Experience Matters With Federal Charges

Federal criminal charges are different from state charges in a number of ways, and the penalties are often more serious. If you are under investigation for a federal crime or have already been charged, you need an attorney with experience in the federal criminal court system.

I am Robert Singer, founder of Singer Legal PLLC. I spent eight years as a federal prosecutor, and now I use the experience and knowledge I gained in that role to represent clients facing serious federal charges. I understand the way the system operates and what it takes to win. If your case goes to trial, you can rely on my extensive courtroom experience.

How Are Federal Charges Different?

State vs. Federal Jurisdiction.  Local District Attorneys only have jurisdiction over crimes occurring within their county and New York State authorities only have jurisdiction to charge crimes that occur within New York.  In contrast, the federal government can charge you for crimes that occur throughout the United States and internationally.  Put another way, if you commit crimes in Pennsylvania and New York, federal authorities can charge you for crimes occurring in both states while New York authorities cannot.

Federal crimes are limited. The federal government does not have general police powers – such power is reserved to the States by the Constitution.  So, New York generally prosecutes crimes involving people and property, including robbery, rape, domestic violence, and criminal mischief.  Federal crimes must occur on federal property, defraud the government, or affect interstate or foreign commerce.  So, if you commit a crime in a federal building, lie to federal authorities, or your crime involves conduct that crosses a state or international border, involves electronic communications that travel across state lines/international borders, or involves economic activity that affects commerce, federal authorities can charge you for such conduct.  Such charges include, destruction of federal property, federal contracting fraud, federal tax evasion, assault on a federal officer, wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering, and terrorism.

Overlap. There is some overlap between federal and state charges.  For example, gun possession can be charged by federal and state authorities because guns affect interstate commerce.  The same is true of drug trafficking – possession with intent to distribute illegal narcotics can be charged by federal and New York authorities because many drugs are imported into the United States.  And since child pornography offenses frequently use the Internet to transmit images, both New York and federal authorities can charge you for receipt, possession, production, and distribution.

Penalties in Federal Court are much worse.  A conviction in federal court frequently carries far greater punishment than state court even when the  crimes are identical.  This disparity occurs for three reasons.  First, federal charges for guns and drugs frequently carry “mandatory minimum” penalties of 5, 10, and 15 years, even for first-time felony offenders.  Some mandatory minimums must even run consecutively. Federal Judges only have authority to adjudge prison terms below the mandatory minimum in very limited circumstances.  Thus, even persons with a clean record can face years in prison simply because they were charged by federal authorities.  Second, sentences in federal court are influenced by Sentencing Guidelines.  While federal sentencing guidelines are not mandatory, Judges frequently follow them unless your attorney disputes their application to your case.  Federal Sentencing Guidelines are much harsher than determinate and indeterminate sentencing ranges in state court. Third, the federal prison system does not have parole.  Frequently, federal inmates serve 7/8ths of their prison sentences prior to release. In state prison, inmates can earn eligibility for parole after 1/3 of their sentence is complete.  So, federal inmates serve more time in prison overall.

Common Federal Crimes

As a federal prosecutor, I saw many different crimes come through the courtroom, and I am familiar with a wide range of laws and offenses. As a defense lawyer, the most common federal charges my clients face include:

  • Drug trafficking – Possessing, selling or manufacturing illegal drugs is a federal crime, in addition to a state crime.
  • Firearms offenses – Weapons charges can range from sales to possession to being a felon in possession of a firearm (922(g) offenses), or using a firearm in facilitation of drug trafficking or during a crime of violence (924(c) offenses).
  • White collar crime – These crimes include fraud, internet crimes and money laundering.
  • Violent felonies – These charges could include kidnapping, arson, murder, assault and violent crimes in aid of racketeering (VICAR)
  • Gang/organized crime offenses – These charges include racketeering (RICO) and continuing criminal enterprise (CCE) offenses.

Whatever charges you face, you need an attorney who understands the federal court system and the defenses that are effective in your situation. Call my office to discuss how I can help.

Start Your Defense Today

Time is of the essence with federal cases. The sooner I start working on your case, the better the outcome is likely to be. Contact me through my online form or by calling my Williamsville office at 716-222-3288.