How To Find a Criminal Defense Attorney for Federal Crimes

Updated: 6 days ago

Find a California Criminal Defense Attorney for Federal Offenses


The criminal justice system in the United States is divided into two levels: state and federal. The majority of people are familiar with how state felony prosecutions are treated by city or county governments. One can only hope that they will never face federal charges. The federal court system, with its formality and rigid (and sometimes harsh) sentencing rules, can be a very daunting place to be, from your first encounter with federal law enforcement officers (i.e., FBI, DEA, ICE, etc.) to your presence in front of a federal judge.


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Federal Crimes vs. State Crimes


The criminal justice system in the United States is split into two parts: state criminal law and federal criminal law. - state, including California, has its own set of rules, as does the federal government, which must be followed by all citizens of the state. The laws of both the state and the federal government apply to all. In fact, some offenses are categorized under both the California Penal Code and the United States Code, which means that a single criminal offense can be prosecuted in both courts. A Criminal Defense Attorney will be vital in this case.


What Exactly are Federal Offenses?


You would almost certainly be investigated by a federal agent, such as an FBI or DEA agent, and charged by federal prosecutors, known as "United States Attorneys," for most federal crimes. Furthermore, the case will be heard in a federal district court, which ensures that you will face much tougher punishments if you are convicted of a federal crime than if you were charged with a state crime. If your penalty requires a jail term, you will also be transferred to federal prison.


What are State Crimes?


A federal, county, or city peace officer or agent will most likely arrest you if you commit a state crime. You can also face charges in state courts, which are located in every county in California. If you are convicted of a felony, the sentence will be decided by state laws that may include time in county jail or state prison.


Sentencing and Punishment for Federal Charges


Although certain federal charges are similar to state charges, federal offenses are much more severe and are prosecuted by the federal government.


If a federal law enforcement agency (i.e., FBI, DEA, ICE, USPS, etc.) is investigating the crime and/or if the crime comes under federal charges jurisdiction. As well as whether the crime will come under the jurisdiction of federal courts (on or against federal property, related to interstate commerce, violating Federal Statutes or the Constitution, etc.).


The following are just a few of the more common federal charges:


Drug Offenses and Trafficking – 21 USC Sec. 841


It is illegal to knowingly and deliberately do the following under the United States Code 21 Section 841:


Manufacture, sell, dispense, or possess a controlled substance with the intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense it; or

Create, distribute, dispense, or possess a counterfeit drug with the intent to distribute or dispense it.


Marijuana, hard drugs (such as cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamines), and prescription medications are all examples of controlled substances (like Vicodin or Oxycontin).


A counterfeit drug is one that has, without permission, the container or marking of a manufacturer, distributor, or dispenser's trademark, trade name, distinguishing mark, imprint, number, unit, or any resemblance thereof.


Making, selling, or producing drugs, as well as transporting drugs across state or foreign boundaries, are all common drug trafficking crimes in the United States.


Illegal Alien Smuggling or Border Crossing – 8 USC Sec. 1324


Congress passed a strict anti-human smuggling law (also known as "alien smuggling" or "immigrant smuggling") to tackle the issue of illegal immigration. This legislation, codified at Section 1324 of Title 8 of the United States Code, is directed at those who assist people in illegally crossing American borders and entering our harbors, as well as those who assist these aliens in remaining in the United States. All of the following actions (or attempts to commit these acts) are unlawful under federal law:


Smuggling of aliens is prohibited under Section 1324(a)(1)(A)(i), which makes it illegal to knowingly bring or attempt to bring an alien into the United States at a location other than an official point of entry, such as a port, airport, or land immigration checkpoint. This offense extends to both those who have entered the country lawfully and those who have entered illegally.

  • Under Section 1324(a)(1)(A)(ii), it is unlawful to move an alien inside the United States through any means with information or careless disregard of the alien's illegal immigration status.

  • Subsection 1324(a)(1)(A)(iii) makes it unlawful for anyone to conceal, harbor, or protect an alien from detection in any location, including a building or mode of transportation, with the knowledge or careless disregard of the alien's illegal immigration status.

  • It is illegal under Section 1324(a)(1)(A)(iv) to encourage or induce an alien to come to, enter, or remain in the United States, recognizing or recklessly disregarding the fact that doing so would be illegal.

  • It is unlawful to conspire to commit or aid and abet the commission of any of these crimes under Section 1324(a)(1)(A)(v).

  • It is illegal to bring an alien into the United States who has not been granted permission to enter or remain in the country under Section 1324(a)(2). Unlike alien smuggling, this law covers smuggling at immigration checkpoints and illegal entry points.

  • Section 1324(a)(3)(A) makes it illegal for someone to knowingly recruit at least 10 people with actual knowledge that they are unauthorized aliens in any 12-month span.


Bank Robbery – 18 USC Sec. 2113


The prosecutor must prove any of the following beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict you of federal bank robbery in violation of 18 USC 2113:


You took or attempted to take money, property, or another particular item of value belonging to or in the care, custody, control, management, or possession of a bank, savings and loan association, or credit union from the individual or presence of another.


The deposits of the bank or credit union were covered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Federal Savings & Loan Insurance Corporation, or National Credit Union Administration at the time of the indictment.


You used force and abuse, or coercion, to obtain certain money, property, or other particular items of value. Consider one of our prescreened California Lawyers in your California Attorney Search.


Child Pornography – 18 USC Sec. 2251


The federal prosecution of child pornography is regulated by 18 USC 2252. To be found guilty under Section 2252A of the Child Pornography Act, an individual must possess, manufacture, and distribute child pornography


Viewing child pornography does not constitute a violation of any child pornography legislation. For example, suppose a person admits to viewing child pornography online but does not save the images to his hard drive and is unaware that the images are being saved on his hard drive. In that case, he cannot be charged with possession under federal law.


Under California statute, child pornography is treated similarly. The state of California's child pornography prosecution is regulated by California Penal Code 311.112. To be found guilty under section 311.11, a person must:

  • Have knowledge of or power over child pornography in some form, and

  • Be aware that the photos show an individual under the age of 18 engaging in or simulating sexual activity.


Mail Fraud – 18 USC Sec. 1341


Federal offenses include mail fraud (18 USC section 1341) and wire fraud (18 USC section 1343). Each law is long and complicated, but it can be broken down into three sections. To be found guilty of mail fraud, the prosecutor must establish the following facts beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • There was a plan in place for the purpose of defrauding citizens.

  • You engaged in the scheme knowingly and enthusiastically.

  • To further the system, you used a public or private mail service, as well as interstate or international wire contact.


Counterfeiting and Forgery – 18 USC Sec. 21


Federal Counterfeiting Case (18 USC 2320)

  • The prosecutor must prove any of the following beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict you of federal counterfeiting:

  • You engaged in, tried to engage in, or conspired to engage in the trafficking of products, services, or prescription drugs.

  • The counterfeit or non-original products, services, or prescription drugs were produced by the copyright owner of these goods, services, or drugs.

  • You were well aware that the products, facilities, or prescription medications were non-original or counterfeit.

  • You intended for the counterfeit products, utilities, or prescription drugs to be passed off as legitimate and circulated as such.


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