Have you been charged with a federal crime, or are you concerned that you may be charged in the near future? You may have received a “target letter” notifying you that you are under investigation or a subpoena to testify before a grand jury. Perhaps you have been charged with a state crime that might be selected for prosecution by the federal government. If so, you need an experienced attorney to represent you and aggressively defend your legal rights.
The United States Government and the State of North Carolina share jurisdiction over many types of crimes including drug and firearm offenses, fraud, bank robbery, kidnapping, carjacking, and child-pornography offenses. It is possible for you to be prosecuted for these crimes in either state or federal court or, in some instances, in both court systems. The United States Government does not prosecute every such crime, but selectively chooses which crimes to prosecute. Often, the Government will chose to prosecute a case after the defendant already has been charged in state court. Decisions that a defendant makes during a state-court prosecution may have significant negative consequences if the federal government decides to prosecute the case. Therefore, it is extremely important to select an attorney who is experienced in defending cases in both state and federal court.
Federal cases begin in a variety of ways. An investigative grand jury may subpoena certain evidence in a case, and a prosecution will follow. In other cases, the United States Attorney’s Office will send a suspect a “target letter” informing the person that he or she is under investigation and should retain counsel. Formal charges begin when a prosecutor submits a “criminal information” charging a certain crime, or when a grand jury returns a true bill of indictment.
Soon after a federal defendant is arrested, a judge will hold a detention hearing to determine whether the defendant will remain in jail or be released pending trial. Later, at arraignment, the defendant may plead guilty or not guilty. If the defendant pleads guilty, the case proceeds to sentencing. If the defendant pleads not guilty, the case proceeds to trial. The case will be heard by a jury of twelve randomly-selected members of the community who will hear evidence and determine whether the Government has proved the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If the jury finds you not guilty, the case ends and you will go free. If the jury finds you guilty, you may appeal your conviction to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
Sentencing in federal cases is a complex procedure that requires substantial experience. A defendant’s sentence can vary based on many factors, including the nature and particular characteristics of the crime, the defendant’s role in the crime, the defendant’s criminal history, and whether the defendant has accepted responsibility or assisted the Government during the prosecution of the crime. Judges also consider other factors such as the defendant’s personal history and character, and whether the defendant requires drug, mental health, or vocational assistance. A defendant may seek a reduction in his or her sentence by filing a motion for a downward departure from the sentencing guidelines.
Contact our office today if you have been charged with a federal crime, if you have received a “target letter,” or if you otherwise believe that you are the subject of a federal investigation.