Federal Criminal Defense Attorney in Phoenix, AZ

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Federal Crimes Lawyer

More often than not, the criminal charges one faces will likely be prosecuted at the state level. However, there are certain types of crimes that surpass the state’s jurisdiction and instead violate federal law. These charges are brought by prosecutors who work for the federal government. As a result, your case will move through the federal court system and require assistance from a federal criminal defense attorney. Should you get convicted, you will be punished based on federal law rather than state law, which entails much harsher penalties and sentencing.

If you’ve been arrested by federal authorities or charged with a federal crime, you need the help of Belén Olmedo Guerra. Belén is an experienced and aggressive Phoenix criminal defense attorney who is able to practice in both state and federal courtrooms. By working with the Belén Law Firm, you increase the chance of exonerating yourself in court or otherwise minimizing the consequences of a conviction.

What is a Federal Crime?

In general, there are fewer crimes that are charged at the federal level than at the state level. This is because, unlike state legislators who may pass virtually any legislation for their jurisdiction, federal legislators can only enact laws when a federal or national interest is at stake. Counterfeiting money, for example, falls into the category of a federal offense because it is the federal government’s responsibility to produce U.S. currency. 

There are numerous other reasons why a crime might be charged at the federal level, including crimes that:

  • Take place on federal property
  • Involve federal officers
  • Violate a federal statute
  • Cross state lines
  • Involve fraud, deception, or misrepresentation of the federal government
  • Involve immigration and customs violations

Common Federal Crime Charges

To be more specific, crimes that commonly fall into federal jurisdiction include (but are not limited to):

What is a Federal Lawyer?

There is a significant difference between a state criminal defense attorney and a federal criminal defense attorney. Although there are many great criminal defense lawyers out there, only a small percentage of them actually have sufficient experience in practicing federal law. 

When it comes down to it, an attorney either knows federal criminal law or doesn’t know federal criminal law. The legislation surrounding federal cases is often much more complex than in state cases, and there is also much more at stake. That is why it is critical that an attorney with considerable knowledge in federal criminal law be present in your federal hearings to act as your advocate as well as a go-between during interrogations by federal agents.

How are Federal Cases Different Than State Cases?

If you’re charged with a federal crime, the federal court process you experience will be significantly different than if you were charged in Arizona. To begin, you can be arrested before charges are even filed or before a United States attorney presents evidence against you to a grand jury. If you are arrested, the prosecutor can wait to go to the grand jury while the investigation continues, or they can present evidence within a week of your arrest. 

On the other hand, if you have been accused of committing a crime and are arrested by your local or state police department, you will more than likely be facing charges at the state level. This means that prosecutors who work on behalf of Arizona are alleging you have violated an Arizona state law. You will go through the criminal process in the Arizona state courts under the discretion of a district judge.

When you’re charged with a federal crime, however, your case will be prosecuted by an Assistant U.S. Attorney in front of a federal judge, and you will be subject to the punishments mandated by the federal law. The federal grand jury will be made up of 16-23 people. Prosecutors may present evidence, but your attorney cannot present evidence or question witnesses. However, you may be able to testify to the grand jury to tell your side of the story. The grand jury will then deliberate on whether there is enough evidence to support that you committed the crime, though this is not to determine whether or not you are guilty.

Following charges, you will have to make an initial appearance before a magistrate judge to learn the charges against you and the conditions for your possible release from jail. You will then show up again for your arraignment, which is always scheduled 10 days after your indictment. After your arraignment, you are then officially considered a defendant and must enter your plea. For the future coming months or even years, you will need to attend numerous pre-trial hearings. This is, of course, unless you plead guilty or accept a plea bargain.

What are the Federal Sentencing Guidelines?

The federal sentencing guidelines are a set of standards used by federal district court judges to establish a range of penalties for persons convicted of federal offenses. The guidelines that judges employ can be found within the United States Sentencing Guidelines Manual. The sentencing guidelines include a number of criteria, including the type of the federal criminal conduct, specific information about the incident, the role of the person convicted, and the individual’s previous criminal history in both state and federal courts. 

The guidelines provide 43 levels of offense seriousness, each being assigned it’s own base offense level. However, this base offense level is merely a starting point, as the final offense level is essentially determined by the base offense plus any specific offense characteristics that may apply. The court should impose a sentence that is sufficient though not greater than necessary to meet the legislative guidelines of sentencing.

Below is the table that is used to establish the full range of federal sentencing guidelines. It provides the base offense level and which zone it falls into, as well as additional criminal points (taken from the defendant’s prior criminal record) that may increase the severity of the charge.

federal criminal defense attorney - sentencing guidelines

Remember, however, that the federal sentencing guidelines are not required in determining a defendant’s sentence. Rather, federal judges may simply utilize them as a reference when deciding on a suitable punishment.

What are the Penalties for Federal Crimes?

Depending on the charges or specifics of the criminal conduct, the level of the federal offense, and your criminal history, you may experience a wide range of consequences including but not limited to:

  • Permanent criminal record
  • Lengthy prison sentence
  • Probation
  • Fines
  • Ineligibility for certain professional licenses
  • Sex offender registration (if applicable)
  • Ineligibility to register in military
  • Loss of voting rights
  • Loss of rights to own firearms
  • Travel restrictions
  • Denial of citizenship application
  • Loss of your visa or permanent residency status or denial or visa renewal

Why Do You Need a Federal Criminal Defense Attorney?

The federal court system has specific procedures and rules that must be strictly adhered to, and not all criminal defense attorneys are qualified to handle such procedures. That is why it is critical to the outcome of your case that you hire an experienced federal criminal defense attorney who is not only qualified to practice at the state level but at the federal level, as well.

Belén Olmedo Guerra is a top Phoenix federal criminal defense attorney with extensive experience in handling both types of criminal proceedings. She is well-versed in the nuances of both state and federal court rules and guidelines, ensuring that your case will not be hindered by any procedural mistakes. She is also prepared to create a strong rebuttal to any federal charges brought forward by the government and subsequently fight on your behalf.

Call Today for a Free Consultation

If you or someone you care about finds themselves at the center of a federal investigation or has already been arrested for a federal crime, contact the Phoenix federal criminal defense attorneys at Belén Law Firm to schedule a consultation to discuss your options. To get in touch, simply call (602) 715-0908 or complete our online intake form today.

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