Federal Criminal Defense
For federal criminal defense in Bellingham or Seattle, your first choice is Lustick, Kaiman & Madelon. If you or someone you know is facing a federal criminal charge, this is a very serious situation. Federal law presents significant challenges to a criminal defendant, and the consequences of a federal conviction are often much more severe than in the state courts.
The defense team at Lustick, Kaiman & Madrone have successfully defended clients in federal court for many years and we regularly handle federal criminal cases in Bellingham, Seattle, and elsewhere.
Federal criminal cases are generally prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office. In some instances, violations of state law can also be prosecuted in a federal court. For example, under Washington State Law, it is illegal for anyone under age 21 to possess alcohol. However, if a minor does so while at the U.S. border with Canada; or in the Mount Baker National Forest, or perhaps while on Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, that criminal case will most likely occur in a federal court even though only a state law was violated.
Federal criminal defendants face tough, seasoned prosecutors who meticulously investigate and develop their cases before bringing them to trial. Full or partial acquittals are rare in the federal system and judges must follow federal sentencing guidelines that are often unforgiving.
If you’ve been accused of a federal crime, understand that your experience will differ greatly from a state or city criminal case. You need steady, skilled attorneys who understand the complex and unique federal court system. Contact our office for a free consultation today.
More Information About Federal Criminal Defense
Being a criminal defendant in the federal justice system is very different from being a defendant in a state or city criminal case. The process is far more challenging to a criminal defendant, and the consequences of a federal conviction can easily be more severe.
Federal criminal cases involve violations of the United States Code or the Code of federal Regulations which are prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office. In some instances, violations of state law can be also be prosecuted in a federal court, such as when the alleged crimes take place on federal properties. Furthermore, some serious criminal cases can start out in a state or local court, and end up “turning federal.” This can happen when state or local prosecutors decide to hand the case over to the United States Attorney, or when federal law enforcement agencies ask local prosecutors to give jurisdiction of the matter to federal prosecutors.
For many reasons, federal criminal defendants are generally matched up against the toughest prosecutors. Federal cases are often meticulously investigated and developed for years before prosecutors bring their case. Full or partial acquittals following trial are also rarer in the federal system than in state systems.
The manner in which prosecutors interact with defendants and their attorneys is also radically different in federal court. In state court, prosecutors may offer to reduce felony charges to misdemeanor charges (or even to non-criminal charges) in appropriate cases based on factors such as the defendant’s criminal record, the strength of the prosecution’s case, and the wishes of the victim. In state court, the defense and prosecution will often agree upon the defendant’s sentence with the judge’s approval. In many instances, by the time a defendant comes before a judge for sentencing, there is no suspense as to the outcome. State prosecutors, often burdened by enormous caseloads and limited resources, will relent to offers of plea bargains.
In federal court, prosecutors will rarely offer to reduce felony charges to anything less than a felony. In fact, a defendant who wishes to plead guilty in the federal system generally must plead guilty to one or more of the felonies with which he or she is charged (Although federal prosecutors also prosecute misdemeanors, they usually focus on the most serious crimes). Moreover, sentences cannot be pre-determined or pre-approved by the judge. Judges follow a complex sentencing calculation system known as the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.
Federal defendants who accept a plea bargain and plead guilty usually are not guaranteed a particular sentence. They can only expect that the judge will sentence them within the particular range agreed upon in the plea agreement (or, if there is no plea agreement, within a range determined by the judge). Judges can also make “upward departures” and “downward departures,” that is, sentences above or below the particular Guideline range, depending on various aggravating or mitigating factors.
Cooperation with prosecutors takes on greater importance in the federal system. In fact, cooperation is a critical tool in the defense attorney’s arsenal in federal court. Defendants who provide substantial cooperation with the Government are eligible to receive a “5K1 letter” (named for federal Sentencing Guidelines Manual § 5K1.1), which is a motion made by federal prosecutors to the sentencing judge, and which authorizes the judge to consider a downward departure from the Guideline range. Given the stiff punishments meted out to federal defendants, cooperation can be an important strategy for a defendant facing a severe sentence.
In summary, the federal criminal system is the major league of criminal defense. Prosecutors are exacting and zealous. Judges have significant latitude. The charges sometimes seem massive and the sentences often seem draconian. If you are facing federal criminal charges, you need steady, skilled attorneys who understand the complex and unique federal court system.
The defense team at Lustick, Kaiman & Madrone have successful defended clients in federal court for many years and we regularly handle federal criminal cases in Bellingham, Seattle, and elsewhere. Contact our office for a free consultation today.