When you are either investigated for a federal crime or charged with a federal crime, you need a lawyer that understands federal criminal law. Not all criminal lawyers are prepared to defend you in a federal criminal case. The United States Attorney only pursues the most serious crimes, such as drug crimes, sex crimes, interstate fraud, kidnapping murder, RICO, and gun crimes. In addition, the federal sentencing guidelines are much harsher than most state sentencing guidelines. There is no parole in the federal system. Although there is time off for good behavior, it is not substantial and you can expect to serve virtually your entire sentence. This is why it is critical that you hire a federal criminal defense lawyer who knows the federal criminal system.
When you hire a qualified federal criminal defense lawyer, there are several things that he should do immediately. First, he should determine the progress of the case. If you are under investigation and have not been charged yet, then it is still possible to avoid a criminal charge. If you have been charged, your lawyer should be prepared to start the case immediately and begin discovery.
The second, and probably the most important step, for a qualified lawyer is to determine the possible sentence. This is more than just looking at the statute. A qualified lawyer will also look at your criminal history and determine whether there are any mitigating factors that could shorten a possible sentence or any aggravating factors that could increase your sentence. This is absolutely critical because it is the cornerstone of effective federal criminal defense. In order to create an effective case strategy, your lawyer must be able to predict where you will fall in the federal sentencing guidelines. This is because the US Attorney’s Office has a very high win rate at trial. Your lawyer should base the case strategies against the risks you face in the case. If your lawyer understands the federal sentencing guidelines, then he can tell you the pros and cons of various strategies measured against the risks in the case.
Third, do not pick a lawyer that is afraid to go to trial, but you also don’t want a lawyer who claims to always go to trial. A lawyer who is afraid to go to trial will not be able to stand up for you and protect your rights, which is exactly what you want a lawyer from a lawyer in a federal criminal case. A lawyer who says he always goes to trial is putting you at risk, particularly if you are looking at a high-end sentence under the federal guidelines. The bottom line is that you want a lawyer who can either get you a dramatic sentence reduction or who can fight for you in front of the judge and jury. If a lawyer cannot do both things for you, then that lawyer is putting you at risk of doing much more time in federal prison than you have to do.
Fourth and finally, pick a lawyer that you can work with for several months or years. Federal criminal cases can last a very long time. If you pick a lawyer that you do not trust or who you cannot work with, it could hurt your case. If you decide to change lawyers, you will most likely have to get the court’s permission. When the court gives you permission, your new lawyer has to get up to speed on your case quickly and be ready to respond to the prosecution almost immediately. Make sure you make a good choice the first time you hire a lawyer and then stick with that lawyer. The other part of this is that you do not want to shop for a lawyer based on price. You should be cautious about a lawyer who offers a cut-rate, because that lawyer may never intend to go to trial or may not be qualified enough to command the usual rate for federal criminal defense lawyers. Your future is riding on your lawyer, now is not the time to skimp.
Right now, you need to do whatever it takes to get the best possible federal criminal defense lawyer. It is stressful when you are under a federal investigation or have been charged with a federal crime, but a qualified federal criminal defense lawyer can help. Your lawyer can take some of that stress off of you, he can tell you what your options are, he can explain the risks, and he can fight for you every step of the way.
By David H. Fuller.
David H.Fuller is a Seattle federal criminal defense lawyer serving the Seattle area, including Kent, Renton, Bellevue, and Tacoma. Contact information for David H. Fuller is available via his website http://www.ToughTimesLawyer.com