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Chicago Federal Criminal Lawyers

If you or a loved one is facing federal criminal charges, you’re probably feeling overwhelmed, scared, and unsure of what to do next. Federal crimes are serious business, and navigating the complex federal criminal justice system is no easy feat. But don’t worry, I‘m here to break it all down for you in plain English. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about federal criminal defense – what it means, how it differs from state criminal defense, the types of crimes that fall under federal jurisdiction, and most importantly, the steps you need to take to mount the strongest possible defense. So take a deep breath, grab a cup of coffee, and let‘s dive in.

What is Federal Criminal Defense?

At its core, federal criminal defense is the legal representation and advocacy on behalf of individuals who have been accused of committing a crime that falls under federal jurisdiction. In other words, if you’re being investigated by a federal agency like the FBI or DEA, or you’ve been charged with a federal offense, you need a Chicago federal criminal defense attorney in your corner.Federal criminal defense is a highly specialized area of law that requires extensive knowledge of the federal criminal code, federal rules of procedure and evidence, and the unique way that federal cases are investigated and prosecuted. Unlike state crimes, which are handled by local prosecutors and tried in state courts, federal crimes are prosecuted by United States Attorneys in federal district courts across the country.Some key differences between federal and state criminal defense include:

  • Federal crimes often carry much harsher penalties, including lengthy prison sentences and steep fines
  • Federal cases are investigated by powerful federal agencies with vast resources
  • Federal prosecutors have a higher conviction rate than state prosecutors
  • Federal sentencing guidelines are much more complex and rigid than state sentencing schemes
  • Federal inmates serve their time in federal prisons, which can be located far from home

Given the high stakes involved, it’s crucial that you have an experienced Chicago federal criminal defense lawyer on your side from the very beginning. Your Chicago attorney will be your guide and advocate through every step of the process, from the initial investigation through trial and sentencing.

What Crimes Fall Under Federal Jurisdiction?

Federal jurisdiction is limited to specific types of crimes that are enumerated in the federal criminal code. Some of the most common federal offenses include:

  • Drug trafficking and distribution
  • Child pornography and exploitation
  • Bank robbery and other violent crimes
  • Fraud and white collar crimes
  • Counterfeiting and forgery
  • Immigration offenses
  • Weapons charges
  • Public corruption and bribery

In general, a crime falls under federal jurisdiction if it:

  • Crosses state lines or national borders
  • Involves the use of the U.S. Postal Service or other interstate carrier
  • Occurs on federal property
  • Targets a federal agency or federally insured institution
  • Is specifically enumerated in the federal criminal code

It’s important to note that many crimes can be prosecuted at both the state and federal level. For example, drug trafficking is illegal under both state and federal law. In these cases, federal prosecutors have discretion to bring federal charges if the crime is serious enough or if there is a compelling federal interest at stake.

What Are the Stages of a Federal Criminal Case?

Federal criminal cases typically proceed through several distinct stages, each of which requires skilled legal representation. Here’s a brief overview of what you can expect:

Christine Twomey
Christine Twomey
Just had my Divorce case settled 2 months ago after having a horrible experience with another firm. I couldn’t be happier with Claire Banks and Elizabeth Garvey with their outstanding professionalism in doing so with Spodek Law Group. Any time I needed questions answered they were always prompt in doing so with all my uncertainties after 30 yrs of marriage.I feel from the bottom of my heart you will NOT be disappointed with either one. Thanks a million.
Brendan huisman
Brendan huisman
Alex Zhik contacted me almost immediately when I reached out to Spodek for a consultation and was able to effectively communicate the path forward/consequences of my legal issue. I immediately agreed to hire Alex for his services and did not regret my choice. He was able to cover my case in court (with 1 day notice) and not only was he able to push my case down, he carefully negotiated a dismissal of the charge altogether. I highly recommend Spodek, and more specifically, Alex Zhik for all of your legal issues. Thanks guys!
Guerline Menard
Guerline Menard
Thanks again Spodek law firm, particularly Esq Claire Banks who stood right there with us up to the finish line. Attached photos taken right outside of the court building and the smile on our faces represented victory, a breath of fresh air and satisfaction. We are very happy that this is over and we can move on with our lives. Thanks Spodek law 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙌🏼❤️
Keisha Parris
Keisha Parris
Believe every single review here about Alex Z!! From our initial consultation, it was evident that Alex possessed a profound understanding of criminal law and a fierce dedication to his clients rights. Throughout the entirety of my case, Alex exhibited unparalleled professionalism and unwavering commitment. What sets Alex apart is not only his legal expertise but also his genuine compassion for his clients. He took the time to thoroughly explain my case, alleviating any concerns I had along the way. His exact words were “I’m not worried about it”. His unwavering support and guidance were invaluable throughout the entire process. I am immensely grateful for Alex's exceptional legal representation and wholeheartedly recommend his services to anyone in need of a skilled criminal defense attorney. Alex Z is not just a lawyer; he is a beacon of hope for those navigating the complexities of the legal system. If you find yourself in need of a dedicated and competent legal advocate, look no further than Alex Z.
Taïko Beauty
Taïko Beauty
I don’t know where to start, I can write a novel about this firm, but one thing I will say is that having my best interest was their main priority since the beginning of my case which was back in Winter 2019. Miss Claire Banks, one of the best Attorneys in the firm represented me very well and was very professional, respectful, and truthful. Not once did she leave me in the dark, in fact she presented all options and routes that could possibly be considered for my case and she reinsured me that no matter what I decided to do, her and the team will have my back and that’s exactly what happened. Not only will I be liberated from this case, also, I will enjoy my freedom and continue to be a mother to my first born son and will have no restrictions with accomplishing my goals in life. Now that’s what I call victory!! I thank the Lord, My mother, Claire, and the Spodek team for standing by me and fighting with me. Words can’t describe how grateful I am to have the opportunity to work with this team. I’m very satisfied, very pleased with their performance, their hard work, and their diligence. Thank you team!
Anthony Williams
Anthony Williams
Hey, how you guys doing? Good afternoon my name is Anthony Williams I just want to give a great shout out to the team of. Spodek law group. It is such a honor to use them and to use their assistance through this whole case from start to finish. They did everything that they said they was gonna do and if it ever comes down to it, if I ever have to use them again, hands-down they will be the first law office at the top of my list, thank you guys so much. It was a pleasure having you guys by my side so if you guys ever need them, do not hesitate to pick up the phone and give them a call.
Loveth Okpedo
Loveth Okpedo
Very professional, very transparent, over all a great experience
Bee L
Bee L
Amazing experience with Spodek! Very professional lawyers who take your case seriously. They treated me with respect, were always available, and answered any and all questions. They were able to help me very successfully and removed a huge stress. Highly recommend.
divesh patel
divesh patel
I can't recommend Alex Zhik and Spodek Law Firm highly enough for their exceptional legal representation and personal mentorship. From the moment I engaged their services in October 2022, Alex took the time to understand my case thoroughly and provided guidance every step of the way. Alex's dedication to my case went above and beyond my expectations. His expertise, attention to detail, and commitment to achieving the best possible outcome were evident throughout the entire process. He took the time to mentor me, ensuring I understood the legal complexities involved to make informed decisions. Alex is the kind of guy you would want to have a beer with and has made a meaningful impact on me. I also want to acknowledge Todd Spodek, the leader of the firm, who played a crucial role in my case. His leadership and support bolstered the efforts of Alex, and his involvement highlighted the firm's commitment to excellence. Thanks to Alex Zhik and Todd Spodek, I achieved the outcome I desired, and I am incredibly grateful for their professionalism, expertise, and genuine care. If you're in need of legal representation, look no further than this outstanding team.


Most federal cases begin with an investigation by a federal law enforcement agency like the FBI, DEA, or ICE. During this stage, agents may conduct surveillance, interview witnesses, execute search warrants, and gather evidence. If you suspect that you are under investigation, it’s crucial that you retain a federal criminal defense attorney right away. Your attorney can communicate with investigators on your behalf, protect your rights, and work to prevent charges from being filed.


If investigators believe they have enough evidence to prove that you committed a federal crime, they will present the case to a federal prosecutor, who will decide whether to bring formal charges. Charges can be brought in one of two ways:

  • Criminal complaint: A criminal complaint is a sworn statement of probable cause that is presented to a federal magistrate judge. If the judge finds probable cause, he or she will issue an arrest warrant and the case will proceed to the next stage.
  • Indictment: An indictment is a formal charging document that is issued by a grand jury. During a grand jury proceeding, prosecutors present evidence and testimony in a closed-door session. If the grand jury finds probable cause, it will issue an indictment and the case will move forward.


Once charges have been filed, you will be required to appear in federal court for an arraignment. During this hearing, the charges against you will be read aloud and you will be asked to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. Your Chicago federal attorney will advise you on the best course of action based on the strength of the evidence and any potential defenses.


After the arraignment, the case will enter the discovery phase, during which the prosecution and defense exchange evidence and information about the case. Your Chicago federal defense attorney will use this opportunity to review the government’s evidence, interview witnesses, and develop your defense strategy.

Pretrial Motions

Before trial, your Chicago federal criminal attorney may file various pretrial motions to challenge the admissibility of evidence, dismiss the charges, or take other strategic steps. Common pretrial motions in federal cases include:

  • Motion to suppress evidence that was obtained illegally
  • Motion to dismiss the indictment for lack of specificity or other defects
  • Motion for a bill of particulars to obtain more detailed information about the charges
  • Motion for a change of venue if pretrial publicity has tainted the jury pool

Plea Bargaining

In many federal cases, the prosecution and defense will engage in plea negotiations to try to resolve the case without a trial. A plea bargain may involve agreeing to plead guilty to a lesser charge or to cooperate with investigators in exchange for a reduced sentence. Your attorney will advise you on whether a plea bargain is in your best interests based on the strength of the evidence and the potential penalties you are facing.


If a plea bargain cannot be reached, the case will proceed to trial. During a federal criminal trial, the prosecution bears the burden of proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Your Chicago attorney will present your defense, cross-examine the government’s witnesses, and argue for an acquittal. Federal trials can be complex and lengthy, often lasting several weeks or even months.


If you are convicted at trial or plead guilty, the case will proceed to sentencing. Federal sentencing is governed by the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which provide a range of potential sentences based on the severity of the offense and your criminal history. Your Chicago attorney will argue for the lowest possible sentence and may present mitigating evidence to support a downward departure from the guidelines.


If you are convicted, you have the right to appeal the verdict to a higher court. An appeal is not a new trial, but rather an opportunity to argue that legal errors were made during the trial that affected the outcome. Your attorney will review the trial record and identify any potential issues for appeal, such as improperly admitted evidence or incorrect jury instructions.

How Can a Chicago Federal Criminal Defense Attorney Help?

Now that you have a basic understanding of how federal criminal cases work, let’s talk about how a skilled federal criminal defense attorney can make all the difference in the outcome of your case. Here are just a few of the ways that your attorney will fight for your rights and freedom:

Protecting Your Rights

From the moment you retain a federal criminal defense attorney, he or she will work tirelessly to protect your constitutional rights. This includes your right to remain silent, your right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, and your right to a fair trial. Your attorney will ensure that law enforcement and prosecutors play by the rules and will challenge any violations of your rights.

Conducting an Independent Investigation

Your attorney will conduct a thorough independent investigation of the facts and circumstances surrounding your case. This may involve interviewing witnesses, reviewing evidence, and consulting with experts. The goal is to identify any weaknesses in the prosecution‘s case and to develop a strong defense strategy on your behalf.

Negotiating with Prosecutors

In many cases, the best outcome may be a negotiated plea bargain that reduces the charges or the potential sentence. Your attorney will use his or her knowledge of the federal sentencing guidelines and the strength of the evidence to negotiate the best possible deal on your behalf. A skilled negotiator can often achieve significant concessions from prosecutors, such as dismissal of some charges or a recommendation for a lower sentence.

Mounting a Vigorous Defense

If your case goes to trial, your attorney will mount a vigorous defense on your behalf. This may involve challenging the admissibility of evidence, cross-examining the government’s witnesses, and presenting evidence and testimony in your defense. Your attorney will also deliver a compelling closing argument to the jury, highlighting the weaknesses in the prosecution‘s case and arguing for an acquittal.

Advocating at Sentencing

If you are convicted or plead guilty, your attorney will be your advocate at sentencing. He or she will present mitigating evidence and argue for the lowest possible sentence under the federal sentencing guidelines. This may include evidence of your good character, your family responsibilities, your employment history, and any steps you have taken to address the underlying issues that led to your offense.

Handling Appeals

If you are convicted, your attorney will advise you on your options for appeal and will handle the appeal process on your behalf. This may involve identifying legal errors that occurred during the trial, drafting appellate briefs, and presenting oral argument before the appellate court. A successful appeal can result in a new trial, a reduced sentence, or even a dismissal of the charges.

Choosing the Right Chicago Federal Criminal Defense Attorney

Given the high stakes involved in federal criminal cases, it’s crucial that you choose the right attorney to represent you. Here are some key factors to consider when selecting a federal criminal defense lawyer:


Federal criminal defense is a highly specialized area of law that requires extensive experience and knowledge. Look for an attorney who has a track record of success in handling federal cases similar to yours. Ask about their experience with the specific charges you are facing, as well as their familiarity with the federal court where your case will be tried.


The best federal criminal defense attorneys have a reputation for excellence among their peers, the judiciary, and the legal community at large. Look for an attorney who is well-respected and has a proven track record of success. You can ask for referrals from other attorneys or check online reviews and ratings.


Your attorney should be a good communicator who takes the time to explain the legal process and your options in plain English. Look for an attorney who is responsive to your calls and emails and who keeps you informed about the status of your case. You should feel comfortable asking questions and expressing your concerns.


Federal criminal cases often require significant resources, including access to expert witnesses, investigators, and support staff. Look for an attorney who has the resources and support network needed to mount a strong defense on your behalf. This may include a team of associate attorneys, paralegals, and administrative staff.

Personal Fit

Finally, it‘s important that you feel comfortable with your attorney on a personal level. You will be working closely with your attorney throughout the legal process, so it’s important that you feel like you can trust and confide in him or her. Look for an attorney who listens to your concerns, answers your questions, and treats you with respect and compassion.

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