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Federal Crimes | Defense Lawyer | Ed Chernoff

What Is a Federal Crime?

Federal crimes are those which violate Federal criminal law and are prosecuted by United States Attorneys before Federal Judges. When you are charged with a Federal offense, it is vital to have a strong and effective federal criminal defense attorney to avoid an inevitable prison sentence under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. The penalties for a federal conviction are devastating, you deserve the best federal criminal defense attorneys on your side.Your defense lawyer must be conversant in the Federal Judicial Process, which differs substantially from the State process.

The list of federal crimes grows each year. Only the United States Attorney is authorized to prosecute some of these crimes; for example, killing a Bald Eagle or illegal reentry of an alien. However, in many situations, both the State and the U.S. Government has jurisdiction to prosecute a particular crime. Drug cases are a good example. No matter the amount, it is a violation to possess cocaine under both Texas and United States statutes.

The most common types of Federal Crimes are:

  • Illegal possession of controlled weapons under the National Firearms Act
  • Money Laundering
  • Tax evasion
  • Counterfeiting
  • Immigration Offenses
  • Drug trafficking
  • Mortgage Fraud
  • Bank, Wire and Mail fraud

Federal Investigations Require An Experienced Federal Defense Attorney

Federal Agents are well trained and well educated. Since many of the cases they are working on are white collar crimes, they don’t involve the immediate need to stop a crime in progress, and they are in no hurry to arrest. Their investigation may take years before it is ripe for indictment. FBI Agents are particularly good at getting targets to talk to them since their manner is not at all coercive.

Our suggestion is, when an agent knocks on your door, contact your federal defense attorney. Any conversation you have with these agents could result in evidence against you.

At Chernoff Law, we are accomplished in defending our clients from overburdensome Federal charges. When available, we move to suppress statements or evidence taken in violation of our client’s Constitutional rights.

At trial, we energetically present our defenses and make the government prove its case. We challenge gaps in their evidence. We thoroughly investigate the evidence in possession of the United States and conduct our own investigation. We rigorously cross-examine their witnesses and expose misidentifications, inconsistencies, exaggerations, and lies.

Our goal is to create a reasonable doubt requiring acquittal or dismissal.

Understanding the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure

What Happens After an Arrest?

One of the benefits of the Federal Court is the standardized procedural practice. A lawyer from Texas can travel to a federal court in Alaska and be instantly familiar with the process. Unlike many State courts, the federal district court often incorporates magistrates to deal with preliminary matters, including initial appearances, arraignments and detention hearings.

A defendant charged with a federal crime can be summoned to court, although in practice, this is rare. Most of the time he is arrested and held until his preliminary appearance in front of a magistrate. If the Assistant U.S. Attorney recommends detention, the magistrate will determine whether the defendant has an attorney and then will set the date for a detention hearing. In practice, this means many defendants spend days in jail before the judge decides to release him. This may come as a shock to newcomers in the federal system, especially if they are familiar with the state practice of bail bonds.

The Bail Reform Act of 1984 mandates release of a defendant on personal recognizance unless the court determines that “such release will not reasonably assure” the person’s appearance in court, or “will endanger the safety of any other person or the community”. For most financial crimes, such as bank or wire fraud, the defendant is likely to be released with some conditions. If a defendant is charged with a drug charge of some magnitude, the act presumes that no condition is adequate for pretrial release. The defendant can rebut this presumption in a hearing.

What Happens at a Federal Detention Hearing?

Under the rules of Federal Procedure, a detention hearing shall be held immediately, unless the government or defendant moves for a continuance. In such a case, the hearing must be held within three days, not including legal holidays or weekends. Assuming the case has not already been indicted, the government must prove two things at a detention hearing: 1) probable cause that a crime has been committed and 2) reasons why the defendant is likely to flee or be a danger to the community if released. Defense counsel has the right to fully cross exam any government witnesses and produce evidence rebutting dangerousness or possible flight. The rules of evidence do not necessarily apply at a detention hearing.

What Happens at an Arraignment?

After the detention hearing, the magistrate will usually set the case for an arraignment. The purpose of an arraignment is to notify the accused of the formal charges and take the plea. At the arraignment, the magistrate (or sometimes the Federal District Judge) will notify the defendant of his criminal trial dates. It is absolutely imperative that an accused have an experienced Federal Criminal lawyer at every stage of these proceedings. There is much more that an experienced attorney can do if he is permitted to prepare the case early in the process.

Types of Federal Crimes

What Are White Collar Crimes?

Bank Fraud and Wire Fraud are often referred to as White Collar Crimes, A white collar crime is more of a nickname than a technical term. It describes a generalized financial crime that involves complex schemes, special knowledge, or sophistication to carry out.  Not surprising, many crimes that fall under the white collar umbrella involve bank fraud, mail fraud or illegal acquisition of securities, stocks, or other property.

Generally speaking, white collar crimes are those that arise out of business dealings or corporate theft. These cases may involve CEOs or major executives. However, most of the white collar crimes we have handled did not involve the boss or chairman of the board. Any individual in a company who has access to valuable information, property or money can be accused if a loss occurs. Although often it is easy to prove a loss to a company,  it may be difficult to prove who benefited because of the lack of a clear paper trail.

White collar crimes may be complex and may be committed over a long period of time. Investigations of these crimes require the expertise of trained financial forensics specialists.

An individual accused of a white collar crime can face a damaged reputation and loss of other freedoms. Anyone arrested or under investigation for any type of financial crime should immediately contact a criminal defense attorney experienced with white collar crime cases before speaking with the police, federal investigators, or other law enforcement.

Many white collar crimes are prosecuted in Federal Court, especially if the loss is in the millions of dollars. However, large counties like Harris, Montgomery, and Fort Bend have their own divisions that investigate and prosecute corporate theft.

Our firm has an extensive history of successfully defending clients against white collar crimes charges and founder is board certified in criminal defense. Contact our firm today for a comprehensive review of your case if you or a loved one has been accused of committing bank fraud or any form of white collar crime in the Houston area.

Punishment for a White Collar Crime Conviction in Texas

No matter the prosecuting unit, convictions for white collar crimes are likely to carry severe punishments such as imprisonment, heavy fines, and long release terms. Restitution is almost always required. The circumstances of the crime influence the Court’s sentencing decision.

These circumstances include the involvement of a bank or lending institution, the number of victims, and the amount of loss or damage.

Bank Fraud and Wire Fraud

Bank fraud is a white-collar crime and is a term that may be applied to other types of white collar crimes such as credit card fraud, wire fraud, embezzlement, and mortgage fraud.

Some examples of Bank Fraud include passing bad checks, kiting checks, and falsifying loan documents. Of course, the State of Texas is also authorized to charge those involved in corporate fraud or theft. Some large counties, such as Harris County, have divisions dedicated to Major Fraud. The division includes accountants, legal assistants and forensic examiners along with several prosecutors.

The penalties that will be imposed upon a conviction are severe, and depending upon the evidence in the case and the degree of financial loss in the case, can lead to decades in federal prison as well as tens of thousands of dollars in fines, loss of property and other repercussions.

What’s the Difference Between Wire Fraud and Bank Fraud?

Wire Fraud is similar to Bank Fraud in that the accused allegedly defrauds for faulty financial gain, but commits the offense through telephone, internet or some other electronic means. This activity can be prosecuted by the federal government. 18 U.S.C § 1343, 1344.Since almost all financial transactions involve the internet these days, it is not difficult for the Federal Prosecutor to show wire use in most thefts.

Accusations of wire fraud are particularly dangerous because they are charged in federal court, where the penalties can be severe under the Federal Sentencing guidelines. Wire fraud crimes often cross state lines and are often part of another serious white collar crime case.

The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the four elements of wire fraud occurred, or else the charges may be eligible for dismissal or the jury could return a not guilty verdict. The four elements are:

  1. that the defendant voluntarily and intentionally devised or participated in a scheme to defraud another out of money;
  2. that the defendant did so with the intent to defraud;  
  3. that it was reasonably foreseeable that interstate wire communications would be used; and
  4. that interstate wire communications were in fact used.

Fraudulent schemes can be quite complicated and if more than one person is alleged to be involved in the scheme, the government often prosecutes the crime as a conspiracy to commit bank fraud, mail or wire fraud.

Most of the time the indictment contains numerous counts alleging every conceivable way of proving the bank fraud, including conspiracy, attempt, aiding and abetting and tax evasion.

We have defended many federal bank fraud cases, including mortgage fraud, and no matter how complex, they all seem to be controlled by one basic investigatory rule: Follow The Money. Documents always tell the truth, but documents can be interpreted, analyzed and put into context.

Sometimes the only thing that connects an individual to the voluminous documents that make up the alleged fraud is one signature. But trust the FBI to float down the river of money when determining who is at fault.

What Are The Penalties For Bank and Wire Fraud?

Penalties for Bank and Wire fraud are severe. The Federal Sentencing Guidelines provide for maximum penalties of 30 years in prison and a fine up to $1, 000, 000.

Early involvement in the case, before formal charges or immediately after an arrest is vital in any federal criminal defense, and we urge you to contact us at once if you are accused of this serious federal crime.

Are You Accused of Drug Trafficking or Drug Manufacturing?

Under Title 21 of the Federal Criminal Code, Drug Trafficking, Possession and Distribution can be prosecuted by the Federal Government. Of course, the State of Texas can prosecute as well if the activity falls within its jurisdiction.

Trafficking is an encompassing term for any actions connected to selling, transporting or importing through the border of any illegal drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines, and heroin. Illegal trafficking of prescription drugs is also on the radar, as Texas is the state with the longest border to Mexico.

As the State of Texas is on the front line of the “War on Drugs” and does not share the lax attitude of some other states toward marijuana use, there are no grey areas between the state and federal laws, except that it is unlikely the Federal Government will prosecute a marijuana case that doesn’t involve a tremendous amount.

If you are charged with drugs selling or trafficking, you should immediately contact a seasoned criminal defense lawyer with experience in federal courts.

What Are the Penalties for Drug Trafficking and Distribution?

Penalties for Drug Trafficking and Drug Distribution vary from case to case and the major factor in determining the outcome is the quantity and the type of substance trafficked or manufactured.

For example,  the penalties for marijuana cultivation may range from 5 years in prison for less than 50 plants to 25 years in prison or more for a 1,000 plants. Penalties for drugs are determined by where they are scheduled in the Federal Statutes and the amount alleged to have been possessed. 500 grams of methamphetamine carries with it a penalty of not less than 5 years. A kilo of heroin or five kilos of cocaine requires a minimum penalty of ten years, upon conviction.

A sentence can get harsher if the charged person was performing the offense close to a high school for example, or if he or she is a part of an international crime organization or if a gun was used in the implementation of the conspiracy. Any of these circumstances will subject the offender to long prison time, and can also cause a forfeiture of assets.

How to Beat a Drug Possession Charge?

An experienced lawyer like Ed Chernoff can work towards case dismissal or diminished sentence. No matter the amount, defenses for drug cases generally fall into three categories: 1) The items seized weren’t illegal drugs, 2) The drugs were not “possessed” by the accused person, or 3) The drugs were seized as a result of a violation of the accused person’s constitutional or statutory rights.

The U. S. Attorney normally prosecutes cases investigated by the DEA and the FBI. Those agencies tend to focus on bigger cases, such as drug conspiracy and border trafficking. By the time a person becomes aware that he is a suspect, he has often been the subject of an ongoing investigation for many months, even years. We advise and represent people in federal cases and grand jury proceedings.

When the stakes are high, put the defense team at Chernoff Law on your side in court. Contact our Houston law office for a strong defense against any drug crime charge with a drug lawyer.

Contact Ed Chernoff Now!

Contact Chernoff Law if you are told or are even slightly suspicious that you are under federal investigation in Houston, Texas. This federal investigation may involve you, your company,  your associates, or your family. You will need a federal criminal attorney, and we hope you call us first. We don’t charge for an initial consultation and it may be the most important call of your life!

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