Violations of United States federal criminal laws are prosecuted in federal court. Federal agencies such as the FBI, CIA, DEA, IRS, SEC, and ATF investigate federal crimes.
The Department of Justice prosecutes these cases, meaning that a trial for a violation of federal laws can be a particularly frightening and intimidating experience. The prosecutors and law enforcement agencies in federal cases have almost unlimited resources and smaller caseloads than their counterparts on the state levels.
Federal investigations are high-level and usually conducted months before formal charges are filed.
Federal law enforcement officials are highly trained to handle specific crimes. This makes it important to have competent and aggressive legal representation to protect your rights and interests during this stressful time.
An experienced federal criminal defense attorney will advise you right from the start and ensure your rights are protected.
Facts uncovered and statements made during the investigation process can have a significant effect on your case. Attorneys at Ringstrom Law will provide you with the legal counsel and assistance you need during this crucial time.
We know your rights and the inner workings of federal court proceedings. Our attorneys have experience handling a wide range of complex federal criminal cases in North Dakota and Minnesota. We work to obtain the best possible outcome for our clients by building cases for trial.
Whether you’ve learned that you’re being investigated or have been charged for a federal crime, contact a Minnesota federal criminal lawyer at Ringstrom Law as soon as possible.
Call our firm at (218) 284-0484 or fill out our online contact form to discuss your case with our attorneys in complete confidence.
Federal Court Criminal Process
The judicial process in federal criminal cases varies from those in state courts. Once an individual is arrested for a federal offense, a probation or pretrial service officer will interview them and review their background.
A judge will later use information obtained during the interview when determining whether or not to release the defendant before a trial commences.
The judge has the discretion to impose conditions of the release. Prosecutors at the United States Attorney’s Office for the Districts of North Dakota and Minnesota are responsible for the enforcement of federal laws and the prosecution of persons charged with federal criminal offenses in those jurisdictions.
They work closely with federal agents to scrutinize evidence collected during an investigation. If they are convinced there’s enough evidence to prosecute, they will present their cases to a federal grand jury. That jury will then determine if the evidence is enough for a defendant to stand trial.
Once this is done, the prosecutors will file a federal indictment in the United States District Court that has jurisdiction over the case.
Typically, a federal judge will advise the person of the charges filed against them and will decide if there is probable cause to believe the defendant has committed a federal offense. After a plea bargain or trial, the judge is responsible for making a ruling and sentencing a defendant.
However, federal judges must consult the Federal Sentencing Guidelines before doing so. This means that a federal judge typically has less discretion to determine an appropriate sentence than a state judge.
Federal sentencing guidelines typically require much harsher penalties than those imposed in state courts. Also, it’s often difficult to obtain a plea bargain in federal courts.
If you or loved one is charged with a federal crime in North Dakota or Minnesota, please consult a criminal defense attorney at Ringstrom Law to help you build a strong defense against any imminent action against you.
We can conduct a thorough review of the details surrounding any criminal charge against you. We can present your case in such a way to hopefully minimize the harshness of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.
What’s the Difference Between State and Federal Crimes?
Federal criminal laws differ from state laws because they are designed to punish activities deemed serious crimes against the nation rather than an individual state.
Whereas state laws are prosecuted by the Minnesota or North Dakota District Attorney’s office and handled within the Minnesota/North Dakota Superior Court system, federal crimes are prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office and the United States Department of Justice.
States have their own rules and procedures. Minnesota’s laws are compiled in a series of statutes in Chapter 609. Criminal Code. These laws clearly define state-level violations, and their penalties are included in the section dedicated to offenses.
Federal laws, on the other hand, are compiled in the United States Code and cover all laws handled at the federal level. Federal laws cover issues that pertain to the federal government.
For example, transporting quantities of cocaine from Minneapolis to Clay County is considered a state felony because you’ve transported narcotics over county lines under the control of the state of Minnesota.
However, if you transported cocaine from Minnesota to North Dakota, you have crossed state borders, which means that your trafficking charge becomes a federal crime.
In some cases, however, you may face state and federal level charges for the same offense. In this example, you may be charged with a Minnesota felony for drug trafficking within state lines and also charged with a federal crime for transporting drugs across state lines. This will certainly complicate your defense because each case will be handled separately.
Federal Sentencing Guidelines
To determine the appropriate punishment for an individual convicted of a federal crime, federal court judges rely on the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.
These were established by the United States Sentencing Commission and became effective in 1987. Found under 18 U.S. Code §3553, the goal of these guidelines was to provide federal judges with consistent sentencing. Factors include the individual offender’s criminal history and how serious their crime was.
In other words, the guidelines seek to create consistency in punishment. They seek to avoid instances where defendants committing the exact same offenses are treated differently because of being sentenced in different federal courthouses or having different federal judges. Any federal judge who deviates from the guidelines must provide clear reasons for their decision.
The guidelines are intricate and rely on numerous aspects to determine the sentence in a given case. The first step under the guidelines is to establish the base level of the crime the individual was convicted of committing.
The Guidelines include 43 levels of offenses and six criminal history categories. These depend on a defendant’s criminal history and how recent that criminal history is. The highest level is serious crimes with the harshest penalties. The Sentencing table will show a point of intersection between an offense, a criminal history, and an offense level. This determines the range of penalties.
For instance, the highest number is assigned to the highest level of a criminal offense. First-degree, premeditated murder has a base offense level of 43.
Specific offense characteristics and adjustments will be added or subtracted to the base offense number in order to reach the final offense level. Each crime has specific characteristics that can alter the offense level. In addition, there are victim-related adjustments and adjustments related to the defendant’s role in the crime. These can raise or lower the offense level.
Another step in determining the offense level is the defendant’s acceptance of responsibility. If the person pled guilty, truthfully admitted his or her role in the offense, or made restitution before a guilty verdict is entered, a judge may lower the offense a certain amount.
Once the offense level is determined, the second element involves the offender’s criminal record. There are six categories of criminal history, starting with 1 for first-time offenders, or those with the least serious criminal record, and ending at 6 for individuals with a serious criminal history.
Federal judges have the option to depart from the federal sentencing guidelines based on factors related to the case. Among other things, these include
- Gang connection to the crime
- Defendant’s use of a weapon to commit the crime
- The victim was a child
- Severe injuries inflicted upon or death of the victim
- Act of torture or cruelty by the defendant
It’s clear that determining a federal sentence is extremely complicated. It’s best to have in your corner a North Dakota and Minnesota federal criminal defense attorney. He or she can work to have the charges dismissed completely, minimize the potential sentence, or obtain a “not guilty” verdict.
The attorneys at Ringstrom Law have an in-depth understanding of the guidelines and have used them to gain lesser sentences for their clients. Having the right federal crimes lawyer can make a substantial difference in your federal case.
Adjustments to Federal Sentencing Guidelines
If a case has mitigating or aggravating circumstances, a federal judge has the authority to inflict a sentence above or below the range provided for in the guideline.
However, the judge must state the reason for the departure in writing or on the record at sentencing. Either the government or the defendant can appeal the departure. If a defendant has helped with the investigation or prosecution of other offenders, he or she may be eligible for a downward departure from the sentence determined by the guidelines. Typically, adjustments are made to the level of the offense depending on the factors below:
- Motivation for the crime
- Defendant’s role in committing the crime
- Prior criminal record of the defendant
- Amount of money or the value of the property taken
- Number of crimes or counts
Other Important Issues Associated With Federal Crimes
Any offender facing federal criminal charges has the right to an impartial jury. This is a critical issue you’ll want to discuss with your lawyer. A jury can make or break a case.
As your attorney knows, jurors can have a wide range of experiences. In some instances, however, a particular group could be under or over-represented in a jury pool, creating a possible challenge.
Your criminal detention hearing is another important issue you should discuss with your attorney. A prosecutor may request detention if you’ve been charged with certain crimes or if the prosecutor thinks you’re a flight risk or a danger to the community.
The request to have you detained must be made at your initial appearance, followed by hearing usually three to five days later.
When deciding whether you’ll be released while your case is pending, a federal judge will consider four factors:
- The nature and circumstances of the alleged crime
- The evidence against you
- The potential of danger to a specific person or the community if you were released
- Details about you: your criminal history, employment, character, physical and mental condition, financial resources, family ties, length of time you have resided in the community, history of drug or alcohol abuse, and your record of appearance at court proceedings
A detention hearing is the first critically important part of a federal criminal case. This is because federal cases often take longer than state cases. If you don’t win at your detention hearing, you will likely sit in a jail for a long time. But if you have a lawyer who knows how to fight and win at detention hearings, your chances of being released until your case is completed is greatly increased.
The lawyers at Ringstrom Law have a vast amount of experience with detention hearings in both North Dakota and Minnesota federal court. This, too, should be something to consider when you’re charged with a federal crime.
Potential Penalties for Federal Crime Convictions
While the range of potential prison sentences and fines for most crimes is clearly established by the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, various federal statutes can impose additional penalties. Depending on the charge(s), the possible penalties when convicted of a federal crime include:
- Fines: Statutory fines for individual and corporate offenders are different. But in all cases, the collective fines imposed for federal crimes can far exceed what most individuals and organizations can afford to pay.
- Imprisonment: Many federal crimes carry the potential for a minimum of several years of imprisonment. There are factors that can contribute to the increase of the potential prison sentence indicated by the sentencing guidelines. Also, defendants can be at risk of spending decades behind bars when the prosecutor pursues multiple charges.
- Probation: If penalties are inevitable, a defendant can be put on supervised probation. As such, the defense needs to focus its strategies on securing probation instead of term imprisonment.
- Recoupment, compensation, and other possible financial penalties: A conviction for certain crimes will have the defendant sentenced to recoupments, restitution, and other possible financial penalties.
- Other penalties: In some cases, the court can impose additional statutory penalties. Examples include exclusion from Medicaid and Medicare (in cases of healthcare fraud) and loss of eligibility for SEC and DEA registration in securities-related and prescription offenses.
Even after you complete a prison sentence, the consequences of a federal conviction can continue to affect your life. Some of the longer-lasting implications are
- Travel restrictions
- Restrictions on types of employment
- Asset forfeiture
- Loss of professional licenses
Federal Crimes We Defend
There are more than 100 distinct offenses under the general category of federal crimes in the United States. A crime may be prosecuted at the federal level if you’re found to have committed an offense that violated the United States criminal code or an offense associated with federal government property.
If you’ve been charged with a federal crime, it’s important to understand that charges of this nature are serious and could put your freedom at significant risk. What’s more, federal prosecutors have near unlimited resources at their disposal to convict you. Therefore, retaining a seasoned and skilled defense attorney is your best bet at ensuring that your constitutional rights are not violated. Our attorneys have extensive experience in handling federal cases and are ready to help you.
At Ringstrom Law, we handle all types of federal crimes, including (but not limited to)
- Accounting Fraud
- Tax Crimes
- Controlled Substance Violations
- Computer Crimes
- Corporate Crimes
- Drug Manufacturing
- Import/Export Crimes
- Bank Fraud
- Internet Fraud
- Healthcare Fraud
- Securities Fraud
- Immigration Law Violations
- Social Security Fraud
- Murder as a Federal Offense
- Child Pornography
- Drug Smuggling
- Mail Fraud
- Identity Theft
- Drug Violation
- Sex Crimes
- Money Laundering
- White Collar Crimes
- Interstate Crime
- Credit Card Fraud
- Check Fraud
Find a North Dakota or Minnesota Federal Criminal Defense Attorney
You need to act quickly when you’ve been charged with a federal offense or are the subject of a federal investigation. Ringstrom Law understands that your future is at stake and will begin building your defense to ensure your rights are not violated at any step of the process. You can count on us to provide tireless attention to your freedom and aggressive legal representation.
We defend clients facing federal crimes throughout Minnesota and North Dakota. Call our law office at (218) 284-0484 to schedule a free initial consultation, where we can begin exploring your options.