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Federal Criminal Defense


This is an interesting area of the law because what a lot of people don’t realize is that the whole federal system across the United States is very similar; in fact, the same in a lot of respects.  When the judges sentence a criminal defendant in a federal case have to consult with the federal sentencing guidelines.

They’re advisory — which basically means they don’t have to necessarily go with them, but they at least have to consider them and all the downward departures and the enhancements related to somebody’s sentence — they’re going to look to see what the person’s base offense level is and then to see if there’s any characteristics that either enhance or lower the sentence.

Ultimately, in a federal criminal case, the judge will be able to decide what they think the right sentence is under the circumstances which for the most part is good.  Of course, if it’s a tough judge versus a more lenient judge, that’s going to make a huge difference in a federal criminal case no matter where you are in the United States.

Nationwide Federal Defense

I’ve traveled all over the United States.  A lot of the states will require that the attorney — for example, if I’m coming from Los Angeles, California — that I have local counsel in that court jurisdiction.  So, it just makes things go smoother.  Local counsel knows the local rules and basically what you do, you associate somebody in who is close to the courthouse, understands how all the procedures work and I do that all the time when I deal with these federal criminal cases.

The reason we do that is because clients want certain federal attorneys.  They want people who know what they’re doing.  They want people who are going to fight for them.  They want people who have experience dealing with the prosecutors, judges, sentencing guidelines, and sometimes they want to do a jury.

When you’re talking about a jury trial, in my opinion, it doesn’t really matter much whether you are based out of that particular state or location, because really what you’re doing is, you’re arguing to the jury and trying to convince them of a position and obviously, regardless of what state you came from, if you’re a powerful advocate for your client, you’re going to be able to convince them of your client’s position, and be in a good position to get a not-guilty verdict.

Experience Matters in Federal Cases

In that respect, if it’s a trial, you can definitely get an attorney from anywhere to do the trial.  You want somebody who has good experience, common sense, can argue to a jury, knows how to investigate a case and really knows how to get the result because that’s what you’re looking for when it comes to a federal criminal defense case.

It’s interesting, because the judges that preside over these federal cases across the country are tenured for life, which basically means, they’re going to be on the bench either until they retire or they die.  They don’t have to be appointed every year.  They don’ have to run for re-election.  That could be a good thing and that can be a bad thing.

I’ve seen judges change over the years, where maybe they were tough for a long period of time, and then for whatever reason, as they approach older age/retirement, they become more lenient.  That’s important because if you have a case in a particular jurisdiction in front of a particular judge, you obviously want to get an attorney who can handle that judge, knows what the judge’s tendencies are so that you can bring the right stuff in front of the judge that’s going to make a difference if the case is going to be sentenced versus taking the case to a jury trial.

Difference Between State and Federal cases

Federal criminal cases are obviously much different than state criminal cases for a wide variety of reasons.  (1) there are the Federal Rules of Evidence versus the State Rules of Evidence;  (2) you’re in front of a judge as I’ve indicated that’s tenured for life; (3) you have different law enforcement agencies; (4) different prosecuting agencies — the Assistant United States Attorneys handles the prosecution for federal cases across the United States; whereas, typically District Attorneys or City Attorneys will handle state matters through the various state government.

Also, you’re talking about the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, so you don’t really know exactly what your sentence is going into a sentencing hearing.  You’re going to have to make your argument rely on the documents in the case and rely on your client’s lack of a criminal record, hopefully.

And of course, bail is a lot different in federal cases.  A lot of times you could just be straight detained where you can’t get out; whereas, in a state case, I would say better than 99% of the cases, a person is entitled to some sort of a bail.

It may be a high bail, but you can at least get a bail and bail bondsman and get out and defend yourself from the outside.  Whereas in federal, especially in some of these big drug cases, people just simply can’t get out  They’re looking at too much time.  They’re looking at 10-year mandatory minimums.

Our Law Firm Can Help You

They may have a prior criminal record.  They may have used a weapon and be a danger to the community.  They may not be a citizen.  There’s a whole host of different factors that judges look at and evaluate when it comes to letting people out while a case is pending at the federal level. Contact our federal criminal defense lawyers to review your case.

So, your best bet is to find somebody who knows what they’re doing, has experience and you need to sit down with that person and get your game plan together so that you can have the best chance to stay out of custody in a federal case and end up with the best possible result.

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Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ.

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