Top Federal Criminal Lawyers

Over 50 Years of Federal Experience On Your Team

When you’re facing a federal issue, you need an attorney whose going to be available 24/7 to help you get the results and outcome you need. The value of working with the Spodek Law Group is that we treat each and every client like a member of our family. Unlike other law firms, we charge a reasonable fee, and offer flexible payment plans. It’s because of this, we’ve been highly ranked by organizations like Super Lawyers, Avvo, and other entities.

The Spodek Law Group is an acclaimed law firm specializing in criminal defense, renowned for its provision of a fully digital portal. Through this portal, clients have the convenience of tracking the progress of their case, communicating with us, submitting documents, and accessing additional services. The Spodek Law Group is a law firm with a nationwide presence, serving clients from coast to coast. We possess extensive experience in handling cases across the country, and our dedicated attorneys are committed to providing you with top-notch representation no matter what your legal situation may be.


Trustworthy Federal Criminal Lawyers

Todd Spodek, our founding partner, is a seasoned trial attorney with many years of experience. He is a second generation lawyer, and one who takes his work seriously. He has many years of experience handling hundreds of trials. He has been seen on major news outlets, ranging from New York Post, Newsweek, Fox 5 New York, South China Morning Post,, to other major news outlets. He has appeared as a legal expert on dozens of television and radio shows.

In 2022, Netflix released a series about one of Todd’s clients: Anna Delvey/Anna Sorokin.

It’s simple. Every single client deserves honesty and white glove service. Every single client should know what he, or she, potentially faces and what the outcome of their criminal defense case could be – before hiring a criminal defense attorney. Our lawyers have experience handling criminal defense cases nationwide, ranging from Los Angeles to NYC. Our philosophy is fair and simple – every single law firm should adhere to it – but most don’t. Most criminal defense attorneys will take on any client possible who can pay — regardless of whether they can help the client. Not us. We only take on clients who can help. We are selective about the number of clients we work with, and only work with clients who we can truly help. This is different from other law firms, who take on every single client – irrespective of the outcome.

When you reach out to our law firm – the process begins with a risk free consultation in person, or over the phone. During this consultation – you can ask us anything – regardless of how long it takes. We encourage you to take this opportunity to ask the tough questions – which allow us to show you our understanding of the issue you’re facing. We are available to help you 24/7.

The Spodek Law Group handles cases nationwide. We have offices in NYC and Los Angeles. Regardless of how tough your situation is – we are here to help you. Our criminal defense lawyers work hard to have a solution for you, irrespective of the situation you find yourself in. Many clients are often embarrassed by their situation, and don’t speak openly about their alleged issue. We encourage open dialogue, and recommend full transparency – so we can give you the best possible legal advice. Our NYC criminal attorneys understand that your future is on the line – and that’s why we’re here to help you and give you the best possible advice.

If you’re a suspect, or person of interest, in a federal crime, we nca help

If you’re under investigation, or have already been charged with a crime, then your future and freedom could be at risk.

  • Authorities such as the FBI, DEA, Secret Service, and Homeland Security, could be involved in the investigation against you. The agencies have extremely vast resources, compared to local law enforcement.
  • The federal government has the ability to intercept phone calls, involve in spying and collecting video evidence, and use other tools.
  • Punishments for federal offenses and crimes can be harsh. There are mandatory minimum sentences which absolutely cannot be negotiated, and there is no probation.

Federal level offenses are very complex, and serious. It takes months or years to prepare a case. Federal agents are extremely thorough, and aggressive, when building evidence for your case. If there’s suspicion you’re involved in a federal offense, it’s likely agents have been gathering evidence about it for a long time already and have built a case against you. If the case against you results in charges, it means the US Attorney’s office has already found incriminating evidence against you. It’s crucial you don’t want to seek legal representation when preparing your defense. Only an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer can build an aggressive enough defense.

How do federal criminal charges differ from state offenses?

Many federal crimes involve illegal activity or cross state lines, or involve the internet, or involve federal agencies can result in harsh penalties. Examples of federal crimes are:

  • drug trafficking
  • credit card fraud
  • money laundering
  • child porn
  • internet crimes
  • racketeering, and rico violations
  • identity theft
  • mail fraud
  • drug crimes
  • sex crimes
  • wire fraud
  • and other white collar offenses

There are differences in the ways that investigations of federal crimes is handled. The US Attorney’s Office, and DOJ, are responsible for prosecuting and litigating federal cases. They follow federal rules of criminal procedures. Federal judges have to follow sentencing guidelines, and mandatory minimum sentences. They don’t get to use any of their discretion. The right federal lawyer will work with you, every step of the way, and keep you informed.

What to expect during a federal arrest and the court

Criminal cases handled by federal courts follow a different process than those handled by state courts. If the investigation by federal authorities results in enough evidence to make an arrest, the individual who is charged will be brought into custody, and then interviewed. The accused then appears in court for an arraignment in front of a federal judge. The judge then decides whether or not to grant the defendant bail, and is responsible for setting conditions of the release. The result of the arraignment depends on the details of the crime and case. The judge will look at information gathered during the pretrial interview, the nature of the crime, the defendant’s criminal history, and other relevant information.

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The Spodek Law Group is one of the top rated law firms in the country. We have over 50 years of combined experience. We can handle a wide array of federal and state legal issues. Regardless of whether you're facing a federal inquiry, dealing with a state defense issue, or have a family law issue, we can help. We are diversified, and well equipped, nationwide federal law firm.

Experience the Spodek Law Group Difference

A Nationwide Law Firm With Over 50 Years of Experience

At Spodek Law Group, our goal is to be your go-to law firm for all of your federal and state legal issues. We have a nationwide, with offices all across the country. We specialize in tackling hard to win situations that other law firms are simply not equipped to handle. When you need a precise, and decisive victory – Spodek Law Group is the federal law firm to turn to. Our founding partner Todd Spodek is personally involved in each and every case our firm is tackling. It means you’re getting the best possible legal representation – regardless of where you live, or the size of your case. We take pride in providing white glove service to a curated clientele nationwide. Our cases have resulted in recognition from major news organizations like FOX News, NYPOST, WSJ, and even resulted in a Netflix special show made.

Risk-Free Consultation

We understand the importance of trust between attorney and client, which is why we offer a risk-free consultation in person or over the phone. During this consultation, our dedicated attorneys are available to answer all your questions and thoroughly evaluate your case. We’ll explain the law to you, outline potential outcomes, and help you make an informed decision about your legal representation.

The Importance of Hiring a Federal Criminal Lawyer

Protecting Your Future

Being falsely accused of a crime can have devastating consequences on your future. While some defendants may opt for a pro bono public defender, it’s crucial to understand that they work for the court and may prioritize their relationships with the prosecutor and judge over your best interests. Hiring a private attorney like Todd Spodek ensures that you have someone truly dedicated to fighting for your rights.

Evidence Evaluation and Defense Strategy

One of the most critical aspects of a criminal case is the evidence. Our federal attorneys will meticulously examine the evidence, ensuring it was collected legally and ethically. By challenging tainted or improperly obtained evidence, we weaken the prosecution’s case and increase your chances of a favorable outcome.

Federal Criminal Assistance and Common Federal Crimes

Federal investigations and charges carry unique challenges and require specialized legal representation. Our team of experienced federal attorneys can help you navigate the complexities of federal cases, including:

  • Drug crimes
  • Conspiracy
  • RICO
  • Mail/Wire Fraud
  • Credit Card Fraud
  • Health Care fraud
  • Bank/Securities Fraud
  • Tax Fraud
  • Identity Theft
  • Counterfeiting
  • Perjury
  • Internet Crimes

Recognizing Federal Charges and Investigations

If you are the target of a federal investigation, it’s vital to take immediate action. You may receive a target letter, have federal agents question you or your loved ones, or experience a search of your home or office. It’s essential to understand that an investigation doesn’t necessarily mean you have been charged with a crime, but it’s a clear indication that you need to contact an experienced federal criminal attorney right away.

Acting Quickly When Charged with a Federal Crime

Finding Out If You Have Been Charged

It’s crucial to know as soon as possible if you have been charged with a federal crime. In some instances, you may be arrested or receive a letter notifying you of the charges. In other cases, it may be less clear – you may be questioned or have your home searched. Regardless of the circumstances, it’s essential to act quickly and get in touch with a knowledgeable defense attorney who can help you understand the charges you might be facing and develop a strategy to fight back.

What to Do If You Are Charged With a Federal Crime

The first step when facing federal charges or an investigation is to contact a licensed and experienced defense attorney. Having a skilled legal advocate on your side ensures that you are protected throughout the investigation process, informed of potential charges, and advised on how to fight back.

With the Spodek Law Group, you don’t have to wait to begin defending your freedom. Our team is always ready to walk you through the steps to take following federal charges. When federal agents and the attorney’s office are involved, it’s even more crucial to have an experienced attorney on your side.

Federal Target Letters and Charges

At a certain point, you may receive a letter stating that you’re the target of a federal investigation. The target letter may ask you to meet with investigators or a member of the attorney’s office. Never respond to a target letter without first securing a lawyer who can guide you through what to say and do to help your case.

Our Approach to Federal Investigations

At Todd Spodek Law Firm, we understand the importance of competent legal representation in complex federal cases. Our licensed federal defense attorneys have extensive experience handling federal investigations and charges, and are knowledgeable about strategies that work in cases involving fraud, drug crime, conspiracy, white-collar offenses, and more. We can walk you through the stages of your case, provide available options, and even lead you to achieving your desired result. With so much potentially on the line, don’t wait any longer. Connect with our team today to learn more about federal investigation defense and get started.

How Do You Know If You’ve Been Charged With a Federal Crime?

Being charged with a federal crime can be a daunting experience, but it can be even more overwhelming if you’re unclear about whether you’ve been charged. As a citizen, you have every right to a fair trial and investigation. Here’s how to know if you’ve been charged with a federal crime.


If law enforcement arrives, places you in handcuffs, and reads you your rights, there’s not much ambiguity. You’ve likely been federally charged, and if you’re still unsure, see if your arresting officers are federally-based, such as FBI.

Charged Without Arrest

You don’t have to be put in handcuffs to be charged with a federal crime. You might receive a notice in the mail summoning you to federal court and detailing the charges. Make sure to read this to verify that these are indeed federal charges. As long as you’re keeping up with your mail, you should have enough time to make the necessary provisions to appear in court on their requested date.

Investigation Without Arrest

Just because federal officers don’t have a warrant to arrest you doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. You might be greeted one day by FBI agents possessing a search warrant who look around your home. This means a judge has determined there’s enough of a possibility of incriminating evidence to allow for a search of your home. You need to understand your rights and ask for physical evidence of a warrant. You also should remember to adhere to your right to remain silent, even if you haven’t been placed under arrest.

What To Say

If you learn or suspect that you’re under investigation for a federal crime, there might be an impulse to try to cover your tracks and insist upon your innocence, either at the time of a raid or when under questioning. This can greatly sabotage your case, as answering questions could leave you open to being caught in contradictions that could cast doubts over your innocence. You also shouldn’t be discussing your case with anyone but your attorney. The matters of your case should be considered confidential.

Todd Spodek Mention in the media

Frequently Asked Questions

Plea bargains are agreements between a defendant and a federal prosecutor. In this agreement, the defendant pleads guilt in exchange for reduced charges, or to get a lighter sentence. These agreements provide benefits to everyone. For the prosecutor assigned to the case, they can resolve the case without the time spent on a trial. For a defendant, it means they will get a lighter sentence, or have charges reduced/dismissed.

Plea bargaining in federal criminal cases aren’t the same as getting a plea-deal in state cases. There are different laws, and considerations, when it comes to federal criminal cases. Federal judges also have wide discretion when imposing the sentence. In state criminal court cases, the plea agreements are often done orally, and then put on the record with waiver of rights form being the only written record of the terms.

Federal criminal cases which are being handled by plea agreement feature length written documents. These documents are extremely detailed, and contain a lot of information about the admissions the defendant is making, the rights the defendant/government are giving up, and the agreement of both parties to the sentencing, and other information about the case.

Federal plea deals aren’t always the final word. Defendants need to understand that the sentencing ranging which is agreed upon by federal prosecutors is only a recommendation to the judge.

If you’re wondering whether to accept the plea agreement or night, it all depends on your criminal charges and whether you can win at trial. Deciding whether to go to trial or accept a plea deal can be very difficult. Most criminal cases don’t go to trial. They are usually resolved via plea bargains. Does this mean you should accept a plea bargain and avoid going to a trial? Well…the answer is – it depends. Just because most cases are resolved through plea bargains doesn’t mean you should accept a plea deal and avoid going to trial.

In order to determine whether you should accept a plea deal or not, you should speak to a qualified Federal criminal lawyer.

Here are some factors you may want to consider when looking at a potential plea offer from a prosecutor

  • Discuss the plea deal thoroughly with your attorney. Have an exhaustive conversation and leave no stone unturned. This is important so you feel comfortable with what you’re about to do.  Your federal lawyers will help you understand the terms, possible criminal sentences, and how it can impact your case. The professional perspective of your federal defense attorney is crucial, especially in trying to understand the pros and cons of the plea deal.
  • You want to consider the evidence against you, and how likely you are to be found guilty – if you go to trial. A plea deal may be better than risking a guilty verdict and being sentenced harsher sentence. You want to take into account all of the evidence against you. Don’t be overconfident. Make sure you’re doing a correct count of the evidence and how harmful or helpful it is.
  • Look at the benefits – a plea agreement may result in some charges being dropped or reduced, leading to less jail time. Your plea deal gives you more certainty rather than leaving your fate up to a judge.
  • Weigh the costs of taking the plea deal – you will have to admit guilt and there may be limits placed on your appeal rights. There are lifelong ramifications of taking a guilty plea. Consider the impact a guilty plea could have on your personal and professional life – things like your right to vote, right to bear arms, could all be impacted if you plea guilty.
  • Get a second opinion by consulting with another federal defense lawyer if you don’t feel confident in the advice you’ve gotten from your criminal lawyer. Their outside perspective may be helpful. It’s super helpful to speak to a variety of lawyers.
  • Consider how going to trial could impact you and your family emotionally, physically, and financially versus accepting a plea.

The choice of whether you take a potential plea is yours alone. Do not let anyone force you, including your lawyer or family member. You should consult with everyone, but take your own advice always. Carefully weigh the plea offer, trust yourself, and determine what is in your best interests legally and personally.

The United States Federal Sentencing Guidelines are essentially rules, which federal judges have to follow when deciding criminal sentences for defendants in cases. Here’s a quick overview of how federal sentencing guidelines work and how they could potentially impact defendants:

  • The federal guidelines provide a pre-calculated range of recommended criminal sentences based on the offense committed and the defendant’s previous criminal history. Judges use this range as a starting point and have some leeway.
  • There are some factors that are important, like the severity of the crime, whether weapons were used, financial and economic losses, and the defendant’s role in the crime — all of these variables affect the final calculation. Mitigating factors can reduce the sentencing range.
  • Federal judges must consider the guidelines, but they aren’t mandatory. Federal judges can impose sentences above, or below, the sentencing range if the circumstances warrant it.
  • For you – the defendant, the federal guidelines provide an estimate of what your potential final sentence could be. Knowing the sentencing range helps inform you plea deal decisions and sentencing expectations.
  • During the sentencing phase, your federal attorney will present arguments for a lower sentence based on the guidelines, calculations and other mitigating factors in your case.
  • If you receive a sentence above or below the federal guidelines, this can be used as grounds for an appeal after sentencing.
  • The federal sentencing guidelines look to provide consistency in sentencing across similar cases. It’s fair to say – they are complex and you should discuss how they apply specifically to your situation when speaking to your federal defense attorney.

Have you or someone you care about received a target letter from federal law enforcement? If so, some of the information below might be helpful to you. This isn’t a substitute for legal advice. It’s a good start though. Target letters are a way by which the federal government tells individuals they are a target for criminal prosecution. It means the prosecutor assigned to the case believes you’ve committed a crime. This is good time to hire a federal defense lawyer. This letter might come after federal agents have tried to interview you, or it might come out of the blue.

This is used frequently in white collar cases, and it’s the first indication you’re under investigation.

The US Attorney’s Manual defines someone as a target, when there is substantial evidence. The target letter will notify you about a number of things, such as:

  • informing you that you are a target in a federal grand jury investigation
  • the crime, or crimes, you are suspected of committing
  • your right to assert the Fifth Amendment
  • information for getting a court-appointed lawyer

The target letter will caution you against destroying any evidence, such as acts which could be understood as obstruction of justice, and may even encourage you to reach out to the prosecutor assigned to your case to discuss the case. These letters typically follow a standardized format.

If you received a target letter, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to be indicted. 

Prosecutors are not always able to gather sufficient evidence to indict targets of investigations. In some cases, your federal criminal defense attorney will be able to persuade the prosecutor to close the investigation, or reclassify you as a witness. This will depend on the facts of your case. In most circumstances the government isn’t required to issue target letter. In fact, they aren’t as common as you think. Most of the time – the government doesn’t want the target of an investigation to know their status – because then the target the might be more likely to obstruct justice or flee.

Here are some suggestions on what you should do after getting a federal target letter

Retain a Federal Attorney

The first and most important step after you get a federal target letter is to hire an experienced federal defense attorney. Do not speak to any investigator, regardless of how nice they look – without your attorney present. As they say on TV, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. Your federal lawyer will guide you through the entire investigation process, offer advice on responding, and most importantly – negotiate with prosecutors on your behalf. Your federal attorney is responsible for helping you make sure you don’t make any mistakes – in addition to preventing you from incriminating yourself.

Do Not Tamper or Destroy Evidence

Destroying evidence, or tampering with evidence, connected to an investigation can lead to additional charges. This is something Prosecutors take very seriously. You should keep all documents, electronic devices, and anything else that might be relevant to the investigation – and make sure you don’t tamper with it. Your federal defense attorney will review all of these items and may use them in your defense at a later point and time.

Understand the Investigation

Work with your criminal defense lawyer and try to understand what the investigation is about. Understanding the full scope of the investigation help you prepare a targeted defense strategy. Are you the main target of the investigation, or a witness character? What statutes are involved? All of these questions and more will be answered by your criminal defense attorney – whose job it is to help you.

Cooperate Within Limits

It’s very tempting to try to clear your name immediately, it’s important to remember that you’re not obligated to speak with federal investigators without your attorney. If you make any mistakes, the federal prosecutors and investigators are likely going to use it against you. Let your attorney handle any interactions with law enforcement to ensure you’re protected.

Finances Matter

Legal battles are usually long and costly. Very few legal cases are solved overnight. It takes time. As a result, it’s important to consider your finances – make sure to arrange your finances and get them in order. It’s a good idea to set aside funds for legal fees and other expenses, such as the cost of experts.

Exercise Your Rights

As the person who is the subject of an investigation, you have constitutional rights that must be respected by law enforcement. These rights include the right to remain silent, the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, and the right to an attorney. Make sure you understand your rights. Do not let law enforcement agents convince you that you don’t have rights, or let them bend it. In situations like this, having a criminal defense attorney is the right way to proceed.

Be Proactive, Not Reactive

Don’t just wait for things to happen when it comes to your federal defense case. You must be proactive, and take a forceful approach to resolving your issues. Through your criminal defense lawyer, you will be able to find out more about the case against you. Working hand in hand with your criminal attorney will allow you to make a plea deal or alternative resolution before charges are formally filed. Being proactive allows you more control over the situation.

When you’re getting hauled in front of a grand jury – it can be very intimidating. Everything will feel really official and serious – and you won’t know what to do. You enter into the courthouse, surrounded by jurors, prosecutors, stenographers and you don’t even know where to sit. It’s only natural to wonder – can I bring a lawyer with me to the grand jury? Do I have a right to an attorney – if I’m testifying before a grand jury? This is an important question and everyone wonders what the answer to this is.

The short answer is NO, you don’t have a constitutional right to have an attorney with you in the grand jury room. If you’re called into testify before a grand jury – you should first consult with a federal defense attorney at the Spodek Law Group.

Many people wonder – doesn’t the Sixth Amendment give you the right to legal counsel? Well yes, it does. But the Supreme Court has ruled that this constitutional right – specifically only applies to the criminal trial itself. The grand jury stage is considered a pre-trial investigative stage, and thus – this right doesn’t apply, because you haven’t been charged yet formally as a criminal.

What this means – is at this stage the prosecutors get to speak to you without your lawyer there to object. On the bright side, you can leave to confer with your attorney whose outside the courtroom if you need a break. But otherwise, you’re dealing with the questioning alone. There is no lawyer there to help you answer any trick questions.

Federal attorneys don’t love this setup. Many federal lawyers argue that having a lawyer present in the grand jury room, would discourage bullying or sneaky tactics by prosecutors. But the courts do not agree. As far as they’re concerned, the grand jury isn’t a mini-trial. There’s no adversary in the courtroom with you, just jurors deciding if charges make sense.

Sometimes judges will allow a lawyer in the room if things seem unfair. For example if the prosecutor is going after you extra hard. But there’s no guaranteed right to have an attorney in the room with you. In virtually all cases, your lawyer can prep you beforehand. But once you’re sworn in, you’re on your own facing the jury.

Understanding Dual Sovereignty: Can You Be Charged Twice?

Can you get charged twice for the same crime? This is a tricky question. Many people wonder about it and ask us. It’s a tricky legal question. Most people assume that the Fifth Amendment prevents it – “nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” What does this mean? It sounds like double jeopardy is not allowed! But here’s the issue: state charges and federal charges are considered separate.

Unfortunately, you can get charged twice for the same crime.

This is due to the fact our government was setup on “dual sovereignty doctrine” – the idea that federal and state governments are separate entities.

A crime like robbery, violates both state and federal laws against theft and federal laws protecting interstate commerce. States are interested in prosecuting crimes locally, while the feds care about crimes affecting the nation. Crimes that cross state lines are prosecuted by the federal government, but the individual states themselves can prosecute the person committing the crime as well.

The Supreme Court upheld the idea of dual sovereignty back in 1959. Defendants in criminal cases who had pled guilty to a state charge challenged a second federal case but lost. The Supreme Court said states and the federal government draw power from different sources so they can prosecute as separate sovereigns for the same crime. Bottom line, don’t assume you can only be prosecuted once for the crime. Both the feds and state authorities will try to claim their pound of flesh and come after you.

This doctrine is still valid today. There are many crimes that can lead to state and federal charges – money laundering, drug trafficking, civil rights violations, even murder. If a state fails to properly prosecute a crime, or lets someone off too lightly, the feds might step in and prosecute the case. They are not afraid of overstepping. In some cases – the state authorities will allow the feds to take over- because the federal prosecutors have far more resources.

The Court has said sham or vindictive prosecutions designed just to get a second bite at prosecuting won’t fly. Your federal attorney can try to get sentences served at the same time. And they might find sympathetic judges willing to rein in overzealous prosecutions.

Some experts think dual sovereignty gives too much power to prosecutors. But it remains standard practice. So for now, the federal justice system looks at both state and federal prosecutions as two separate prosecutions that can be allowed to go on, concurrently. A completed state case doesn’t stop the feds from stepping up to the plate later on.

How Quickly Will My Federal Criminal Case Go To Trial?

If you have been charged with a federal crime, one of the first questions you probably have is “how long will it take for my case to go to trial?” The timeline for a federal criminal case can vary quite a bit depending on the specifics of your case, but here is a general overview of the process and timeline you can expect.

Initial Court Appearances

Once you have been arrested on federal charges, you will be brought before a judge for an initial appearance within 1-2 days. At this first hearing, the judge will:

  • Advise you of the charges against you
  • Appoint counsel if you cannot afford an attorney
  • Consider whether you should be released on bail or detained until trial

If the government wants you detained pre-trial, they can file a motion for detention and the judge may schedule a detention hearing in the next 3-5 days. This is when arguments will be made about whether you are a flight risk or danger to the community.

Grand Jury Indictment

Within 30 days of your arrest, your charges must be presented to a federal grand jury. The grand jury determines if there is probable cause to formally charge you with the crimes alleged. If the grand jury votes to indict you, this formally initiates the criminal proceedings. You will be arraigned shortly after the indictment is returned, where you will enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.

Pretrial Motions and Discovery

Once you have been indicted, the next phase is exchanging information between the defense and prosecution through discovery and filing pretrial motions. Your defense attorney will likely file motions asking the judge to throw out evidence or statements that may have been obtained illegally. This phase can take anywhere from 2-6 months depending on the complexity of the case. Extensive discovery and complicated legal issues will lengthen this process.

Plea Bargaining

The vast majority of federal criminal cases (over 90%) end in a plea bargain rather than going to trial. After reviewing the evidence against you and the potential sentencing guidelines, your defense attorney may negotiate a plea deal with the prosecutor. This can happen at any point in the process, sometimes even up to the eve of trial. If a plea is reached, there will be no trial.


If no plea agreement is reached, your case will proceed to trial before a judge and jury. The trial will begin with jury selection, which generally takes 1-2 days. Then the government will present its case first, followed by the defense. The entire trial process, including jury deliberations, usually lasts between 2-4 weeks in federal court. Simple cases with only a few witnesses can sometimes be tried in only 2-3 days.


If you are convicted by guilty plea or at trial, a sentencing hearing will take place approximately 70-90 days later. A pre-sentence report will be prepared by the probation department to guide the judge’s sentencing decision. You will have a chance to review the report and object to any factual errors. At the sentencing hearing, the judge will impose the final sentence after considering federal sentencing guidelines and arguments from both sides.

Timeline Summary

So in summary, here are the general time frames you can expect in a federal criminal case:

  • Arrest to Indictment: 1-2 months
  • Indictment to Pretrial Motions/Discovery: 2-6 months
  • Pretrial Motions to Trial: 6-12 months
  • Trial: 2-4 weeks
  • Conviction to Sentencing: 2-3 months

This provides a rough timeline of 12-24 months from arrest to sentencing for a federal criminal case that goes to trial. However, many factors can affect these time frames, leading to both shorter and longer periods. For example:

  • Cases involving complex fraud schemes, multiple defendants, or lots of evidence may take longer at each phase.
  • Simple cases with only a few witnesses can sometimes move much quicker.
  • Cases that end in a plea bargain skip the trial phase entirely.
  • Backlogs on the court’s calendar can lead to trial delays.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many court closures and case delays.
  • Your personal circumstances, such as being detained pretrial vs. out on bail, can impact the timeline.

Speedy Trial Act Time Limits

The Speedy Trial Act puts some outer limits on how long various phases of a federal criminal case should take. Here are some of the requirements:

  • Trial must begin within 70 days of indictment or initial appearance, whichever is later.
  • However, certain delays are excluded from the 70-day limit, such as delays caused by pretrial motions filed by the defense.
  • Retrials after a mistrial or appeal must start within 70 days of the order for retrial.
  • Sentencing must occur within 90 days of conviction if the defendant remains in custody.

While these limits can be exceeded due to case complexity or crowded dockets, the Speedy Trial Act prevents cases from excessively dragging on for years. Defendants may file motions to dismiss for violation of the Speedy Trial Act if the time limits are exceeded.

Consulting with Your Defense Attorney

The best way to get an estimate for the timeline in your specific federal case is to discuss it with your defense attorney. Based on the charges, potential pretrial issues, and other case factors, they can provide guidance on the likely timeline. Your attorney can also explain options like pursuing a plea bargain to resolve the case more quickly.The federal criminal justice system can seem intimidating and complex when you’re facing serious charges. But keeping the general case timeline in mind, and having an experienced federal defense lawyer in your corner, can help you navigate the process step-by-step. While every case is different, you can expect your attorney to guide you through the critical phases of the case as efficiently as possible.

Getting arrested and charged with a crime can be scary. Even if you’re innocent, dealing with the legal system is confusing and stressful. The good news is there are things you can do to get the charges against you dropped or reduced. I’ll walk you through some of the most common and effective options.

Work With a Lawyer

The very first thing you should do is get a criminal defense lawyer. Seriously, this is crucial. I know lawyers are expensive, but not having one is way riskier. A good lawyer knows how to negotiate with prosecutors and challenge flaws in the case against you. They can advise you on the law and legal strategy. Most importantly, they can communicate and negotiate on your behalf.When meeting with lawyers, find someone experienced with your type of criminal charge. Ask about their track record getting charges dismissed or reduced. Don’t just go with the cheapest option – go with someone who really knows their stuff.

Poke Holes in the Prosecutor’s Case

After you’ve got a lawyer, you’ll want to start picking apart the prosecutor’s case. Their whole goal is to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that you committed the crime. If you can show the evidence is flawed or inconclusive, it undermines the prosecutor’s case.Your lawyer can file motions asking the court to throw out evidence that was obtained illegally. For example, if the police searched your home without a warrant, that evidence could get tossed. If the prosecutor is relying on a shaky witness or inconclusive DNA evidence, your lawyer can emphasize reasonable doubt.The more you can weaken the prosecutor’s case, the more leverage you have to get charges dismissed or reduced.

Negotiate a Plea Deal

Over 90% of criminal cases end with a plea deal rather than going to trial. The prosecutor may offer to reduce the charges against you or recommend a lighter sentence in exchange for a guilty plea.This can be a good option if the evidence is stacked against you. Talk with your lawyer about the pros and cons of any plea offer. Make sure you understand what rights you’re giving up and what the consequences will be. Get clarity on the impact to your criminal record. Then decide if it’s better to take the deal or fight the charges at trial.

Show How Charges Are Excessive

Another approach is demonstrating how the charges against you are exaggerated or excessive given the circumstances.For example, if you’re charged with felony drug possession for having a tiny amount of marijuana, your lawyer can argue that’s an overreach. Or if you’re charged with assault for lightly shoving someone during an argument, that may be disproportionate.By showing how the charges are unfair or excessive compared to what actually happened, you may convince the prosecutor to reduce or drop them.

Present Mitigating Circumstances

Mitigating circumstances are facts about you or the incident that, while not excusing the crime, help explain why it occurred. Bringing these to light can persuade the prosecutor to reduce or dismiss charges.For example, if you were struggling with untreated mental illness or going through an exceptionally difficult life event when the crime happened, highlighting those circumstances can help. Or if the victim was partly at fault or you played a minor role in the crime, those factors may lead to leniency.The goal is to show you’re not solely to blame and deserve a second chance. Your lawyer can make the case for mitigation during plea negotiations.

Complete a Diversion Program

For some minor crimes like drug possession, shoplifting, or disorderly conduct, prosecutors may offer diversion deals. This means if you complete a rehab program, community service, or other conditions, the charges will get dismissed.Diversion is a good option for first-time offenders to avoid having a permanent criminal record. Make sure you can realistically complete whatever the prosecutor requires so you get those charges off your record for good.

Request a Preliminary Hearing

After you’re charged, you have a right to a preliminary hearing before the case can proceed to trial. This is a chance for your lawyer to argue there’s insufficient evidence to support the charges against you.If the judge agrees the prosecutor’s case is weak, the charges will get dismissed right then and there. Even if not, the preliminary hearing gives your lawyer insight into the prosecutor’s case and witness testimony.

Cut a Deal to Testify Against Others

Prosecutors are sometimes willing to dismiss charges against you if you provide testimony or information to build cases against other people involved in the crime.If you played a minor role and are willing to cooperate, offering to testify against more major players could get your charges reduced or dropped. Just make sure you understand what will be expected of you before agreeing to snitch.

Wait It Out

Sometimes just waiting and seeing is the best approach. The prosecutor has the burden to prove the case against you. If critical evidence or witnesses end up falling through, charges can get dismissed. Or the prosecutor may decide the case isn’t worth pursuing and drop charges on their own.Patience and letting things play out can work in your favor. Don’t be overly eager to plead guilty without first seeing how strong the prosecutor’s case looks as you get closer to trial.


Getting charged with a crime is scary, but it’s not necessarily the end of the world. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help develop the best strategy for getting charges dismissed or reduced based on the specifics of your case.The most common options are negotiating a plea deal, undermining the prosecutor’s evidence, showing excessive charges, presenting mitigating circumstances, completing a diversion program, requesting a preliminary hearing, cooperating as a witness, or simply waiting for the case against you to unravel.With the right legal guidance and strategic approach, you have a good chance of resolving the case favorably. Don’t panic or lose hope. Take it step by step, keep an open mind, and focus on getting the best possible outcome. You can get through this!

Getting convicted of a crime can really screw things up if you aren’t a citizen. It can get your green card taken away, make it so you can’t get one, or even get you deported. Basically, it’s bad news. Let’s break it down so you know what you’re in for if you get convicted.

Green Cards and Visas – Kiss ‘Em Goodbye

If you’ve got a green card and you’re convicted of certain crimes, that green card can be taken away. We’re talking aggravated felonies, crimes involving moral turpitude, multiple criminal convictions…the list goes on. So if you’re a permanent resident, be extra careful to stay out of trouble or that green card won’t be permanent anymore.It’s the same deal if you’re in the U.S. on a visa. Certain criminal convictions will get your visa revoked quicker than you can say “deported”. Say you’re on a student or work visa – a conviction could be grounds for removal before your visa is up. Yikes.

Forgetting About Naturalization

Let’s say you aren’t a U.S. citizen yet, but you were hoping to become one. Well, if you get convicted of a crime, you can kiss that dream goodbye. Naturalization (becoming a citizen) requires you to be of “good moral character”. Good luck showing you’ve got good moral character if you’ve been convicted of a crime.There are some exceptions – things like minor offenses won’t automatically disqualify you. But for the most part, that criminal record is gonna prevent you from naturalizing.

Getting Detained and Deported

Here’s what we’re all afraid of – getting detained by ICE and deported from the country. Unfortunately, a criminal conviction makes this way more likely. Even if you’ve got a green card or visa, a criminal conviction can start removal proceedings to have you deported.If you’re undocumented, it’s even worse. Any contact with police could lead to ICE finding out about you and deporting you. A criminal conviction just makes it that much easier for them.Basically, if you’re not a citizen, getting convicted gives ICE an easy excuse to kick you out. Not cool.

What Kind of Crimes Are We Talking About?

You’re probably wondering what kind of crimes can get your immigration status messed up. The biggest ones are:

  • Aggravated felonies: Murder, rape, trafficking – you know, the bad stuff.
  • Crimes involving moral turpitude: Things like fraud, theft, and assault. Basically, crimes that show you lack “good moral character”.
  • Multiple convictions: A bunch of misdemeanors or lesser crimes can still get you in trouble.
  • Drug crimes: Even minor drug possession charges can be an issue.

So anything from murder to marijuana – a conviction can create immigration problems. Dang.

Defenses Against Deportation

Let’s say you do get convicted of a crime. Is there anything you can do to prevent deportation? There are a few options:

  • Cancellation of removal: If you’ve been a permanent resident for over 5 years, you may qualify.
  • Asylum: If you can prove you’d be persecuted in your home country, asylum may protect you.
  • Withholding of removal: Similar to asylum, but a higher legal standard to meet.
  • Convention Against Torture relief: If you can show you’d likely be tortured in your home country.

These defenses are hard to win though, so avoiding a conviction in the first place is really important.

Bottom Line

Here’s the deal – if you aren’t a U.S. citizen, getting convicted of a crime can ruin your immigration status. Green cards can be taken away, visas revoked, and deportation proceedings started. Your best bet is to avoid any criminal convictions if possible. But if not, talk to an immigration attorney about potential defenses. 

Getting charged with a federal crime is scary enough, but then you gotta wonder – if I’m convicted, could the government seize my assets too? It’s a fair question. The short answer is yes, they totally can under certain circumstances. Let’s break it down.

Civil Asset Forfeiture

One way the feds can snatch your property is something called civil asset forfeiture. This is when the government takes your stuff by filing a case against the assets themselves, not you. Crazy right? It’s like your car or house committed the crime.The usual targets are cash, cars, and houses that law enforcement believes are connected to criminal activity. They don’t even need to convict you of a crime first. The case is against the property, so it’s on you to prove the assets are totally legit. Good luck with that.This process has come under fire lately for being a little too aggressive. I mean the government can just take your stuff without convicting you first? Kinda shady. Many would argue it violates the whole “innocent until proven guilty” thing. But for now, it’s still legal on the federal level.

Criminal Forfeiture

Ok this one makes more sense. If you’re convicted of a federal crime like drug trafficking, fraud, or organized crime, the court can order criminal forfeiture as part of your sentence.Here the government is seizing assets because they were used to commit a crime or were gained illegally. The assets are basically considered “guilty” too.The court has a ton of power here. They can forfeit almost anything – cash, cars, businesses, houses, land, securities, even intellectual property like patents and trademarks. Yikes!However, there are some limits. The government can only take property linked to the specific crime you were convicted of. If you’re convicted of tax fraud, they can’t take your house just because they feel like it. There has to be a connection.

Fines and Restitution

Sometimes instead of forfeiting your assets, the court will order fines and restitution as part of your sentence. This means you have to pay money to the government and victims.If you don’t pay up, the government can seize assets like cash, cars, or property to cover the amounts owed. They can even garnish your wages or put liens on your bank accounts and other assets.So in this case it’s not exactly asset forfeiture, but the end result is still the government taking your stuff if you don’t pay. Not ideal.

Bankruptcy Won’t Save You

A lot of people think you can get out of criminal fines, restitution, and forfeitures through bankruptcy. Nope! These debts typically can‘t be discharged through bankruptcy.The government will get paid one way or another. Your assets are fair game if you don’t pay what you owe.

Negotiating a Deal

If you’re facing criminal charges, the best way to avoid asset seizure may be negotiating a plea deal. Many federal prosecutors will agree to not pursue forfeitures and limit fines/restitution in exchange for a guilty plea.You’ll probably still lose some assets and have to pay fines, but maybe you can hang on to your house, retirement savings, college fund for the kids, etc. It’s something to discuss with your defense attorney.

Fighting Back

If the government seizes your assets in a way you feel is unfair or illegal, you can challenge them in court. For civil forfeiture, you’d file a claim on the property and fight it out in court. For criminal cases, you can appeal the forfeiture order.It’s always an uphill battle though. The government has way more resources than the average person. You’ll need a knowledgeable attorney on your side. But sometimes you can win, especially if the seizure was questionable.

Losing Everything

At the end of the day, it is possible to lose all your assets if convicted of a federal crime. Homes, cars, businesses, retirement accounts – nothing is really off limits if the court orders it.For most average folks, having everything seized would be financially devastating. It can mean starting over from scratch. Heck, you might not even be able to afford a good lawyer to fight the charges anymore!

The Takeaway

The possibility of losing assets through forfeiture, fines, and restitution is very real if convicted of a federal crime. The key is avoiding criminal charges altogether, or negotiating a plea deal that limits fines and forfeitures.An experienced federal defense lawyer can help navigate these issues and fight back if the government seizes assets inappropriately. Don’t wait until it’s too late – get advice early on asset protection strategies.Overall the feds have broad powers to take private property linked to criminal convictions. While there are some limits, it’s a scary amount of power. So maybe don’t commit federal crimes, okay? And if you do, lawyering up ASAP is probably wise.

Getting a visit from federal agents can be an intimidating and unnerving experience. Even if you haven’t done anything wrong, having the FBI or other federal law enforcement show up at your home or business can make you feel like you’re in trouble. However, there are things you can do to protect your rights and handle the situation properly.

Remain Calm

The first thing to do is remain calm. Take a few deep breaths. Don’t get angry or upset with the agents. Yelling or becoming aggressive will only escalate the situation. Be polite and professional.

Ask For Identification

When federal agents arrive, you should ask them to identify themselves. Ask to see their credentials, including their name, agency, and badge number. Take notes so you have a record of this information. You have a right to know who is at your door and why they want to talk to you.

Ask For A Search Warrant

If the agents want to enter or search your home or business, ask to see a search warrant. The warrant should be signed by a judge and specify what the agents are authorized to search for and where they can search.Take your time to read over the warrant carefully. Make sure it is valid – check the date and address. If anything seems off, point it out to the agents.If they don’t have a warrant, you do not have to let them inside or consent to a search. Simply say “I do not consent to any searches.”Search warrant

Record The Interaction

If it is legal in your state, start recording audio or video when federal agents arrive. This creates an objective record of what was said and done. Let them know you are recording.

Call An Attorney

Tell the agents you want to speak to an attorney before answering any questions or consenting to a search. Call a criminal defense lawyer right away. Avoid talking about anything substantive until your lawyer arrives.Having an attorney present protects your legal rights. Your lawyer can examine any warrants, negotiate with agents, and stop questioning if needed.

Don’t Consent To Questioning

Politely decline to answer the agents’ questions until your attorney arrives. You have a Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate yourself. Anything you say can potentially be used against you later.Simply tell agents you wish to remain silent until you have legal counsel present. Don’t argue, resist, or engage in small talk – that could be seen as consenting.

Don’t Try To Hide Anything

Don’t make any sudden movements or attempt to hide anything when federal agents arrive. That could be seen as suspicious behavior or destruction of evidence.Let your lawyer handle asserting your rights. Just remain calm and courteous.

Secure Your Home/Business

If agents leave to get a warrant after being denied entry, lock your doors and secure your home or business. This prevents them from entering while you are waiting for your attorney to arrive.

Comply With A Valid Warrant

If agents present a valid search warrant signed by a judge, you have to let them enter and search the specified areas. Interfering with their search or destroying evidence could lead to criminal charges.However, continue to assert your rights. Remain silent, record what happens, and don’t sign any documents without your lawyer present.

Get Copies Of All Documents

Request copies of the warrant, inventory of any items seized, and any other documents from the search. This creates a record you can review with your attorney later.

Take Notes

Write down as much as you can recall about what the agents said and did during their visit. Note their names, agencies, the time they arrived, what they looked at or took, and any questions they asked.

Seek Legal Counsel

After the agents leave, immediately contact a criminal defense attorney to discuss the incident. Your lawyer can advise you on next steps, including filing motions if your rights were violated.

Don’t Discuss The Raid Publicly

Avoid posting about the visit on social media or talking to the press. Anything you say publicly could be used against you. Wait to discuss the incident until you have guidance from your attorney.Dealing with a visit from federal agents can be unsettling, but knowing your rights is empowering. Remaining calm, seeking legal counsel, and not consenting to questioning or searches helps ensure the interaction goes smoothly while protecting your legal interests. With the proper response, you can get through the experience intact.

Getting charged with a federal crime can be an incredibly stressful and uncertain time. The federal system often carries harsher potential penalties than state courts, so it’s natural to feel anxious about what could happen. In this article, I’ll walk through some of the key factors that will impact the penalties I may face for my federal charges, so you can better understand the range of possibilities.

Mandatory Minimum Sentences

One major aspect of federal sentencing is mandatory minimums. These are sentences set by statute that the judge must impose if you are convicted. Mandatory minimums often apply to drug, firearm, and certain other offenses.For example, if you are convicted of a federal drug trafficking crime involving 5+ grams of meth, you face a mandatory minimum 5 year prison sentence. The judge cannot go lower than that, even if they want to based on the circumstances. So mandatory minimums establish the lowest possible sentence you could face if convicted.Judges still have discretion to go above the minimum up to the statutory maximum sentence. But mandatory minimums take away their ability to go below it. This removes a key aspect of judicial discretion in sentencing.

Statutory Maximum Sentences

In addition to any mandatory minimums, federal statutes also set maximum possible sentences for each crime. For example, while the minimum may be 5 years for a drug offense, the maximum may be 40 years or even life.So the statutory range establishes both the floor and ceiling of potential sentences. The actual sentence imposed will fall somewhere within that range, based on the judge’s discretion and application of the sentencing guidelines (more on that below).It’s important to understand the statutory range for the specific charges you’re facing. The maximums can be sobering, but the actual sentence may end up much lower than the max once other factors are considered.

Federal Sentencing Guidelines

Beyond any mandatory minimums and statutory maximums, federal judges must also consult the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines when determining sentences. This is a very complex system that provides recommended sentencing ranges based on the defendant’s criminal history and specifics of the crime.The guidelines score various factors to place defendants into a grid, with recommended sentence ranges for each grid cell. While they are advisory, judges do closely consider them. So your guideline range will be a major input into your ultimate sentence.An experienced federal criminal defense attorney can help calculate the likely guideline range and identify any arguments to help reduce it. This is a critical part of understanding your possible penalty exposure.

Sentencing Enhancements and Reductions

There are also certain sentencing enhancements and reductions that can impact your penalty under the guidelines. For example, if a firearm was involved in a drug crime, that can add years to the recommended range. On the flip side, accepting responsibility and cooperating with prosecutors to provide substantial assistance can reduce your sentence.So when estimating possible penalties, it’s important to consider potential enhancements and reductions based on the specific circumstances of your case. Small factual details can make a big difference in how the guidelines are calculated.

Mandatory Consecutive Sentencing

One particularly harsh aspect of federal sentencing applies when multiple counts under 18 USC 924(c) are involved – charges for using a firearm during a violent crime or drug trafficking offense.The law requires that the sentence for each 924(c) count must run consecutively, or stack on top of, any other sentences. So if convicted of two 924(c) counts, you would face the mandatory minimum consecutive sentence on each. This can quickly add up to extremely severe sentences, essentially life imprisonment.

Probation, Supervised Release and Fines

In addition to imprisonment, sentences for federal crimes may also involve probation, supervised release, and fines. Probation allows the defendant to remain free in the community under court supervision, rather than incarcerated. Supervised release takes effect after imprisonment, requiring the defendant to follow conditions as they re-enter society.Fines are monetary penalties imposed as part of the sentence. They are common in white collar cases and for organizations, but can also apply to individuals. Some laws specify maximum fines, or state that the fine can be up to twice the amount of any illicit gains from the crime.

Departures and Variances from Guidelines

In some cases, judges may impose a sentence outside the calculated guideline range, if they can articulate compelling reasons to “depart” from the guidelines. Certain circumstances like substantial assistance to prosecutors, or overstatement of the defendant’s criminal history, can warrant a departure.Judges can also vary from the guidelines based on the factors and purposes laid out in 18 USC 3553(a). However, the further a sentence strays from the guidelines, the more justification the judge must provide on the record.

Plea Agreements and Cooperation

Importantly, the sentencing exposure can change dramatically if you reach a plea agreement with the prosecution, compared to going to trial and losing. Plea deals provide the ability to limit penalties, often significantly.By pleading guilty, you also open up opportunities to cooperate and provide substantial assistance to prosecutors. If they file a 5K1.1 motion certifying your cooperation, the judge can depart below mandatory minimums and reduce your sentence.So while you face scary statutory penalties at the outset, the final sentence could end up far less through an agreed plea bargain and cooperation. Engaging experienced counsel for plea negotiations is key.

Getting federal criminal charges dismissed before trial definitely happens, but it’s pretty rare. Most defense attorneys don’t put in the work needed to get charges tossed pre-trial. They just rely on the evidence the prosecution hands over, instead of really digging into the case themselves. But with the right approach, it is possible to get charges dropped early on.

How Criminal Cases Typically Go

After you get indicted on federal charges, the government has to give your lawyer any statements you made, documents they plan to use, your criminal record, photos, and examination reports. But they don’t have to share prior statements from their witnesses until the actual trial.Many lawyers just use what the prosecution hands over to start preparing a defense. But to really go on the attack from the beginning, you need to dig deeper yourself. You can’t just rely on what the government decides to show you.Your attorney should serve a ton of subpoenas to uncover impeachment material the prosecution hasn’t shared. We’re talking sometimes hundreds of subpoenas, trying to figure out what the key witnesses are up to. Especially anything showing they aren’t exactly law-abiding citizens themselves.

Using Witness Investigations to Your Advantage

Thoroughly investigating prosecution witnesses can completely shred their credibility. I’ve seen media reports on cross-examinations where our digging exposed the government’s star witness as a total fraud.But you don’t actually want to go to trial if you can avoid it. Trials are incredibly expensive and stressful. Instead, you want to use witness investigations to convince the prosecution their case won’t hold up.In one federal case in Brooklyn, we got RICO, securities fraud, and money laundering charges dropped after showing the main witness had lied and committed fraud during his cooperation. In another federal case in Manhattan, RICO, securities fraud, and mail fraud charges vanished two days before trial, after our investigation revealed the two lead witnesses were still actively committing fraud.Sometimes just showing the prosecution a glimpse of the skeletons in their witnesses’ closets is enough to get charges dismissed or plea deals with little to no prison time.

When Dismissal Is Possible

The bottom line is if you can uncover enough dirt on the prosecution’s main witnesses to ruin their credibility, you have a shot at getting charges tossed before trial. Some of the main ways charges get dismissed pre-trial include:

  • Destroying Witness Credibility – If you can show their main witnesses are liars, fraudsters, or have strong incentives to make up stories, prosecutors may drop charges rather than risk an embarrassing loss at trial.
  • Proving No Crime Occurred – In some cases, a thorough investigation can reveal there was no criminal activity in the first place. If your lawyer can convince the prosecution of that, they may dismiss the charges.
  • Violations of Process – Sometimes charges get tossed due to issues like violation of the statute of limitations, failure to present exculpatory evidence, or other procedural problems.
  • Selective or Vindictive Prosecution – Courts can dismiss charges if you can show you were singled out for prosecution based on race, religion, or other improper factors.
  • Double Jeopardy – The Constitution protects against being tried twice for the same crime. If charges were previously dismissed, arguing they violate double jeopardy may work.
  • Free Speech Protections – For crimes involving speech, arguing your actions were protected free speech could potentially lead to dismissal.
  • Immunity – The president has argued he’s immune from prosecution for official acts taken while in office. If that untested argument succeeds, it could mean dismissal.
  • Weak Evidence – In rare cases, prosecutors may drop charges if they realize their evidence is simply too weak to win at trial.

It’s an Uphill Battle

While it’s possible to get federal charges dismissed pre-trial, it’s certainly not easy. Prosecutors dismiss cases voluntarily in only a tiny fraction of federal prosecutions.You need an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer willing to leave no stone unturned in investigating the charges and the key witnesses. That takes time and resources many attorneys don’t invest.Even then, convincing prosecutors to drop air-tight charges before trial is a tough sell. But with strong evidence of witness credibility issues or misconduct, it can occasionally be done.The bottom line is you have the best chance at dismissal if your lawyer can uncover devastating information the prosecution doesn’t want aired in open court. That’s leverage you can use to try negotiating dismissal in the right case.While rare, pre-trial dismissals do happen more often when you have a top-notch federal defense lawyer who thoroughly probes every angle of the case. That’s the kind of relentless advocacy you need on your side to have any shot at getting federal charges dropped early.

Getting charged with a crime can be scary. Even if you’re innocent, the legal system is complicated. You may be wondering – should I take this to trial or just take a plea deal? It’s a tough call. On one hand, a trial gives you a chance to fight the charges and prove your innocence. But it also comes with big risks, like harsher punishment if you’re convicted. Let’s break it down so you can make the best choice.

The Benefits of Taking Your Case to Trial

The biggest benefit of going to trial is the chance for acquittal. If the prosecution can’t prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, you walk free. Pretty sweet deal, right?Trials also give you way more legal protections. Things like the right to see all the prosecution’s evidence, cross-examine witnesses, and have a jury decide your fate. Those are powerful tools for the defense.You also have your lawyer putting the prosecution to their burden of proof. They have to turn over all evidence. Your attorney can try to get charges dismissed before trial by arguing there’s insufficient evidence or constitutional issues.If you do get convicted, you can appeal. That gives you another chance at freedom. Appeals are limited with plea bargains.So in a nutshell:

  • Chance for complete acquittal
  • Make the prosecution prove their case
  • More legal protections and evidentiary rules
  • Possibility of getting charges dropped before or during trial
  • Can appeal a conviction

Not bad, huh? But trials aren’t all sunshine and roses…

The Risks of Taking a Criminal Case to Trial

While trials give you a shot at being cleared of all charges, they come with big risks too.The main one is harsher punishment if convicted. Judges tend to go easier on defendants who take plea deals. But throw down the gauntlet with a trial? Not so much. You may face the maximum sentence if found guilty.For example, let’s say you’re charged with armed robbery. The prosecution offers a plea deal for 5 years in prison. If you reject it and get convicted at trial, you could be looking at 15 years…or more.You’re also rolling the dice with your fate. There are no guarantees. Even if you know you’re innocent, the jury could still convict. Then you’re stuck with that harsh sentence.Other risks include:

  • Stress of trial – It’s a demanding process. You’ll have to testify and face cross-examination.
  • Trial costs – Your attorney fees will skyrocket compared to a plea deal. Expect to pay tens of thousands more.
  • Reputation damage – Your name is dragged through the mud in open court. For high profile cases, it’s on the news and internet too.
  • Jail time pre-trial – If you can’t get bail, you’re stuck in jail awaiting trial. That could be months of your life wasted behind bars if found not guilty.

So while the rewards of an acquittal are high, so are the risks. It’s a gamble either way.

Deciding if a Trial is Worth the Risk

With the pros and cons in mind, how do you decide what to do? Here are some key factors to weigh:

How Strong is the Evidence Against You?

If the case is weak, trial is likely your best bet. Is there shaky witness testimony? Evidence that was obtained illegally? Any chance physical evidence could have been contaminated or tampered with? Could your lawyer get key evidence dismissed?Weak prosecution cases crumble under all the evidentiary rules and scrutiny of trial. But those weaknesses are often ignored in plea bargaining.But if there’s rock solid evidence – like DNA, video, or reliable eyewitnesses – it may be smart to cut your losses. An acquittal will be very hard to achieve.

What are You Facing if Convicted?

The potential penalty if found guilty should heavily factor into your decision.Is it a misdemeanor with probation or months in jail if convicted? Then you may want to roll the dice on trial.But if you’re looking at major prison time of 10, 20 years or more, the risks likely outweigh the rewards. Getting just a fraction of that with a plea may be wise.

What Does Your Lawyer Recommend?

Your attorney should give you their candid opinion on your chances at trial. Do they seem confident you could win? Or are they advising you to take the plea?Trust their judgment. Public defenders handle hundreds of cases and have a good sense of which ones are trial bound or not. If your lawyer thinks it’s a long shot, seriously consider a plea.

How Long Might You Wait for Trial?

Some jurisdictions have huge court backlogs. You may have to wait a year or more for trial if you pass on a plea deal today.Spending that long in jail pre-trial can jeopardize jobs, relationships, and your finances. It’s a valid reason to take a plea and get sentenced quickly.

Are the Odds of Winning Appeal Good?

If convicted at trial, do you have solid appeal issues to get the verdict overturned? For example, did the judge make an error in allowing some evidence? That kind of thing can lay the groundwork for appeal.If your chances on appeal look questionable, it may not be worth the risk of trial. But if appeal looks promising, it reduces the downside.

How Much Do the Collateral Consequences Matter?

Will a conviction severely damage your finances, custody rights, immigration status, or ability to work in your profession? If the collateral consequences are severe, trial may be worth the gamble.But if the consequences aren’t drastically worse with a plea bargain, you may want to play it safe.

What are Your Personal Goals?

Some people just won’t accept pleading guilty, even if it’s the smart move. They want to hold the system accountable or have their day in court. That principle matters most to them.Others feel the top priority is avoiding jail time. Freedom and family are what they value most.Think about your goals and values. Do they align more with the benefits of trial or the certainty of a plea bargain? Let that guide your choice.

Talk to Your Lawyer

With all this said, the trial vs plea decision is very personal. Every case and defendant is different.Your attorney will lay out your options, chances, and their advice. Listen closely and ask lots of questions. Discuss the pros/cons in depth.Most plea offers have deadlines, so move quickly. But don’t rush into anything until you’ve weighed the risks and feel good about your choice. This is your life, so make sure it’s the right call for you.The bottom line – there are no easy answers. Trial vs plea deal is a complex choice. Do your homework, trust your lawyer, and follow your gut. With the right information, you can make the best decision for where you stand today.

The American legal system is complex, with both state and federal courts handling criminal cases. While there is some overlap between state and federal crimes, there are several important distinctions between the two. Understanding these key differences can help make sense of the criminal justice process.

Jurisdiction Over Crimes

The most fundamental difference between state and federal criminal cases relates to jurisdiction – meaning the authority of a court to hear and decide a case.State courts have broad jurisdiction over most criminal cases. These include crimes like murder, assault, theft, drunk driving, and drug possession. Basically, if a crime is committed within a state’s borders and does not violate federal law, it will be tried in state court.Federal courts have limited jurisdiction, mainly over crimes that involve a federal interest. This includes crimes that:

  • Violate federal statutes, like tax evasion or mail fraud
  • Occur on federal land, like a national park
  • Involve federal officials as defendants or victims
  • Cross state lines, like interstate drug trafficking

Federal courts also hear cases involving the interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. So if a state law is challenged as unconstitutional, the dispute may end up in federal court.

Prosecuting Crimes

Since state and federal courts have different jurisdictions, state and federal prosecutors bring charges in different situations.State prosecutors, such as district attorneys and state attorneys general, file charges for violations of state criminal laws. So they would bring cases for crimes like assault, robbery, and drunk driving.Federal prosecutors work for the U.S. Department of Justice. They file charges for federal crimes like tax evasion, civil rights violations, and interstate drug trafficking.In some cases, a crime may qualify for prosecution in both state and federal court. For example, certain acts of physical violence could be charged as assault under state law or a federal civil rights violation. Prosecutors have discretion over where charges are filed in these dual jurisdiction cases.

The Court Systems

State courts systems are established by each state’s constitution and laws. There are often multiple levels, usually including local trial courts, appeals courts, and a state supreme court at the top. Judges are usually elected or appointed by state officials.The federal court system was created by Article III of the U.S. Constitution. It includes district courts, circuit courts of appeal, and the U.S. Supreme Court at the top. Federal judges are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate.While organization varies by state, the federal courts have a uniform structure across the country. The procedures in federal court tend to be more formal and complex compared to state courts.

Criminal Trials and Sentencing

Criminal trials generally follow the same basic format in both state and federal court. There are some procedural differences, but the core process – jury selection, opening statements, witness testimony, closing arguments – is essentially the same.However, there are some key differences when it comes to criminal sentencing:

  • State crimes usually have a wider range of possible punishments, from probation and fines up to long prison terms. Judges often have more discretion.
  • Federal crimes tend to have mandatory minimum sentences set by statute. Federal judges have less leeway to go outside sentencing guidelines.
  • Incarceration for state crimes means serving time in a state prison. Federal crimes lead to incarceration in the federal prison system.
  • The federal prison system is managed by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Conditions and policies are fairly consistent across federal facilities. State prisons can vary widely in terms of living conditions, programming, and rules.

Constitutional Protections and Appeals

Both state and federal courts are required to protect a defendant’s constitutional rights, such as the right to an attorney and a jury trial.State courts provide protections under the U.S. Constitution as well as the individual state’s constitution. Federal courts only apply the U.S. Constitution.Defendants convicted in either system have the right to appeal their conviction and/or sentence. State court decisions can be appealed up through the state court system, and may ultimately be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. For federal criminal cases, appeals go through the federal appellate courts and then to the Supreme Court.

Key Takeaways

While state and federal criminal cases share some commonalities, there are important differences:

  • State courts handle most routine criminal cases; federal courts have limited jurisdiction mainly over federal crimes.
  • State prosecutors bring charges for violations of state law; federal prosecutors handle federal crimes.
  • State courts are established under state law; federal courts were created by the U.S. Constitution.
  • Federal courts follow uniform procedures nationwide; state courts differ between states.
  • Sentencing and incarceration tend to be harsher in the federal system compared to state courts.

Understanding these key distinctions can help make sense of the American criminal justice process and an individual’s rights within that system. Consulting an experienced criminal defense attorney is crucial for defendants facing either state or federal charges.