Maryland Federal Criminal Lawyer
In Maryland, certain criminal cases can be prosecuted at the federal level, sometimes in front of a grand jury. Whether the alleged offense violates a law set forth in the United States Code or is thought to have taken place across state lines, standing before a judge in a U.S. district court can be daunting. Because federal prosecutors and investigative agencies are highly trained and well-funded, it helps to have a Maryland federal criminal lawyer beside you during the investigation and trial proceedings to ensure that your rights are upheld. Hiring a defense attorney with years of experience in the federal court system can help even the odds when serious fines and incarceration are in question. En Español.
Many people wonder what makes a particular case a “federal case.” Often, an offense may be a violation of both state and federal law; determining jurisdiction depends on several aspects of the case. For example, fraud is a violation of both Maryland law and the United States Code. In general, it may be a state crime, but if the fraud involves a federally insured bank or financial institution (bank fraud or mortgage fraud), if it attempts to defraud a federal agency or an organization receiving federal funds (tax fraud or health care fraud), or if it is committed through a U.S. communication system (mail/wire fraud), it falls under U.S. jurisdiction, to be prosecuted in federal court. In these instances, attorneys who practice at the state level may not be adequately prepared to defend a client from a federal prosecutor. For this reason, it’s important to seek the counsel of a Maryland federal criminal lawyer who understands how to serve clients in high stakes situations.
Facing Federal Charges in Maryland
Facing federal charges is a scary prospect, and rightfully so. With criminal investigations conducted by highly specialized government agencies, U.S. Attorneys boast fairly high conviction rates.
However, when you make the decision to work with a Maryland federal criminal lawyer, he or she can serve you both in and out of the courtroom. Besides arguing your case before a judge, an experienced federal criminal attorney can work with the prosecution to negotiate a settlement or plea bargain that is suited to you and your unique circumstances. There is no guarantee of success in any legal case, but it always helps to have a knowledgeable legal advocate defending your best interests.
Federal Fraud Charges in Maryland
Among the most prosecuted criminal offenses in federal court are various forms of fraud charges. “Fraud” is a general term that refers to making false statements, concealing the truth, or making deceptive representations. Typically, fraud offenses are financially motivated, and these white collar crimes are often punished by prison, probation, fines, and restitution.
There are dozens of fraud statutes in the United States Code.
Federal Conspiracy Charges
If two or more people agree to violate any federal law, they are guilty of conspiracy under 18 U.S. Code Section 371. Any time a fraud scheme or a drug distribution plan involves two or more people, U.S. Attorneys are likely to add conspiracy to the list of charges against the defendants.
The general conspiracy statute mentioned above carries a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison; however, there are other specific conspiracy statutes in federal law that have much more serious consequences.
Drug conspiracy, for example, carries the same penalties for agreeing to commit a drug offense as those associated with actually carrying out the crime. Conspiracy to manufacture, distribute, or possess with the intent to distribute a controlled substance, under 18 U.S. Code Section 846, carries the same penalties as actual manufacture, distribution, or possession with intent to distribute the CDS. Federal drug statutes often carry mandatory minimum sentences. In 2013, the average sentence for a convicted drug trafficker (pdf) in the United States was 72 months, according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission. A person convicted of conspiracy to commit drug trafficking would be penalized similarly. Remembering the government’s burden of proof is extremely high in any criminal case, an experienced Maryland federal criminal lawyer can identify the evidence against you to assure you are not wrongfully convicted or receive an unfair sentence.
It can be beneficial to consult with a federal criminal lawyer in Maryland who has experience handling criminal cases in federal court that involve the types of evidence often present in these cases (e.g., wiretaps).
Federal Sex Crimes in Maryland
Sex crimes are typically prosecuted in state courts, but there are some sex crimes that fall under federal jurisdiction. These include sex tourism, or travel to engage in illicit sexual conduct with minors, transporting minors for sex, interstate sex trafficking, and distribution and production of child pornography.
Child pornography, under federal law, involves sexually explicit images or videos of a minor under the age of 18. It is important to note that the United States government considers a minor to be under the age of 18 for the purpose of child pornography prosecution because this age is older than the age of consent in many states. In Maryland, for example, the age of consent is 16. However, while that 16-year-old may be able to legally consent to engage in sex, he or she cannot legally consent to appear in child pornography or engaging in commercial sex acts, including prostitution or exotic dancing.
Child pornography investigations are often conducted online through the local Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task forces, through national initiatives such as the FBI’s Innocent Images initiative, or through specialized federal investigation teams such as ICE’s Homeland Security Investigation’s (HSI) Child Exploitation Investigations Unit.
The evidence required to prove someone guilty of a sex crime can be extensive. The government is not always prepared with every piece of evidence they need to obtain a conviction. A federal criminal attorney with experience in these types of cases can identify the shortcomings in a federal sex crimes investigation.
Child pornography convictions are often accompanied by lengthy prison terms, and they require federal sex offender registration upon completion of the sentence. Child sex offense and pornography convictions also carry mandatory minimums sentences as well. An experienced federal defense attorney can work with the government to avoid prosecution of crimes with mandatory sentences and assist you in receiving a fair punishment if you are convicted.
Other Federal Charges in Maryland
Fraud, drug trafficking, conspiracy, and child pornography are among the cases frequently handled in federal court; however, they are certainly not the only federal cases.
Perjury—lying under oath in any federal proceeding or falsifying a sworn statement—is a federal crime. Under 18 U.S. Code Section 162, perjury is a felony punishable by a maximum of 5 years in prison.
The United States government also takes a keen interest in matters related to the illegal possession or use of firearms. Certain people are prohibited from firearm possession, including convicted felons, “unlawful users of controlled substances,” those convicted of certain domestic violence offenses, and “armed career criminals.” The use of a firearm in the commission of a felony or drug crime is subject to penalty enhancement under federal law.
Embezzlement, like fraud, is a white collar crime. While fraud is an act of deception in order to receive cash or property, embezzlement is the misappropriation of money or property to which a person is entrusted. Unauthorized use of an employer’s credit card, falsifying mileage reimbursement forms, or transferring an agency’s funds to one’s personal accounts are all examples of embezzlement. Title 18 Chapter 31 of the United States Code contains nearly 30 sections detailing various types of theft and embezzlement and their associated penalties.
Every defendant is innocent until proven guilty and while federal prosecutors usually boast high conviction rates, those statistics don’t take into account the dozens of investigations that an experienced federal attorney is able to have terminated before an individual is charged simply based on a thorough investigation of the situation you are in.
Regardless of the reason for a federal investigation or indictment, it is imperative to proceed with experienced legal counsel that can launch a strong defense against any federal charge. Effective assistance of counsel is your constitutional right. Don’t attempt to take on the U.S. government alone. Find out how a Maryland federal criminal lawyer can help.