How We Attack Federal Cases
Not all federal cases start in federal court. Many begin as state-level charges but then are indicted by a federal grand jury. When we take on your case, our priority is to keep your matter out of federal court, if possible. We will fight to have the charges dismissed, though this is not always possible. If the prosecutor intends on moving forward, we will fight for you to face lesser charges in state or federal court. Reduced charges are the first method of mitigating the possible consequences of a conviction.
As the case moves forward, we take full advantage of discovery, an independent investigation, and pre-trial motions to get ready for trial. We will create an aggressive, customized strategy to pursue an acquittal—a “not guilty” verdict.
If you are facing federal criminal charges, your entire future is at risk. Schedule a free consultation with one of our federal defense attorneys by calling (980) 237-4579. Our federal criminal lawyers have more than 35 years of combined legal experience and have helped numerous clients facing federal charges.
We begin each case with an independent investigation. We are not interested in relying on the police, federal agents or the prosecutor for information. Instead, we get to the bottom of what happened ourselves, which includes scrutinizing each step the police took leading up to your arrest and the reliability of any witnesses.
We must evaluate whether law enforcement took any unlawful steps that led to evidence against you. We are particularly concerned with unreasonable searches and seizures. If the police illegally obtained evidence, we would fight for it to be thrown out. By excluding illegally obtained evidence, the prosecution may lack sufficient evidence to move forward with the case.
The Advantages of Hiring Randall & Stump, PLLC
One of the benefits of hiring a federal criminal defense lawyer from Randall & Stump, PLLC, is our working relationships and reputation we have with federal prosecutors and judges. We know federal prosecutors in North Carolina and how they handle various federal crimes, including drug, gun, child pornography, conspiracy, racketeering/RICO, and other charges. Knowing what to expect helps us plan how to respond to their arguments and evidence.
By hiring a federal lawyer right away, for example after receiving a target letter from the United States Attorney’s Office, you protect your rights throughout a law enforcement investigation. The most important piece of advice we will give you is to remain silent. It does not help to talk with the police, answer questions, or explain your side of the story. If a law enforcement officer contacts you, politely decline an interview and then call us immediately. If you’re arrested, say, “I am invoking my right to remain silent, and I want an attorney.”
Another benefit of hiring our firm at the outset of your case is that we may know the most effective way to pursue the best possible outcome in your case. Our case results speak for themselves. We help many people get criminal charges dropped or reduced because of our decades of real litigation experience.
Federal vs. State Court
The federal government has a separate court system for federal crimes, and operates differently than state court. You will need a federal criminal defense lawyer who is licensed to represent you in federal court and experienced with the federal system.
The various court procedures and rules of evidence are different in federal courts than in North Carolina’s state courts. You need an attorney who will not make costly mistakes because of these differences.
Another distinction between state and federal charges are that federal crimes typically have harsher penalties. You may face higher fines and a longer term of imprisonment for a federal offense than you would for the equivalent state crime.
At Randall & Stump, PLLC, our criminal attorneys are well versed in trying cases in federal court, and we understand how high the stakes are. To learn how we can help, call (980) 907-8610 or request a free and confidential consultation through our online form.
When a Crime May Be Charged as a Federal Offense
Most criminal conduct is illegal under both federal and state law. While you will usually be charged either under North Carolina’s law or federal law for an alleged crime, there is the possibility that that you will be prosecuted in state and federal court simultaneously.
In most situations, if you are accused of criminal conduct within North Carolina, you will face state-level charges. But certain factors will lead to being charged with a federal crime instead, such as:
- You allegedly violated a federal statute.
- You allegedly committed a crime on federal property, such as within a federal building, military base, or national park.
- Your alleged criminal activity crossed state lines.
- You were investigated and arrested by a federal agency, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) or the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
- You were arrested based on information provided by a federal informant during a federal investigation.
Whether you are charged with a state or federal crime may be up to prosecutorial discretion. Once you know you are under investigation, contact federal attorneys in Charlotte, NC right away. If there is any possibility of federal charges, you want to be prepared as early on as possible.
The Federal Court Process
Federal Grand Jury
The federal court process is vastly different from North Carolina’s criminal justice process. For federal prosecutors to charge you with a felony offense, they must call a grand jury. A grand jury is made up of individuals who review the evidence against you and determine whether you should be charged. Grand juries consist of between 12 and 23 jurors and are conducted in secret. If the jurors believe there is probable cause that you committed the crime, they will hand down a federal indictment. The indictment contains the specific charges against you.
Initial Court Appearance
Following the indictment, you may be arrested or asked to turn yourself in. The next step is your initial appearance, which may be the first time you have appeared in front of a judge. The judge will read the charges against you and remind you of certain rights.
If the federal government moves for pre-trial detention or your case involves charges with a rebuttable presumption that you be detained before trial, the Court will schedule a detention hearing, giving each side a chance to argue for or against detention.
The next step in the criminal court process is discovery. During this time, your legal team and the prosecution request information and evidence from one another or share any evidence they are required to.
During or after discovery, your federal lawyer and the prosecutors may begin negotiations for a plea agreement. Whether a deal is the right course of action depends on the circumstances. Always speak with a federal defense attorney before agreeing to a plea.
If you do not accept a plea, then the case moves forward into preliminary hearings and pre-trial motions. Common pre-trial motions are about whether certain evidence should be admitted into court or not. Your lawyers may attempt to limit certain evidence against you as part of their overall defense strategy.
Next comes your trial, which may last days or weeks. Each side will present opening arguments, call and cross-examine witnesses, and submit evidence. Once both sides have presented their evidence and completed their closing arguments, then the jury, which is made up of 6 to 12 people, deliberates. The jury must be unanimous in finding you not guilty or guilty.
If you are found guilty, then the next step is your sentencing. The judge will determine the appropriate sentence based on the minimum and maximum penalties outlined by federal law. If convicted, your federal crimes lawyer will strive to minimize the consequences of a conviction, including seeking a more lenient sentence than the federal government may ask for.
Common Federal Charges
At Randall & Stump, PLLC, we highly experienced in the federal system and can represent you against charges such as:
In general, racketeering involves interference with commerce using violence or threats, including extortion and robbery, and other crimes, such as money laundering (18 US Code §1951–1960). The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (18 US Code §1961–1968) is how federal authorities charge many individuals involved in organized crime, including but not limited to criminal conduct related to drugs, weapons, human trafficking, and the collection of unlawful debt. RICO encompasses dozens of crimes and specifically allows leaders of criminal organizations to be charged for conduct they ordered other people to perform. For every count of violating RICO, you can be imprisoned for up to 20 years.
Under 18 US Code §371, you may be charged with conspiracy if federal authorities gain evidence that you and at least one other person planned and took at least one overt act toward completing a specific federal crime. If convicted of conspiracy, you can be fined and imprisoned for up to five years. Except, if the attempted crime was a misdemeanor, then the maximum penalty is that of the attempted misdemeanor offense.
Federal Drug Crimes
Drug manufacturing, possessing, selling, and trafficking are illegal under federal law (21 US Code §841-865). In most situations, simple possession and sales are charged under state law. However, when a drug offense includes large quantities of controlled substances, trafficking allegations, or the drugs crossed state lines, it is more likely to be charged as a federal crime. Federal drug charges are harshly penalized, which is why you should have a federal criminal defense attorney represent you.
If you are driving your personal vehicle on a military base, in a national park, or on other federal property and you have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above .08 percent, you can be charged with DUI/DWI under various federal laws. This is a misdemeanor offense for which you can be penalized with fines, months in prison, and years of probation. If you are arrested for operating a common carrier under the influence of alcohol or any controlled substance, you can be imprisoned for up to 15 years (18 US Code §342). A common carrier includes vehicles involved in commerce by carrying passengers or goods on the ground, in the air, or across the water. Common carriers can be buses, trucks, ships, planes, and more.
Federal Gun Crimes
In addition to the typical North Carolina firearm offenses, there are two main federal firearm charges: Felon in possession of a firearm and/or Ammunition (18 US Code § 922(g)) and Possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence or drug trafficking (18 USC § 924(c)). These federal gun charges are aggressively pursued, and convictions could result in significant mandatory minimum prison sentences and, in some circumstances, up to life imprisonment.
Possession of Child Pornography
Child pornography charges may be federal when the materials are transported across state lines or if they originate outside of the United States. Federal penalties can be much harsher than state fines and prison time, so it’s important to work with a federal sex crimes lawyer to handle these charges from the beginning.
Contact Our Federal Lawyers for Help
All federal charges should be taken seriously, even misdemeanors. The best thing you can do to improve your chance of avoiding a conviction is to work with skilled and experienced federal lawyers in Charlotte, NC. By having a criminal defense attorney from Randall & Stump, PLLC, by your side, you have someone to guide you through the federal court system while protecting your rights at every turn. You have a legal team who will build you a strong defense and fight hard for you to be exonerated in court.