San Francisco Federal Criminal Lawyers
Being charged with a federal crime can make you feel like your life is over. The federal system intimidates anyone because the sentences can be a lot more severe than in the state courts. Furthermore, there are far fewer opportunities for appellate review. This makes every move in a federal court critical. Your only chance of avoiding the serious hurdles of mounting a defense in a San Francisco federal courthouse is an experienced attorney.
Federal criminal defense attorneys in San Francisco are not all the same. The quality of your representation and their experience are paramount factors in determining your future.
Our law firm handles all types of federal cases:
- Credit card fraud
- Mail fraud
- Identity theft
- Drug trafficking
- Tax evasion
- Interstate computer sex stings
- Child pornography
- Computer hacking
- Illegal immigration
- And more …
How Does an Attorney Help Me in Proceedings?
An attorney is your ticket to freedom and success at every phase of the court proceedings. Having an attorney to call when police want to question you will intimidate officials who think that they have an easy mark. It will also stop you from incriminating yourself. The sentences are far more lenient in cases where the defendant did not make any statements to police. A statement can be made to seem incriminating, no matter what, by ad-libbing in information. It also removes a great deal of burden in proving that you were involved at all.
Not every interrogation will be obvious. Any time that police/agents call you or knock on your door, these can be informal investigations that subvert the ordinary due process protections that people have when arrested. They may also try to record these sessions and may even cut out the parts that they don’t like. It is never a good idea to talk to police even if you are completely innocent. But if you don’t have an attorney to call, they may pressure you to give up your right to remain silent.
After you are arrested in San Francisco, the officials have 72 hours to bring you before a magistrate or judge for a bail hearing. If you have an attorney present, they can bring up all the mitigating factors that would warrant your immediate release without bail or at the lowest bail possible. Even if you are deemed high-risk, an attorney can negotiate conditions such as house arrest or an ankle monitor to permit your release.
Proving Probable Cause
In just 10 days after your arrest, the prosecutor will be required to demonstrate probable cause for your arrest. Our law firm will review the affidavit of probable cause and the charging documents for defects. If your involvement in a crime is too speculative on any element, we can have the case dismissed for lack of probable cause. A showing of probable cause requires a reasonable certainty that you committed the offenses charged and must lay out how this will be proven at trial. This can be eye-witnesses, documentary evidence, computer evidence, forensic evidence, or physical evidence.
Discovery and Motion Schedule
If probable cause is established, our law firm gets a chance to look closer at the evidence that will be presented at trial. We can also preserve errors for appeal if any unfair practices were used to produce evidence. This phase allows us to prepare for trial by suppressing evidence and ensuring fairness.
Trial or Plea Bargain
Almost every case ends with a plea bargain because the sentences for many federal crimes are high and not worth the risk of blowing trial with irrational jurors. By engineering a strong defense, we can force the prosecutor to give us their best plea deal. You will then be sentenced according to the plea. If you have a strong defense and decide to go to trial, we will do everything possible to ensure fairness and clarity.
Sentencing and Post-Trial Motions
If the sentence isn’t fully agreed upon in a plea bargain, we will work with you to present any mitigations possible to obtain the best sentence. We will also file post-trial motions to preserve all the errors at trial for appeal.
Appealing a federal criminal case is fraught with complex issues, but the first thing to know is that an appeal isn’t a retrial. You don’t get the chance to present new evidence or change your defense strategy. Appeals are legal vehicles to challenge the legal steps taken during a trial. If mistakes were made in the course of your arrest and trial in legal procedures, they could result in your conviction being overturned.
What Is an Appeal in Federal Court?
An appeal is a legal motion to overturn a court decision based on the fact that improprieties occurred that violated the defendant’s rights. This has nothing to do with incompetent counsel, new evidence or changes in witness testimony. appeals are made when the defense team charges that a judge, prosecutor, juror or law enforcement officer acted improperly. The reasons for an appeal include:
- Juror Misconduct
If a juror is discovered to be prejudiced against the defendant or bribed to convict the defendant, it’s strong grounds for an appeal. Other violations include jurors discussing the case with witnesses, members of the press, prosecutors, attorneys or other jurors outside the deliberation room during the trial.
- Improper Jury Instructions
Jurors are briefed by the judge on many issues that include what is needed to convict a defendant and what charges and sentences can be imposed. If the judge doesn’t give the jury proper instructions for the case, this could be grounds for an appeal.
- False Arrest
Law enforcement can’t arrest anyone on speculation or purely circumstantial evidence. Even if an investigation proves guilt after an arrest has been made, convictions can be overturned if the arrest was improper. Warrants or compelling circumstances are necessary to make an arrest.
- Improper Admission or Exclusion of Evidence
Evidence that is obtained without a warrant or was planted by someone to frame a defendant can result in a conviction being overturned. Excluding evidence that favors the defendant can also be grounds for an appeal. Judges hold hearings at the start of trial to rule on what evidence is admissible and what is not.
- Lack of Evidence
Some crimes are so heinous or the defendants are so disliked that juries convict them without strong evidence. Usually, a judge rules that there is insufficient evidence to convict and dismisses the case. If the judge rules that the case should go forward, there could be grounds for an appeal due to insufficient evidence.
There are special circumstances where an error can be ruled a Harmless Error or Invited Error, and these do not meet the conditions necessary to overturn a conviction. In the cases where the judge is involved in misconduct or improper behavior, it’s necessary to object to the error during the trial to give the judge an opportunity to correct the mistake.
Preserving Errors for Appeal
If a judge makes a mistake during the course of the trial, it’s critical for the defense attorney to object to the error in order to use the error as grounds for an appeal. The reasoning behind this requirement is that objections give judges a chance to correct their mistakes since the goal of all legal proceedings is justice.
During the appeal, judges can rule on the grounds for an appeal in the following ways:
- Harmless Errors: These are errors that didn’t affect the case’s outcome and are not cause for overturning a judgment.
- Invited Errors: These errors are rulings or actions that the defense asks the judge to make or implement. The defense asked for the ruling or action, so it can’t be used to overturn a conviction
- Plain Errors: These are also known as fundamental errors, and if proven, they can be used to overturn a conviction.
- Manifest Errors: These errors are so egregious that they are grounds for vacating a conviction. The errors are “obvious and indisputable” and clearly violate the defendant’s rights.
It’s important to hire a competent attorney for any federal trial. It might seem ridiculous to look for ways to overturn a case in the middle of a trial, but a competent attorney always keeps these opportunities in mind to preserve errors for possible appeals. Objecting to what seems like an error gives the courts a chance to self-correct improprieties. Failure to object to an impropriety is viewed the same as stipulating that no error occurred.