Any legal proceeding can be stressful, but federal criminal charges or investigations up the ante considerably by pitting you against the U.S. government. With the stakes so high, it’s essential to find a credible and effective federal criminal lawyer. Federal courts and investigatory bodies function with a separate set of rules and procedures than you’ll experience in a state or local court in Missouri, and the outcomes can be severe. That’s why you need a federal criminal defense lawyer to present your case.
Federal Criminal Lawyers Can Help You Even Before You Are Charged with a Crime
Often, federal investigations are underway long before someone shows up at your door with a warrant.
Before you find out about an investigation, authorities may already have gathered a great deal of information on you through interviews with associates, reviews of bank and other records, or even physical or electronic surveillance.
How Do You Know if You are Under Federal Investigation?
People find out they are part of a federal investigation in a number of ways. Often a family member or business associate tells the person that federal investigators have been asking about them. Other ways can include:
Personal contact. You may receive a call from a federal investigative agency requesting you to come in for an interview, or a pair of agents may show up at your home or business, asking to speak with you.
In some situations, they may have a search warrant entitling them to search your home, business, or any other place you may have stored potential evidence, such as a storage unit or a safety deposit box. The search warrant describes what locations will be searched and what they are looking for.
While you must comply with a search warrant, you are not required to speak with investigators. Be aware that any conversations you have with the agents will be recorded. Denials or lies to the investigators may result in an obstruction charge later. Thus, it is often the best course to decline an interview and refuse to answer questions until you have a federal criminal defense attorney present.
Target Letter. You may receive a “target letter.” This is a formal, written notice that you have been implicated in a federal crime and need to come in for an interview with the case agent and U.S. attorney handling the case.
If you are interested in becoming a cooperating witness, or you simply want to meet with investigators to find out what’s going on, your federal criminal defense attorney will arrange a date and time to accompany you to for your proffer.
Subpoena. There are two types of federal subpoenas. Either type may be issued by a judge, a U.S. attorney, or a Grand Jury.
- Ad testificandum subpoena requires you to testify in court.
- Duces tecum subpoena requires you to produce documents, such as business records.
Failure to comply with a subpoena can have serious consequences, so discuss any developments with your federal criminal defense lawyer immediately.
If you’re the subject any of the above actions, your first call should be to a qualified federal criminal defense attorney at the office of Carver, Cantin & Mynarich.
What Makes a Good Criminal Defense Attorney?
You would not want your chiropractor to treat your heart condition, and you don’t want a divorce attorney preparing your federal criminal defense. When looking for a criminal defense attorney, you want to find someone who has experience and a proven record of success in that practice area, including the particular type of crime. White collar criminal cases differ greatly from federal drug trafficking or kidnapping charges.
Other factors to take into consideration are:
Professionalism. When your life and future freedom are on the line, you want a federal criminal defense lawyer who is timely, organized, and willing to put in the necessary effort to protect your rights.
Reputation. It helps if your federal criminal defense attorney is well-known and respected in the federal court system in Missouri. An ongoing working relationship with judges and federal prosecutors makes it easier to negotiate aspects of your case.
Affordability. Preparing a federal criminal defense is not cheap. However, you want a criminal defense attorney who charges fair fees that are commensurate with the work involved.
Experience. You don’t want a lawyer who’s fresh out of law school handling your federal investigation defense. If you are facing overwhelming evidence and certainty of prison time, you want a seasoned negotiator. If you plan to contest your case in court, you want an attorney with a federal trial track record.
How Federal Crimes & Offenses are Investigated
What is a Federal Criminal Offense?
Federal crimes aren’t your average, everyday crimes. Many are white collar offenses like fraud and embezzlement. However, federal criminal offenses also include certain kidnapping, armed robbery, murder, and drug cases that reach federal level because of their seriousness, involvement with government agencies, or crossing state or international boundaries.
You are likely familiar with smaller, but still potentially damaging State cases such as felonies and misdemeanors.
Federal crimes are often the big cases that make the news, like the investigation and arrest of the Beltway Snipers or Al Capone’s tax evasion. Watergate, perhaps the most infamous political scandal, would have resulted in the federal criminal prosecution of President Nixon, had he not resigned first.
How Federal Investigations Work
Real life federal investigations are very different from Hollywood portrayals. While they can still be scary and produce anxiety, the lawyers in Springfield MO at Carver, Cantin & Mynarich will walk go above and beyond to ensure your prepared. Federal investigations can take years to complete, and you may not even know that you’re the target of an investigation until it’s well underway. Usually, such cases are brought to the attention of investigating agencies through tips or evidence of criminal activity that comes to the attention of authorities.
In addition to more familiar agencies like the FBI, DEA, and ATF, most government agencies have their own investigative arm. Depending on your occupational affiliations or the crime, you could be investigated by organizations like:
- Internal Revenue Service
- Department of Agriculture
- Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
If you are a federal employee, federal contract employee, or work for a business that has federal contracts, you may also be drawn into a federal internal investigation through the Office of the Inspector General (IG). Each federal department has their own IG handling internal cases, cases involving potential fraud, or other crimes in contracting activities.
These agencies get information about possible crimes through:
- Audits and internal investigations
- Whistleblowers and anonymous tips
- Suspicious bank activity
- Information obtained while investigating other matters
Investigators take tips and information and investigate further to see if there is any evidence of criminal activity. It’s during this phase that much of the information and corroborating evidence is gathered, and the person or persons being investigated may not even be aware that they’re under suspicion yet.
If preliminary investigation produces enough evidence, investigators will go to a judge to get search warrants or permission to perform wiretaps and other surveillance. This is when you may get a visit from the feds or receive other notification that you are under investigation. The agency will then evaluate all of their evidence and decide whether to drop the matter, convene a grand jury, or press formal charges.
In addition to protecting your rights, a federal criminal defense attorney can help you at any step in the process. Your lawyer has the ability to:
- Find out if you’re a witness, subject, or main target of an investigation
- Keep you from making matters worse through suspicious behavior
- Advise you about when to talk to authorities and how much you should say
- Negotiate on your behalf to get a plea deal, drop or reduce the charges, or ask for leniency in sentencing
- Interview witnesses, organize bail and help you prepare a defense
The Federal Prosecutor’s Role and Steps in Federal Prosecution
Once formal charges have been filed and indictments handed down, the prosecution begins. Unlike state criminal cases, federal cases are prepared and tried by the U.S. Attorney’s office for that district.
Most federal cases follow a specific set of steps, although not all cases include every step. The steps can also occur simultaneously or in a different order. The most typical order is:
Your federal criminal defense attorney works closely with you through each phase of this process. A plea bargain may be possible, but there are restrictions on pleading to a lesser charge in federal court. There are also restrictions on the ways a federal attorney can try to convince you to make a plea deal. For example, they cannot hint at or threaten the death penalty in an attempt to induce a guilty plea to a lesser charge.
Federal criminal jurisdictions are separated into regions. Missouri’s federal court is divided into the Eastern District and the Western District. Each district is represented by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for that district. The Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) works on behalf of the U.S. Attorney, representing the government of the United States in federal prosecutions.
Why Choose a Federal Attorney vs. Average Attorney?
From the way cases are investigated and prosecuted to the potentially hefty criminal penalties, federal criminal cases are on another level than state and local cases.
That’s why you need a federal criminal defense lawyer who has federal experience and is a licensed federal attorney. Federal court experience and a good reputation can also help your case when it comes time to cut a deal, set a cooperative tone with investigators, or negotiate a reduced sentence.
Federal Defense Attorneys in Missouri
If you’re looking for a local law firm with the deep knowledge and experience it takes to handle federal criminal cases, your search has ended with Carver, Cantin & Mynarich. We have more than 60 years of collective legal experience, and you’ll always receive the kind of personal representation you deserve. We’re convenient to Springfield and the surrounding communities. Contact us to schedule a consultation with our federal criminal defense lawyer today.