Federal convictions are quite serious. It is important to know that unlike a state prison where you can get time off for good behavior, if you are sentenced to a certain term in a federal prison, you will serve at least 85% of that term unless you are given a pardon or your conviction is overturned.
Federal crimes are those committed on federal property, crimes committed in more than one state, and violation of federal rather than state criminal laws. Some crimes fall under both state and federal laws and you could find yourself in either court system. The consequences of federal court are generally greater, in part because the sentences are more harsh and less flexible.
Other than prison time, possible penalties include loss of the right to vote, loss of the right to own a firearm or other deadly weapon, a monetary fine and/or parole. A judge may even order counseling. Plus, the conviction must be disclosed to future potential employers. It can be a long road not only during trial but during your prison term and even after you’ve served your time.
While the facts of the particular case will ultimately determine the punishment if you are convicted, some of the other factors that a judge will look at in determining a sentence include previous criminal convictions, mitigating circumstances such as whether you were present during the commission of the crime and even your character. As odd as it sounds, your sentence can also be increased because of your refusal to admit your guilt or your career choice (lawyers, politicians and law enforcement officials are held to a higher standard). On the flip side, letters of support, community involvement and the real harm you caused can also reduce the actual penalty.
The potential penalties are too severe to risk hiring an attorney who is not an experienced federal criminal attorney. In fact, it is very common to hire a new attorney for just the sentencing phase of the case alone because it can be so important and there are attorneys who focus their practice on just this phase of prosecution. Judges are bound by sentencing guidelines, but those guidelines are subjective, and a smart, experienced attorney can often be the difference between jail time and probation.
Please note that the federal government has been very aggressive in prosecuting cases recently and has been pushing for maximum prison sentences whenever possible. That does not mean that if you are convicted you will receive the maximum sentence, but it does underscore the importance of having an experienced federal criminal attorney if you are charged with a federal crime. It is important to have someone on your side with experience and knowledge of federal criminal procedure and its nuances and intricacies. Similarly, if you are involved in a high-profile case, you need an attorney who knows how to handle the publicity and attention these cases attract.
Finally, when looking a federal criminal defense attorney, make sure they have a good reputation. Someone who is respected by the prosecutors and the judge, and who is known for their knowledge of the law and strong client advocacy, is your best bet. If you need help finding an attorney who meets these criteria, let us know.