Being involved in a federal crime can have serious consequences. Until they find themselves in the middle of a federal investigation, many people don’t even know how this criminal system works, let alone what their rights are within it. When in fact, understanding the federal criminal law is crucial if you want to avoid severe punishment. Here is a little more information about federal crimes and what you should do if you are involved in one.
What Are Federal Crimes
Every crime that violates US federal laws is considered a federal crime and is investigated by one of the United States government agencies. When a criminal action crosses state lines, involves a federal employee, or takes place on federal land, the federal government will have jurisdiction to investigate the case.
As this involves more intricate procedures than state cases, you will need legal help to understand the federal court rules and all the steps in the federal criminal process. Because it’s the government who will develop their case against you, you will be at an enormous disadvantage without the proper defense. It means that you will be up against the United States prosecutors and several federal agencies with unlimited resources and very intimidating power.
And for that same reason, you must be prepared that your case will take a lot more time than any state case would. Even with the proper legal defense, these proceedings will affect every aspect of your life. During a federal investigation, you will have to face several rigorous interrogations and hearing sessions in front of a federal judge. Not to mention the possible loss of your employment and the deterioration of your mental health.
What You Should Do
Even if you are only approached by a federal agent as a possible person of interest in any of their cases, your first course of action should be to hire an established criminal defense attorney. Consider the crime you are involved in, and start searching for an attorney in that area of defense. Aside from having experience defending similar crimes, your lawyer should also be experienced in handling cases in the same state where the charges are brought up against you. This means that if you are accused of a federal crime in Minnesota, you will need to seek criminal defense lawyers based in that state, regardless of your residence. While this can make the consultation with them challenging, your court process will actually be more straightforward. After familiarizing yourself with federal law, collect all the information you and your lawyer find relevant to the case. This should also involve any important documents which should be presented in a comprehensive form, as any of them could play a significant role in your defense later in court. If you face both state and federal charges, the documents should be prepared separately for both cases.
Federal criminal cases can be resolved with either the charges being dismissed, the prosecution and defense negotiating a plea bargain, or the case proceeding to trial. Depending on your circumstances, your attorney might advise you to accept a plea deal. However, you should only do this if it’s in your best interest; otherwise, you should take your chances at court.
What You Shouldn’t Do
Although defendants in criminal cases have the legal right to represent themselves, this doesn’t mean they should. Unless you have a background in criminal defense yourself, you will never have the same level of understanding of the federal criminal law as an attorney working in that sector. You also can’t objectively analyze all the evidence collected during the investigation and build an effective defense based on that evidence. So you should let your lawyer run your defense in court, but don’t be afraid to ask any questions about your case.
Facing criminal charges can be so scary that you might feel that just being charged with a crime is the same thing as being convicted. However, you should never assume this because the burden of proof in these cases is “beyond a reasonable doubt,” (the highest one in any court in the United States). This means that here you will have a chance to prove your innocence up until the final hearing.
Although the punishments can vary from one state to another, the process of a federal criminal investigation has the same elements throughout the whole country. It usually involves a very intimidating inquiry, for which most people are unprepared. If this happens to you, you need to seek immediate legal help and learn how to proceed forward. Plus, an experienced federal lawyer will be able to build a proper defense for you when your case goes to court.