal prosecutors and federal investigators are protected when you meet with them for a Rule 11 proffer after your charges are filed. You may or may not benefit from a Rule 11 meeting; however, the government cannot use your statements against you, if you go to trial. However, you may be impeached by your Rule 11 statements, if you testify to something different than your statements during the Rule 11 meeting.
One reason to consider a Rule 11 meeting is that you may receive a greatly improved offer for a plea agreement by federal prosecutors if the information you provide during the Rule 11 is beneficial to federal investigators. However, you should never meet with a federal investigator unless you have fully discussed and prepared for such a meeting with your federal defense lawyer. Your defense attorney will join you for the meeting, but it is important to meet before and fully discuss meeting with federal investigators.
Whether you meet with federal investigators or not, a key step in your defense attorney’s strategy is identifying weaknesses in the government’s case and potential suppression issues that could result in evidence being kept out of the government’s case. Additionally, your federal defense attorney may be able to identify overcharging to federal prosecutors or reasons based on the parties or you personally that warrant a better outcome than initially offered by federal prosecutors.
The storytelling ability of your federal defense attorney is crucial. Whether they tell your story to the federal prosecutor, the federal judge, or a jury, the ability for your defense attorney to tell a compelling story on your behalf is one of the most important skills for your defense and protecting your future.
Can I Enter a Plea Agreement in my Federal Case?
At some point, if you choose to work towards a plea agreement in your federal criminal case, the Assistant United States Attorney, federal prosecutor, will typically offer a plea agreement in your case. Your federal defense attorney’s work prior to a plea agreement offer from federal prosecutors is key, as this initial offer from the federal prosecutor is often close to as good as it will get from the prosecutors.
Next, you and your federal defense attorney will review the plea agreement offer from the federal prosecutor and decide whether you want to accept the offer, make a counter plea agreement offer, or simply reject the plea agreement in your federal criminal case.
It is important to review the plea agreement offer from federal prosecutors in detail. The federal plea agreement will contain waivers of many important rights, including the right to a jury trial and multiple appellate rights. Additionally, the plea agreement will set an agreed range of punishment for sentencing purposes.
Again, you and your attorney independently of the federal prosecutor must calculate the federal sentencing guidelines as they apply to your case, to ensure the plea agreement is an improvement from simply entering a naked plea before the federal judge in your case. For one, when you enter a plea agreement you give up important rights that are not forfeited when you simply plea before the federal judge.
Federal prosecutors have motivation to resolve your case without a jury trial as well. Although their caseload is not as large as state prosecutors, federal prosecution cases are more complex and time-consuming than state court prosecution cases, such as a burglary or even a murder case. As discussed above, cases prosecuted by the federal government often involve thousands of pages of discovery and investigations that last years.
Federal prosecutors would be overwhelmed if they had to try every case they were assigned to prosecute. This is important to note, as you and your federal criminal defense attorney may have room for a counter-offer that results in a more favorable sentencing range or other benefits that the federal prosecutor was not willing to offer initially.
Once you and your federal defense attorney have reached the best plea agreement offer you will receive from the federal prosecutor, it is time to decide whether to accept the offer or prepare for trial. You and your federal criminal defense attorney need to discuss the Change of Plea hearing if you decide to accept the plea agreement from the federal prosecutors in your case.
At the Change of Plea hearing, you will be placed under oath and asked multiple questions about the plea agreement, which will be 10 to 20 pages of detailed information that you reviewed and signed with your federal defense attorney. It is important that you have a clear understanding of everything in the plea agreement document, as the federal judge will ask you specific questions about its content.
Your federal defense attorney will be with you before the judge; however, you cannot rely solely on your defense attorney. You personally will be required to make an allocution or statement of the specific facts or admissions that support each and every charge to which you are entering a guilty plea. The judge will reject your plea agreement if you do not make an unequivocal acceptance of responsibility for your charges. Additionally, the judge will review all of your constitutional rights, both retained and given up in exchange for the plea. Therefore, it is important to practice the Change of Plea hearing with your attorney and ensure you are prepared for this process.
At the conclusion of the Change of Plea hearing, the federal judge in your case will advise the parties whether your plea agreement is accepted or not. If rejected, the parties will have to return to the drawing board. However, in almost all circumstances the plea agreement will be accepted and the federal judge will order the U.S. Probation Office to conduct a pre-sentence investigation for sentencing in your case.
Sentencing Hearings in federal cases are typically 90 days to 120 days after the Change of Plea hearing and occur before the federal district judge over your case unless waived by all parties. The delay in the Sentencing Hearing taking place is based on the Court’s docket as well as the U.S. Probation Officer’s need for time to investigate and prepare the Pre-Sentence Report.
What are the Federal Sentencing Guidelines?
Federal sentencing guidelines are an advisory tool created for the purpose of fairness in federal criminal sentencing across the country and across federal districts. The design is that an offender with similar conduct and similar criminal history will receive a similar punishment regardless of their location. Basically, the federal sentencing guidelines are a tool designed to create fairness in federal criminal sentencing across the country.
The federal sentencing guidelines provide an advisory guideline range that parties and judges are tasked to use in framing an appropriate sentencing range. Evaluating the advisory sentencing guidelines range in your case begins with the base offense level, related to your specific offense, such as bank robbery or money laundering, and then applies your criminal history category, which is determined by evaluating your criminal history. The more serious your criminal history, the greater your initial advisory guideline range will be in your federal criminal case.
Next, it is important to consider specific offense and personal characteristics, which will either result in a point increase or point decrease in your advisory offense level. A common example is acceptance of responsibility points, which can result in a two-point deduction in the advisory offense level for acceptance of responsibility or not requiring the prosecution to prove your guilt. Additionally, in many circumstances, if you assist federal investigators in your case or in other cases, you may receive an additional third-point reduction in the advisory offense level.
The federal sentencing judge in your case will determine the applicable guideline range in your case; however, the court considers the U.S. Probation Officer’s evaluation of the sentencing guidelines as well as counsel prior to ruling on the specific sentencing guideline range in your case. Federal sentencing judges are not required to follow the advisory guidelines in setting punishment; however, the court must consider the advisory guideline range prior to determining the punishment in any case.
Evidence would be put on the government because they would have the burden and would go first. Your defense attorney would certainly get to cross-examine all of the witnesses in the federal criminal trial and then when the government’s case is done the defense has a chance, if they wish, they don’t have to, to put on a case — call in witnesses. The defendant can testify. Defendants in a criminal case have an absolute right to testify, but they don’t have to if they don’t want to and the jury can’t hold it against them if they don’t testify.
Experienced federal criminal defense attorneys cannot tell you what the sentencing guideline range will be in your case until that is ruled on by the federal judge at sentencing. However, experienced federal lawyers can give you a reliable estimate on the application of the sentencing guidelines to your case.
Preparing for Your Federal Sentencing Hearing
Once your plea agreement has been accepted it is time to begin preparing for sentencing in your federal criminal case. You will need to meet with your federal defense attorney and discuss what you will and what you will not tell the federal probation officer. You are entitled to refuse to answer incriminating questions by the U.S. Probation Officer and it is important to prepare for this meeting with your defense attorney before it takes place.
During your interview with the U.S. Probation Officer, he or she will get background information on you, your family, your education, work experience, and most important for your case, the changes and tragedies in your life, which you have faced and overcome. When you are able to speak openly about the difficulties in your life, without further incriminating yourself, it gives you another opportunity to tell your story to the Court in a compelling fashion to prepare for your federal sentencing hearing.
Once the U.S. Probation Officer has completed their initial Presentence Report (PSR), you and your attorney will have the opportunity to present objections to specific facts and factors in the U.S. Probation Officer’s sentencing guideline calculation. The PRS will be many pages and separated into number paragraphs that cover at least the following:
- Introductory Information: summary of your case and charges, plus your identifying information
- The Offense: specific information about your case, including the charges in your indictment or information, factual summary of the offense conduct, and victim impact
- Offense Level Computation: this calculation should be similar to the initial calculation by your federal defense attorney, which includes the base level offense, specific offense characteristics, point adjustments, point enhancements, acceptance of responsibility points, and the resulting Total Offense Level
- Defendant Criminal History: your complete criminal history, including juvenile record, adult criminal convictions, other criminal conduct, pending criminal charges, and other arrests. Basically, any and every criminal allegation in your life plays into this section.
- Criminal History Computation: the criminal history computation for Sentencing Guideline Criminal History Category determination plays a major role in the advisory sentencing guideline range in your case.
- Offender Characteristics: this section is where you and your federal criminal defense attorney must tell your story, including personal and family data, physical condition, mental and emotional health, substance abuse history, education and vocational training, employment history, and financial status. This portion of the PSR in vital to telling the Court a vivid story of your life, do not miss details when speaking to the U.S. Probation Officer.
- Sentencing Options: advisory sentencing guideline range for punishment based on all factors relevant for federal sentencing, supervisory release, recommendation for being placed in custody or probation, fines, restitution, and any other guideline provisions applicable to your case.
- Factors that Warrant Departure: your federal criminal defense attorney is tasked with assisting the sentencing judge in identifying reasons for a departure that is in your favor for sentencing purposes; however, it is a great help to your case, if the U.S. Probation Officer identifies reasons for a downward departure, which your attorney may present. Alternatively, you do not want upward departures that raise the advisory sentencing guideline range in your case identified.
- Factors that May Warrant a Sentence Outside the Advisory Guidelines: downward variances are addressed in this final section of the PSR. In identifying reasons for a downward variance, your federal defense attorney can increase the chances of the sentencing judge granting you a lighter sentence than recommended by the sentencing guidelines. When your defense attorney and the Probation Officer both identify cause for a downward variance, it may greatly increase the chances of a lighter sentence.
When it comes to preparing for sentencing in federal court your federal defense attorney can greatly increase the chances of you receiving a favorable outcome by fighting for the best possible Pre-Sentence Report (PSR), as discussed in detail above and by submitting a compelling sentencing memorandum for the Court’s consideration.
We would be glad to schedule a free strategy session with you and your family to discuss the complex issues related to preparing for federal sentencing and discuss whether or not our team of Fierce Advocates™ is the right fit for your strategy and your family.
Federal Criminal Jury Trial
Your federal defense attorney needs to be Your Fierce Advocate™ if you want to fight your case at trial. You will need to assist your federal criminal defense attorney in identifying and telling your story if you decide to fight your federal case at trial. You cannot simply hope the government will fail to meet its burden beyond a reasonable doubt. You must fight your case at trial and tell a more compelling story than the government’s story of your guilt.
Ultimately, your case will be decided by twelve jurors that will determine whether or not you will be found guilty. Your case will be over and you will be free if the jury finds you not guilty. However, your case will proceed to sentencing if the jury finds you guilty and the rest of this article will apply to your case.
There’s a probation report and both the defense and the prosecutor weigh in on what they think the sentence will be, but ultimately it will be up to the judge and the judge will be guided by what they saw at trial, of course, and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. They’re going to look at your criminal history. They’re going to look at a whole host of factors related to your case and then they will make the final decision related to your federal criminal case.
Sentencing in Federal Criminal Cases
At this point, you have heard much about sentencing in federal criminal cases and the design in the guidelines to create fairness in federal sentencing across the country. However, the guidelines are only advisory, and federal judges are required to look at each individual defendant in forming a particular sentence for each defendant.
At the federal sentencing hearing, the federal judge will consider the U.S. Probation Officer’s Pre-Sentence Report (PSR), objections, and arguments of the parties to the PSR, and determine what sentencing factors will be applied and what the resulting Total Offense Level is in your case. The Total Offense Level results in a range of punishment from the Sentencing Guidelines, which provides a minimum and maximum number of months that punishment should fall within.
Once the court determines the Total Offense Level, the court will state any plea agreements that are in place and whether or not the Court will accept the Plea Agreement. When you work with an experienced federal criminal defense attorney, you may be able to obtain a plea agreement or Rule 11(c)(1)(C) agreement that results in a range of punishment that is far below the advisory punishment guideline range in your case.
There are few things more rewarding as a federal criminal defense attorney that having a client receive a plea agreement with a punishment range that is years shorter than the advisory guideline range should be based on their history and the offense in their case. When this happens, our clients receive punishments that are far shorter than the Sentencing Guidelines would recommend for their original offense.
After the Court determines the Offense Level in your case and the applicability of any plea agreements, the Court will hear arguments of the parties regarding sentencing. At this point, it should be clear that multiple steps go into putting your best foot forward for sentencing. The argument of your federal defense attorney is one of the last pieces.
Your federal criminal defense attorney will hopefully know the factors in sentencing that bear specific importance to your sentencing judge and emphasize them and their application to your case. Regardless of the specific judge in your case, it is important that your defense attorney argue the 3553 Sentencing Factors.
The “3553(a) Sentencing Factors” are found at 18 United States Code Section 3553(a). These factors must be considered, along with the sentencing guidelines, by the sentencing judge in determining the particular sentence in each particular case. The skill of your federal criminal defense attorney’s ability to craft a compelling sentencing argument in your particular case through applying the 3553(a) Sentencing Factors is a major factor in the sentence you will receive in your case. Those factors are as follows:
- The nature and circumstances of the offense and the history and characteristics of the Defendant;
- The need for the sentence imposed 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; and to provide the defendant with needed vocational training, medical care, or other effective correctional treatment;
- The kind of sentences available;
- The advisory guideline range;
- Any pertinent policy statement issued by the Sentencing Commission;
- The need to avoid unwarranted sentencing disparities; and
- The need to provide restitution to the victims of the offense, where applicable.
Not all the 3553(a) Sentencing Factors will be impactful in your case; however, certainly, some will be in your case. The history and characteristics of the defendant, identified in the first 3553(a) Sentencing Factor, is one of the most powerful tools for a federal criminal defense attorney to use in arguing for a client’s sentence. It is an opportunity to tell the client’s story beyond their criminal case. It is an opportunity to speak about the life and experiences of a client, to get to the human elements that may have led to a client-facing federal criminal charge.
In many instances by presenting a compelling human story about the “history and characteristics” of our clients, we are able to help clients achieve downward departures or variances in their criminal sentence that result in them serving far less time in prison than originally anticipated.
Sentencing at the federal level does not include pardon or parole. Almost all offenders will be required to serve roughly 85 percent of the sentence they receive. However, offenders with drug abuse or drug dependency issues may be able to participate in ARDAP, which may result in a program of treatment in lieu of serving the entire length of the original sentence. Finally, some offenders may be able to enter a halfway house in order to avoid serving a full prison term.
Aggravating Factors in a Federal Case in Oklahoma City
Aggravating factors in criminal cases are certain factors that make a crime more serious or dangerous and can result in an extended sentence or upgrade a misdemeanor charge to a federal criminal charge. So, if you are charged with a crime in Oklahoma City, and it is discovered that there were certain aggravating factors that made the crime worse, you can be charged with an aggravated version of the crime, a felony, and face a longer prison sentence.
Some examples of aggravating factors for federal criminal charges include:
- Prior criminal history – Your prior criminal history will have a huge impact on your federal criminal charges. As per federal sentencing guidelines, your level of criminal history will determine how much your sentence is impacted. For example, a federal criminal defendant who has been found guilty of 0-1 crimes previously will be put into Criminal History Category 1, whereas a person who has committed over 13 crimes previously will be put into Criminal History Category 6. The sentencing you receive for your crime in a federal court will depend on your Criminal History Category, and the higher your category, the longer your sentence.
- Presence of weapons – Stricter penalties are imposed on defendants who used a weapon, such as a gun or a knife while committing a crime. The federal advisory sentencing guideline range provides that the presence of weapons in a federal crime should automatically raise the crime’s seriousness up two levels, meaning lengthier sentences.
- Vulnerable victim – Another aggravating factor in federal criminal law cases is vulnerable victims. If a defendant committed a crime against a child, elderly person, or a person who had a certain level of trust in them which they then exploited, their sentence can be extended.
- Hate crime – It is a federal criminal offense to commit a crime against another individual or group of individuals because of their perceived race, religion, color, national origin, or gender. If a federal judge finds that you committed a crime for one of these reasons, your sentence will be dramatically increased.
How Long Does It Take to Resolve a Federal Case in Oklahoma City?
The amount of time to resolve a federal criminal case depends on the specific circumstances in each case; however, without undue delay your federal criminal case may be resolved in as little as three months from Indictment to sentencing. When you consider all of the information discussed above, it can seem quite daunting to go through this entire process in such a short period of time. However, when you work with an experienced and highly reputable federal criminal defense attorney and their team, they will help you to understand the process and your options at each step of your case.
However, as is the case in most things, there are many outliers to the norm. Some federal investigations take well over a year, some federal cases can take over a year to get to trial. The amount of discovery in your federal criminal case, the number of parties, and the federal judge handling your case all play a major role in the pace at which your federal criminal case will progress.
The length of time it takes to resolve your federal criminal case will depend in part on whether or not you choose to contest the outcome by appeal. Following sentencing in your case, you must file a Notice of Intent to Appeal within 10 days, if you wish to appeal the verdict in your case, a legal issue, or your sentence. It is important to work with a skilled appellate attorney if you wish to contest your case on appeal. There are very specific procedural and substantive steps you must follow in order to initial your appeal and have it considered by the Court. Additionally, keep in mind if you entered a plea agreement in your case, your rights to appeal will be limited at least in part by the terms of the plea agreement.
What Can a Federal Criminal Defense Attorney Do For Me?
You may be wondering what a federal criminal defense attorney can actually do for you to help your federal case, and whether it is worth hiring an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer. Here at Cannon & Associates law office, we have a team of highly experienced federal criminal defense lawyers who can help you with the following:
The discovery stage of a federal criminal case, as discussed above, is when the defense gets the opportunity to examine the evidence accumulated by the prosecution. Good criminal defense attorneys know what to look for and ask for, and they will ensure that the prosecution hands over the most important information. This discovery stage is crucial, as your attorney can advise you on whether to go forward to trial or to negotiate a plea bargain based on the evidence.
If your attorney believes that the evidence is not strong enough for a conviction, they will submit motions on your behalf to build up your case. Some motions they submit could include requests to view witness lists, suppress evidence that is not relevant to the trial, and inquire into federal law arguments set forth by the prosecution.
The key function of a federal criminal lawyer is to negotiate, whether that is with the United States attorney’s office or with the judge regarding the admissibility of evidence. An experienced federal criminal law attorney will know how to negotiate effectively to ensure that your case is strong. This is why it is important to have legal representation.
Federal criminal law is not something that should be dealt with lightly. Federal judges are very unlikely to rule in favor of a defendant without legal representation. This is mainly because United State attorneys are highly experienced in fighting federal criminal cases, and they know what to say to ensure that defendants are found guilty. Our law office strongly recommends that you schedule a free consultation with us today to discuss your legal options.
How Much Do Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Cost in Oklahoma City?
Often, defendants are lucky to seek legal assistance as the cost of hiring a federal criminal defense attorney can be quite expensive. At Cannon & Associates law office, we always guarantee fair rates for our clients, and we believe in offering the highest standard of legal care possible.
When clients ask us how much it costs to hire a lawyer in a federal criminal law case, we ask them to consider how much they would pay to stay out of a federal prison, and to prevent the rest of their lives from being affected by a federal conviction.
We calculate our costs based on a number of factors, including the severity of your case, the length and time it will take to resolve your case, and whether you have a criminal background. Our promise is that our rates are fair and are an adequate reflection of the standard of legal representation we provide.
The only way to know how much a federal criminal lawyer will cost you is to call our offices today and schedule a free consultation. One thing we know for sure is that you will not regret investing in an experienced Oklahoma City criminal defense lawyer if it means that you stay out of federal prison.
Why Do I Need a Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer?
As discussed above, the federal criminal procedure is different from the Oklahoma State criminal system. When you are being prosecuted at the federal level, you are being prosecuted by the United States government, and more specifically, the United States attorney’s office.
Federal prosecutors are equipped with extensive experience and large federal agencies that will do everything in their power to ensure you are convicted. Unless you are part of a bigger picture, and you could offer some valuable information to a federal prosecutor, such as information about a gang, then they are unlikely to show you any mercy for the charges you are facing.
However, federal prosecutors often prefer to settle cases outside of federal courts, which is why they will try to reach a plea bargain with you. At this point, having a federal defense attorney is essential, as they are experienced in negotiating fair plea bargains that adequately reflect the seriousness of your case. If your criminal defense attorney sees that the United States attorney general does not have a lot of evidence, they can negotiate a much fairer deal on your behalf.
Alternatively, if you are completely innocent and you do not want to negotiate a plea bargain, your federal criminal defense attorney will need to start building up a strong case from the get-go, to get ready to protect your rights during a jury trial. It is possible to face federal charges without the backing of a federal defense attorney, however we strongly advise against this.
An experienced federal criminal defense attorney can dedicate the time and resources necessary to build up a strong criminal defense on your behalf. This defense will be essential to your federal criminal case at all stages. Schedule a free consultation with our law office today to discuss your federal case in Oklahoma City.
Final Thought on Federal Criminal Process
You have vast options in retaining a federal criminal defense attorney and many options in how you handle or litigate your federal criminal case. Whatever you decide to do, be sure to evaluate each of your options and make informed decisions at each point in the process of defending your freedom and your future. Whether you want to take your case to trial or enter a plea, it is important to know the range of punishment that will be applicable in your case and review all of the discovery in your case and know what it takes to be found guilty at trial versus what you need in order to prevail in your case. Know your options, know your case, and know your defense attorney.
Cannon & Associates – Oklahoma City Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers
Experience matters when you are facing federal criminal charges. It is important to know the federal criminal defense attorney you hire is dedicated to your cause and versed in all aspects of federal criminal defense, sentencing guidelines, rules of procedure, and can fight your case, if you want to go to trial. Cannon & Associates is dedicated can be Your Fierce Advocates™ and will fight for your rights. Contact Cannon & Associates for answers to your questions about your rights and your options in your federal criminal case. Complete the CONTACT FORM ON THIS PAGE NOW or CALL at 405-657-2323 for a free confidential case evaluation.
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