Being under investigation for any crime can be terrifying, but the stakes are far higher if you are being investigated by the federal government or have been charged with a federal offense. You should contact a California Criminal Defense Attorney as soon as possible. Consider one of our prescreened California Lawyers in your Cal Bar Attorney Search.

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Find A Criminal Defense Lawyer for Federal Crime Charges

There are many reasons why facing federal charges is much more serious for California residents than being tried for a state crime. Federal prosecutors have more resources to devote to investigations in order to establish guilt, and sentences are usually much harsher when a criminal is convicted of a federal crime rather than a state offense.

Federal prosecutors also use the threat of mandatory minimum sentences to persuade suspects to admit guilt, regardless of whether the defendants did something wrong, so they could be forced to confess even though they are innocent.

These are just a few of the many reasons why federal charges should be taken seriously. To do so, you'll need to partner with a California Criminal Defense Attorney who has the expertise, experience, and resources to defend you against charges and help you achieve the best possible results. Finding the right Criminal Defense Attorney can be crucial to your future because not every attorney can defend clients in federal court or has the experience or capacity to do so effectively.

What Constitutes a Federal Offense?

A person charged with federal crimes in San Diego might be shocked to learn that they are not being charged with a state-level offense, and there is definitely some complexity to knowing why one form of charge is preferred over another. The following is a quick rundown of why a seemingly state-level fee can eventually become a federal charge and how the two are distinguished.

Crimes Committed by States vs. Crimes Committed by the Federal Government

Each state has its own set of laws. California's laws are organized in the California State Legislature's Laws and Constitution as a set of codes and statutes. State-level breaches are specifically described in this list of codes and statutes, and their related punishments are found in the section devoted to the law that they cover. The United States Code lays out all federal laws after they have been passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the President of the United States.

All matters relating to the federal government are covered by federal law. For example, breaking a California drug trafficking statute, such as transporting amounts of methamphetamine from San Diego County to Orange County, is considered a state crime since you have transported controlled substances across county lines. If you ship methamphetamines from California to Nevada, on the other hand, you have crossed federal-state lines, making your drug trafficking offense a federal crime.

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In certain cases, you can face charges on both a state and federal level for the same offense. For example, you might face state felony drug trafficking charges for transporting drugs across county lines, as well as charges for transporting drugs across state lines. Each case will be treated individually, which will undoubtedly add to the complexity of your defense.

What Do You Do?

A federal criminal charge in the United States is a charge brought against anyone or someone the government suspects committed a crime, also known as a federal crime or federal offense. Although the majority of crimes in the United States are investigated and prosecuted by local authorities, any breach of federal law is investigated and prosecuted by the federal government.

Federal crimes are taken very seriously by the government, and a criminal conviction will result in jail time, fines, and restitution, among other harsh penalties. Furthermore, since Congress abolished parole for federal criminal prisoners after 1987, someone facing a federal criminal conviction should expect to complete the full length of their sentence if convicted, with the exception of some time off for good conduct. Contact our Criminal Defense Lawyers as soon as possible if you are facing criminal charges in federal court.

  • Choose the best Criminal Defense Lawyer.
    • You probably already know that you'll need to hire a California Criminal Defense Attorney to represent you in court, but finding one who best fits your needs can be challenging if you don't already have one. Think about the offense you've been charged with and then do some research in that field of criminal law.
  • Consultations should be scheduled.
    • Suppose you've narrowed your list down to a few Criminal Defense Lawyers, set up appointments with each of them so you can speak with them face to face. There's nothing wrong with meeting with a California Criminal Law Attorney and then choosing someone else; you want to make sure you're fully satisfied with the attorney you choose, so don't make a final decision until you've met with each one.
  • Find out more about the charges you're facing.
    • It might take some time to find the right California Criminal Law Attorney to represent you, and in the meantime, you'll want to learn what you can about the criminal charges you're facing.
  • Make a list of all that could be important to your situation.
    • Whatever criminal charge you're facing, it's important that you get the facts straight so you can give your California Criminal Defense Attorney a complete picture of what happened. As soon as you've been charged with a crime, start writing down anything that comes to mind that could be relevant to your case.
  • Gather valuable documents.
    • If you know what the case is about, you should start gathering any documents you believe are important to the case and making copies for your attorney. Since these documents are unlikely to be used until later, it's still a good idea to complete this phase ahead of time.
  • Make sure you're up to date on the law.
    • If you've been charged with a federal crime, you've been convicted of breaking one or more federal rules, which are laws passed by Congress. Federal criminal crimes are investigated by federal agencies such as the FBI, DEA, and IRS, and prosecuted by the United States Attorney's Office, which serves the government. There are thousands of federal laws that punish a wide range of criminal behavior. It's important that you comprehend the criminal charges you're facing, as well as your legal rights and choices.
  • Understand the distinction between state and federal charges and whether you can face both.
    • California's state and federal governments are "dual sovereigns," meaning they can pass their own laws and prosecute crimes in accordance with those laws. Unfortunately, this means that, under certain circumstances, you can be charged with a felony in both state and federal court if your actions violated both state and federal laws without violating the statutory guarantee against double jeopardy. The government will bring criminal charges against a defendant who has either been convicted or acquitted of a state crime in the federal criminal justice system.
  • Prepare for a plea agreement or a trial.
    • A federal criminal case can be resolved in one of three ways: the charges can be dropped, the prosecutor and defense can work out a plea deal, or the case can go to trial. Some Defense Lawyers encourage their clients to take a plea bargain in order to find a fast settlement to avoid going to trial. Some defendants will want to reject a plea bargain and go to trial instead, and if this is the case for you, you will need a California Defense Attorney who can better prepare you for and successfully represent you during a federal criminal trial.
  • Allow your lawyer to handle your defense.
    • You should feel at ease with your California Criminal Defense Lawyer and the way he represents you, but you shouldn't get too caught up in the details of your defense. Allow your California Criminal Defense Attorney to handle your defense as long as you comply with his plan. He is more knowledgeable about the law than you are, has experience in federal court, and understands which defense strategy makes the most sense given the facts of your case.

What You Do Not Do

We'll go over some of the stuff you shouldn't do in this case now that we've covered the most important things you can do right away if you're convicted and charged with a federal crime. When you're facing a federal criminal charge, there are a few things you can stop doing.

  • Don't just employ any lawyer.
    • It might seem self-evident, but if you are facing federal criminal charges, you need the services of a Criminal Defense Attorney. You don't want a DUI defense attorney trying to navigate the complex criminal laws pertaining to drug trafficking or embezzlement, nor do you want to spend years in jail because you hired an inexperienced lawyer who didn't know what he was doing.
    • You will almost definitely be dissatisfied with the outcome if an unqualified attorney leads the prosecution. When facing a federal criminal charge, your future is on the line, and you need the legal help of a professional Defense Attorney who has ample experience representing clients facing federal criminal charges similar to yours.
  • Make sure you don't try to represent yourself in court.
    • In criminal trials, defendants have the right to represent themselves if a judge finds that they are capable of comprehending and engaging in the proceedings. But just because you have the legal right to defend yourself in court doesn't mean you should. You would be doing yourself a disservice if you represented yourself in your case because you have extensive experience in criminal defense, a thorough knowledge of federal criminal law, and the ability to examine and interpret facts and compose an effective defense strategy.
  • Don't believe that being accused equates to being found guilty.
    • We understand how terrifying and daunting it can be to be charged with a federal crime, particularly if you are innocent, but being charged with a crime is not the same as being convicted. In federal criminal proceedings, the burden of proof is "beyond a reasonable doubt" and is the highest burden of proof of any court in the country. When you're up against the federal government, it can seem like the odds are stacked against you, but with the help of an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney and a solid defense plan, you can put yourself in a position to win.
  • Do not be hesitant to ask.
    • Fighting a federal criminal charge could be the most difficult thing you'll ever have to do, and the outcome of your case will have a lasting effect on your life. Don't be afraid to ask your Defense Attorney any questions you have about his background, the legal procedure, the sanctions you might face if convicted, and how he plans to defend you against federal charges, both before and after you hire him. Any attorney you employ will be working closely with you for the course of your case, so it's important that you're on the same page right away.

What Do You Do If Federal Agents Show Up at Your Door With a Search Warrant?

One of the most frightening and surprising things that can happen to you is having the FBI, DEA, IRS, or other federal agents turn up at your door with a search warrant. If you've ever been the subject of a federal criminal investigation and had your home searched by federal agents, you've probably felt intimidated and helpless, which is exactly how they wanted you to feel.

They are telling you that they have the right to go anywhere they want to root through your personal possessions by showing up unannounced, invading your personal room, and conducting a search warrant and that you have no power or jurisdiction to stop them. Since searches are usually carried out quickly and without your input, it's important to know what to do first if federal agents arrive at your door with a search warrant.

  • Do not converse with the agents.
    • Anything you say to the agents investigating your home can be used against you, so keep calm and remain quiet throughout the process. And if you are certain you have nothing to hide, the first priority should be to obtain legal advice as soon as possible, rather than trying to persuade the agents searching your home that you are innocent. Leave it up to your Criminal Defense Lawyer to contact the investigating agency to find out what they are searching for.
  • Don't make any false statements.
    • If you have to speak with the agents without your Defense Attorney present, always say the facts. Lying to federal agents is a criminal act in and of itself, whether or not you are under oath, and you may be charged for it. Making false statements to a federal agent is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison under 18 USC 1001.
  • Make no attempt to conceal something.
    • When federal agents arrive at your door, it's natural to be nervous, but the last thing you want to do is try to conceal anything or destroy evidence that might get you into trouble. If you are accused of destroying, interfering with, or altering records or other facts relating to the criminal investigation, you can face additional charges for obstruction of justice. Tampering with facts to obstruct a federal investigation is a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison under 18 USC 1519.
  • Only your Criminal Defense Attorney should be informed about the search.
    • If you discuss the search of your home or the federal criminal investigation with someone other than your Defense Lawyer, those persons could be interviewed by the government or subpoenaed by a grand jury, in which case they will be required by law to relay precisely what you said. If this occurs, the government might believe you were trying to tamper with a witness or impede justice by interfering with the investigation. These details can be used against you in court as evidence, and you can face potential criminal charges as a result.
  • Don't take the warrant at face value.
    • The fact that the agents had a search warrant in hand did not mean it was legal. A search warrant must meet certain requirements in order to be valid, according to the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. "No warrants shall issue except upon probable cause, backed by Oath or affirmation, and especially specifying the place to be searched, and the persons or items to be seized," according to the statute.
    • In other words, search warrants must be based on probable cause, which means that the search is likely to find evidence of a crime, and federal agents are usually only allowed to search specific locations and seize specific objects while conducting a search warrant. Your Criminal Defense Attorney might be able to get any information found during the search thrown out if the search warrant was flawed in any way, such as not being based on probable cause or being too vague in its definition of where the agents were allowed to search.
  • Do not allow your rights to be infringed upon.
    • You might assume that federal agents always follow the rules, but we all know that this isn't always the case. Don't believe that just because you're the subject of a federal criminal investigation, your rights are unimportant. You have the right to be handled fairly during a search of your house, and if the agents breach this right, be sure to contact your Criminal Defense Attorney as soon as possible.

What Do You Do If You Get A Target Letter?

If you are a witness, subject, or target in a federal criminal investigation, you may fall into one of three categories. If you receive a target letter from the Department of Justice or a federal prosecutor informing you that you are the subject of a grand jury investigation, it means the federal government has reason to believe you have committed a federal crime.

Receiving a target letter is normally the target's first hint that he or she is under investigation for a federal offense in white-collar criminal cases and other serious criminal cases. If you've got a target letter from the government, there are some things you should do right away to protect yourself, as well as some things you should stop at all costs. Contact s Criminal Defense Lawyer for more detail about target letters and federal criminal investigations.

A target letter informs you that you have been identified as a target of a federal criminal investigation. A "target," according to the US Attorney's Manual, is a person against whom the government has substantial proof of committing a crime. After receiving a goal letter, the following are some of the most important things you can do. If you follow these measures, you'll have a much better chance of getting a good result in your situation.

  • Check the letter with your Defense Lawyer.
    • The crime or crimes the government accuses you of committing, as well as your right to invoke the Fifth Amendment, which protects you against self-incrimination, are usually included in target letters. You can discuss them with your Criminal Defense Lawyer. The letter will also warn you against destroying any evidence related to the case or otherwise impeding or obstructing the criminal investigation.
  • Determine what the letter requires of you.
    • A request is normally included in a target address. It's possible that you'll be asked to meet with the Assistant United States Attorney investigating the case or testify in front of a grand jury. Once you've retained an California Defense Attorney, he or she will assist you in determining the next course of action. If that means calling the prosecutor in charge of the case, the lawyer can do it for you.
  • Learn what it's like to be a target.
    • A target is an individual suspected of committing a crime in a federal criminal investigation. The distinction between being a victim of an investigation and being a topic is important. A target is someone that the police think knows something about a crime but who isn't actually at risk of being charged with the crime. Neither situation is ideal, but being the subject of a criminal investigation is much more dramatic.

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  • Find out what you can about the case.
    • Federal criminal investigations may take months or even years, and by the time you receive a letter informing you that you are the subject of a grand jury inquiry, the prosecution could have gathered a substantial amount of evidence against you. It's also possible that the investigation is just getting started. This is a crucial difference that may have an effect on the case's outcome.
  • Do not make contact on your own.
    • If you receive a target letter from a federal prosecutor, you will feel compelled to contact the prosecutor and declare your innocence or justify what happened. It's never a smart idea to do anything like this. The prosecutor's main objective is to obtain an indictment against you, and everything you say to him or her may be used against you. Federal prosecutors are prepared to take advantage of cases like this in order to obtain the evidence they need to prove their case. Once you've retained a California Defense Lawyer, he or she will advise you about whether or not making a statement to the prosecutor or the agents investigating you is in your best interests, and if so, establish the meeting's ground rules.
  • Do not discuss the case with someone other than your lawyer.
    • You should not only avoid contacting the lawyer yourself, but you should also avoid discussing the target letter or the criminal investigation with someone else. If that person is subpoenaed to testify at trial or before a grand jury, something you say to them can be used against you, particularly if that person is a possible witness in the case. The prosecutor might be eligible to charge you with obstruction of justice or witness tampering, in this case, all of which are federal offenses.

Drug Cases at the Federal Level

Federal agencies like the DEA and FBI are under a lot of pressure to investigate drug-related offenses vigorously, and federal prosecutors are under a lot of pressure to prosecute federal drug offenders. Since the United States has launched a "war on drugs," federal drug offenses are among the most challenging cases to defend. That is why, after being arrested by federal agents or learning that they are a suspect or target of a federal drug crime investigation, you should employ a trained Criminal Defense Lawyer as soon as possible. If you're facing criminal charges for a drug-related crime like drug trafficking, manufacturing, or smuggling, your safety, future, and financial security are all on the line.

Drug Charges

Drug-related crimes are punishable under state and federal law, and allegations of producing, importing, or selling illegal drugs or controlled substances can lead to criminal charges in federal court. The following are some examples of drug violations that can result in federal charges:

  • Trafficking of narcotics
  • Drug smuggling
  • Drug manufacturing
  • Drug distribution
  • Drug Importation or drug exportation

You can face federal criminal charges for drug conspiracy even though you don't directly commit a drug-related crime but are suspected of conspiring with one or more other people to do so. You could face federal racketeering charges under the RICO Act if you are convicted of committing a drug offense that is linked to a criminal organization or enterprise.

What are Controlled Substances and How Do They Work?

Controlled substances are drugs or chemicals that are controlled by the federal government in terms of production, use, and possession. This covers all illegal drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine, as well as prescription drugs such as Adderall and Xanax. The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) categorizes all federally regulated controlled substances into one of five schedules based on their generally approved medicinal use, the potential for abuse, and the likelihood of addiction.

What Constitutes a Federal Drug Crime?

Any federal criminal charge can be frustrating and complicated, but drug offenses are particularly difficult to handle because they can result in charges being brought in either state or federal court or both. Drug arrests are often made by local police, and drug charges are filed at the state level, although there are certain situations in which drug violations are prosecuted at the federal level.

When a federal agency makes a drug arrest or when local law enforcement collaborates with federal agents on a drug investigation, the drug activity is almost always prosecuted as a federal offense. Alternatively, if the drug offense crosses state lines or international boundaries, or if the quantity of narcotics involved exceeds a certain threshold, the drug penalty can be elevated to a federal level. As a result of the federal government's vigorous investigation and prosecution of drug cases, the penalties for a drug crime conviction at the federal level are considerably more stringent than the penalties at the state level.

White Collar Crimes

Since the federal laws regulating white-collar crimes are complicated and cover such a wide range of circumstances and behaviors, you can find yourself facing charges for a federal white-collar crime without even understanding it. Allegations of financial crime should not be taken lightly, and carefully weigh their criminal defense options in order to ensure that their case is as robust as possible.

Regardless of the type of white-collar crime you've been charged with, our experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys understand how devastating a conviction can be for you and your family. They represent individuals and companies in federal courts around the country in cases involving white-collar crimes such as bribery, embezzlement, and money laundering.

White-collar crime, also known as corporate crime, is a broad legal term that refers to federal criminal offenses that include fraud and are intended to generate an illegal financial gain. This form of crime is usually committed by business owners, government officials, and other professionals who have access to other people's money as a result of their careers. White-collar crimes are non-violent, financially motivated offenses committed by those in positions of authority, typically involving some kind of deception, misappropriation, or breach of trust.

Criminal Penalties for White-Collar Crimes

White-collar crimes are usually non-violent offenses that include fraud, trickery, or misrepresentation, which distinguishes them from "street" crimes such as murder, drug dealing, and firearms offenses; but, it is this aspect of deception that makes these offenses so heinous in the eyes of the law.

While white-collar crime is sometimes referred to as corporate crime, the federal government's enforcement of it is not limited to multibillion-dollar companies and Wall Street finance executives. Individuals and small businesses can be the victim or subjects of a criminal investigation into white-collar crime, and these crimes are punished with the same vigor as any other federal offense. White-collar crimes like embezzlement and bribery are seen as a threat to the economy by the government, which is why they are usually prosecuted at the federal level and punished so harshly.

Despite the fact that white-collar offenses are non-violent, they bear some of the harshest criminal sentences under federal law due to the federal sentencing guidelines, which are a set of laws that federal judges must consider when sentencing an inmate in the federal criminal justice system. The reality is that the federal government is particularly interested in white-collar crime because of the large sums of money that are usually lost as a result of it.

As you can see, the criminal penalties for white-collar crimes such as bribery and money laundering are very severe, and you should take these accusations very seriously. If you are convicted of such a felony, you will face not only a lengthy jail sentence and hefty penalties but also a criminal record that will haunt you for the remainder of your life, potentially impacting your ability to find work or conduct business.

If you are a professional, you risk being disqualified, disbarred, or losing your license. Finding a reliable Criminal Law Attorney who can defend your rights and serve your best interests during the length of your case is your best course of action if you want to keep your record clear, protect your reputation, and avoid time in jail.


Federal prosecutors and the government take financial crimes such as fraud very seriously, and the punishments coupled with a federal criminal sentence can be crippling for suspects and their families. Not only do crimes like embezzlement and mortgage fraud usually include deception, misrepresentation, or trickery, which are both hallmarks of a fraud case, but they often involve numerous victims and may result in substantial financial damage to others, making fraud an especially heinous crime in the eyes of the law.

If you've been convicted of embezzlement, mortgage fraud, visa fraud, or bankruptcy fraud, you deserve the best defense possible, and that's where our Criminal Defense Lawyers come in.

Common Types of Fraud Offenses

The word "fraud" is used in criminal law to describe the deliberate deception used to obtain an unjust or unlawful financial or personal benefit, typically at the expense of another individual, organization, or entity. From relatively basic fraud schemes like credit card fraud and mail fraud to more complex fraud schemes like mortgage fraud and stock fraud, there are many different types of fraud offenses that can result in criminal charges. While fraud is technically a form of theft crime, there are two key distinctions between the two.

The act of directly taking money or property from another person by stealing it or threatening to steal it is known as theft. The numerous offenses that come under the category of fraud, on the other hand, include a "scheme or artifice" involving misrepresentation, false pretenses, or false claims in order to get others to hand over something of value. As a result, unlike most other forms of robbery, fraud is classified as a white-collar crime.

The main element of a fraud offense is the scheme or artifice itself, rather than the wrongful acquisition of another person's money or property. Even if the scheme to defraud is ineffective, an individual may be found guilty of fraud under this standard.

Fraud is illegal in most states, including California, but it is also illegal under federal law, and many of the more serious fraud offenses are prosecuted and tried in federal court. The following are some examples of federal fraud offenses that can lead to criminal charges.

  • Misappropriation of funds
    • Embezzlement is a crime committed when a person entrusted with the care or control of another person's money or property uses it for personal gain with the intent of depriving the owner of its use. The person accused of embezzlement must have had access to the money or property in question, but not the possession of it, in order to commit the crime.
  • Immigration Fraud
    • Immigration fraud is a form of deception committed with the intent of evading US immigration laws. Marriage fraud, immigration services fraud, document fraud, welfare fraud, and identity fraud are only some of the types of immigration fraud that may lead to federal charges.
  • Bankruptcy Fraud
    • Any form of fraudulent or illegal conduct involving a Chapter 7, Chapter 13, or Chapter 11 bankruptcy case is referred to as bankruptcy fraud. This involves filing a bankruptcy petition or any document in a bankruptcy petition as part of a calculated plan to defraud creditors, or making false statements, false promises, or misleading representations in any part of a bankruptcy proceeding.
  • Mortgage Fraud
    • Mortgage fraud is a general concept that refers to any case in which an individual or organization fraudulently obtains a loan or obtains a larger loan than would actually be available to the borrower by providing misleading or false information on a mortgage document. While mortgage fraud is not a federal crime in and of itself, it can be prosecuted under federal laws dealing with wire fraud, bank fraud, conspiracy, and other forms of fraud.

Find A Federal Crimes Lawyer in Los Angeles is a California Bar Association Certified Free Attorney Referral Service that can Match you with a California Criminal Defense Attorney that's the best fit to handle your case. Contact us through our 24/7 Live Chat (or complete our case details submission form) for a free online review.