Are you a suspect or person of interest in a federal crime?

If you are under investigation in a federal crime or have already been charged, your future and freedom may be in jeopardy. 

  • Federal authorities such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, DEA, Secret Service, or Homeland security may be involved in the investigation. These agencies have far greater resources than local law enforcement.
  • The federal government has the ability to intercept phone calls, collect video evidence, and use other powerful tools in an investigation. 
  • Punishments for federal crimes can be severe. There are mandatory minimum sentences that can’t be negotiated and no probation.

Because of the complexity and seriousness of an investigation at the federal level, it often takes months or even years to prepare a case. Federal agents are thorough, meticulous and aggressive when building evidence for a case. If there is suspicion that you might be involved in a federal offense, it’s likely that agents have already begun gathering evidence to build a case against you. 

If this results in charges, it means that the US Attorney’s office has an advantage over the defense team right off the bat. If you are a suspect or person of interest in a federal crime, it is crucial that you don’t wait to seek legal representation who can start preparing your defense. 

Only an experienced and dedicated federal crimes lawyer can build a defense aggressive enough to stand up to the US Federal Government.

How do federal criminal charges differ from criminal offenses under California state law?

Many federal crimes involve illegal activity that crosses state lines, uses or involves the internet, or involves federal agencies such as federal banks or the US Postal Service. 

Some of the most commonly prosecuted federal crimes include:

los angeles federal defense

There are important differences in the ways that the investigation and litigation of federal crimes are handled. The United States Attorney’s Office and United States Department of Justice are responsible for prosecuting and trying federal cases and follow federal rule of criminal procedure. 

Federal judges have to follow sentencing guidelines and mandatory minimum sentences and don’t get to use much of their own discretion. The investigation and trial of a federal crime can be lengthy and intimidating. A good federal criminal lawyer will be with you every step of the way, keep you informed, and help you understand what to expect as your case progresses. 

What can you expect from a federal arrest and the court system?

Criminal cases handled by the federal court have a different judicial process than those handled by the state court.   

If the investigation by federal authorities yields enough evidence to make an arrest, the individual who is being charged will be brought into custody and interviewed by a pretrial services or court probation officer. 

The accused will then appear in court for an arraignment in front of a federal magistrate judge. The judge will decide whether or not the defendant will be released to await trial and can also set conditions of the release or set bail. The result of the arraignment depends on the specific details of the case. The judge will consider information gathered during the pretrial interview, the nature of the offense, the defendant’s criminal history, and any other relevant information in making the decision. 

Federal criminal cases in Los Angeles and surrounding counties are handled by prosecutors at the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. If federal prosecutors believe that there is enough evidence against the defendant, they will present the case to a grand jury who will decide if the case should go to trial. 

If the case moves to trial, the prosecution will file an indictment with the United States District Court. The defendant will then make additional court appearances where the defense team will acquire police reports or other relevant documents to the case. Whatever discovery documents or evidence that the defense receives will be used by the federal defense attorney to fight the charges placed against the defendant. 

The U.S. Attorney has to prove that the defendant is guilty of all elements of the crime in order to secure a conviction. Following a trial or plea bargain, the judge will sentence the defendant. While mandatory sentencing guidelines make it difficult to plea bargain in federal court, a skilled law firm may be able to present the case in a way that it is not subject to those guidelines. 

If the judge determines that federal sentencing guidelines need to be followed, the penalties will likely be much harsher than for a crime handled by the state court. 

How to handle federal interviews and target letters

One way that many people find that they are involved in a federal investigation is if they are are directly contacted by federal agents.

Let’s say you’re at home one morning, minding your own business, when you hear a knock. There are two men at the door who identify themselves as FBI agents. They casually ask you to talk with them. It could be about you, or it could be about a situation that happened to someone else, years ago. What do you do?

The best course of action is to calmly inform them that you are happy to consent to their interview, but only after speaking with your attorney first.

At this point, many federal investigators try to play hardball. They might ask you what you’re hiding, or why you have to speak with an attorney beforehand. The truth is that you are fully within your constitutional rights to do this, and it can save you from headaches that might arise if you misspeak or misremember a fact during the interview.

Another way that people find they are involved in a federal investigation is if they receive what is known as a “target letter.”

A target letter is a notice from either a federal prosecutor or the U.S. Department of Justice that you are the target of a criminal investigation.

Target letters contain information on the crime being investigated and what the federal government expects you to do next. This will usually take the form of appearing in front of a grand jury, or meeting directly with a prosecutor.

If you receive a letter from the federal government notifying you that you are a witness, subject or target in a criminal investigation, the best first move is to speak with an attorney. Remember, a target letter is not an indictment, but it could be a sign that you could be indicted soon. Your attorney will carefully review the details of your case and advise you on the best course of action.

Why do you need a federal criminal defense lawyer?

Federal charges are very serious, and a conviction could have a devastating impact on the rest of your life. It is crucial that you hire an attorney who can dedicate their time and expertise to your unique case and who understands the ins and outs of not only federal law, but also federal court procedures and guidelines. 

Because the federal government has basically unlimited resources and sophisticated technology to collect evidence against you, you need to have an aggressive defense strategy. A highly skilled federal defense attorney will customize your defense strategy to the details of your case. The sooner your attorney can begin researching the evidence against you and determining the best way to fight your charges the better. If you are in need of a federal criminal defense attorney, don’t wait, contact our law offices today. 

Federal criminal defense attorney Robert M. Helfend

The Law Offices of Robert M. Helfend provides nationwide defense against all types of federal charges. Based in Los Angeles, Mr. Helfend has been recognized for his work in the courtroom by SuperLawyers, Lead Counsel and the National Trial Lawyers Top 100.

“This man is a very effective criminal defense attorney. I was charged but I never had to go to court because the case was thrown out thanks to his efforts. I was very worried because I didn’t know anyone who could confirm my location, but he was able to prove that I was innocent.”
Jason, CA

Trained at Pepperdine Law, Mr. Helfend has practiced criminal defense exclusively since 1984 and has won favorable judgments for thousands of clients in that time. Some of his specific practice areas include:

If you are facing charges for any type of federal crime, we can provide you with the care, attention, and aggressive defense that you will need in order to get through the difficult federal judicial process. Contact us today for a free initial consultation and let us get to work defending your rights and fighting for your future — 800-834-6434.

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