Federal crimes refer specifically to offenses that violate U.S. federal laws. They are investigated by federal law enforcement and prosecuted by United States attorneys in federal courts with federal judges.
Being accused of federal crimes is a serious event in a person’s life. Without knowing it, you could be under surveillance for months or even years by one or more federal, state, and/or local law enforcement agencies, all coordinated by the federal government. At times, these agencies gather information about you in a way that violates your Constitutional rights. Before long, you could find yourself being interrogated by agents from the FBI, DEA, Secret Service, or other law enforcement agencies.
You do not want to go blindly into a situation like this without assistance from attorneys who have experience taking on the federal government. You need a defense attorney and team who can aggressively pursue the best possible outcome in your case.
Unlike the State system, where federal crimes are often clearly defined and punishment ranges readily ascertainable, the federal system is complex, convoluted, and confusing. Navigating that system can be a daunting task without experienced counsel to stand by your side the entire way.
Federal Crimes List
- Abusive Sexual Contact
- Advocating Overthrow of Government
- Aggravated Assault/Battery
- Aggravated Identity Theft
- Aggravated Sexual Abuse
- Aiming a Laser Pointer at an Aircraft
- Airplane Hijacking
- Armed Robbery
- Assault with a Deadly Weapon
- Assaulting or Killing Federal Officer
- Assisting or Instigating Escape
- Attempt to commit Murder/Manslaughter
- Bank Burglary
- Bankruptcy Fraud/Embezzlement
- Bank Larceny
- Bank Robbery
- Bombing Matters
- Bond Default
- Breaking and/or Entering Carrier Facilities
- Bribery Crimes
- Certification of Checks (Fraud)
- Child Abuse
- Child Exploitation
- Child Pornography
- Civil Action to Restrain Harassment of a Victim or Witness
- Commodities Price Fixing
- Computer Crime
- Concealing Escaped Prisoner
- Concealing Person from Arrest
- Concealment of Assets
- Conspiracy (in matters under FBI jurisdiction)
- Conspiracy to Impede or Injure an Officer
- Contempt of Court
- Continuing Criminal Enterprise
- Conveying False Information
- Copyright Matters
- Counterintelligence Crimes
- Credit/Debit Card Fraud
- Crime Aboard Aircraft
- Crimes on Government Reservations
- Crimes on Indian Reservations
- Criminal Contempt of Court
- Criminal Forfeiture
- Criminal Infringement of a Copyright
- Cyber Crimes
- Damage to Religious Property
- Delivery to Consignee
- Demands Against the U.S.
- Destruction of Aircraft or Motor Vehicles Used in Foreign Commerce
- Destruction of an Energy Facility
- Destruction of Property to Prevent Seizure
- Destruction of Records in Federal Investigations and Bankruptcy
- Destruction of Corporate Audit Records
- Destruction of Veterans’ Memorials
- Detention of Armed Vessel
- Disclosure of Confidential Information
- Domestic Security
- Domestic Terrorism
- Domestic Violence
- Drive-by Shooting
- Drug Abuse Violations
- Drug Smuggling
- Drug Trafficking
- DUI/DWI on Federal Property
- Economic Espionage
- Election Law Crimes
- Embezzlement Against Estate
- Entering Train to Commit Crime
- Enlistment to Serve Against the U.S.
- Environmental Scheme Crimes
- Escaping Custody/Escaped Federal Prisoners
- Examiner Performing Other Services
- Exportation of Drugs
- Failure to Appear on Felony Offense
- Failure to Pay Legal Child Support Obligations
- False Bail
- False Pretenses
- False Statements Relating to Health Care Matters
- Falsely Claiming Citizenship
- False Declarations before Grand Jury or Court
- False Entries in Records of Interstate Carriers
- False Information and Hoaxes
- False Statement to Obtain Unemployment Compensation
- Federal Aviation Act
- Federal Civil Rights Violations (hate crimes, police misconduct)
- Female Genital Mutilation
- Financial Transactions with Foreign Government
- First Degree Murder
- Flight to Avoid Prosecution or Giving Testimony
- Forced Labor
- Forcible Rape
- Fraud Activity in Connection with Electronic Mail
- Fraud Against the Government
- Hacking Crimes
- Harboring Terrorists
- Harming Animals Used in Law Enforcement
- Hate Crime Acts
- Hostage Taking
- Identity Theft
- Illegal Possession of Firearms
- Immigration Offenses
- Impersonator Making Arrest or Search
- Importation of Drugs
- Influencing Juror by Writing
- Injuring Officer
- Insider Trading Crimes
- Insurance Fraud
- Interference with the Operation of a Satellite
- International Parental Kidnapping
- International Terrorism
- Interstate Domestic Violence
- Interstate Violation of Protection Order
- Lobbying with Appropriated Moneys
- Mailing Threatening Communications
- Major Fraud Against the U.S.
- Medical/Health Care Fraud
- Missile Systems Designed to Destroy Aircraft
- Misuse of Passport
- Misuse of Visas, Permits, or Other Documents
- Money Laundering
- Motor Vehicle Theft
- Murder by a Federal Prisoner
- Murder Committed During Drug-related Drive-by shooting
- Murder Committed in Federal Government Facility
- Narcotics Violations
- Obstructing Examination of Financial Institution
- Obstruction of Court Orders
- Obstruction of Federal audit
- Obstruction of Justice
- Obstruction of Criminal Investigations
- Officer Failing to Make Reports
- Partial Birth Abortion
- Penalties for Neglect or Refusal to Answer Subpoena
- Picketing or Parading
- Possession by Restricted Persons
- Possession of False Papers to Defraud the U.S.
- Possession of Narcotics
- Possession of Child Pornography
- Private Correspondence with Foreign Government
- Probation Violation
- Product Tampering
- Prohibition of Illegal Gambling Businesses
- Protection of Foreign Officials
- Public Corruption Crimes
- Radiological Dispersal Devices
- Ransom Money
- Receiving the Proceeds of Extortion
- Recording or Listening to Grand or Petit Juries While Deliberating
- Reentry of an Alien Removed on National Security Grounds
- Registration of Certain Organizations
- Reproduction of Citizenship Papers
- Resistance to Extradition Agent
- Rescue of Seized Property
- Retaliating Against a Federal Judge by False Claim or Slander of Title
- Retaliating Against a Witness, Victim, or an Informant
- Robberies and Burglaries Involving Controlled Substances
- Sale of Citizenship Papers
- Sale of Stolen Vehicles
- Searches Without Warrant
- Second Degree Murder
- Serial Murders
- Sexual Abuse
- Sexual Abuse of a Minor
- Sexual Assault
- Sexual Battery
- Sexual Conduct with a Minor
- Sexual Exploitation
- Sex Trafficking
- Solicitation to Commit a Crime of Violence
- Stalking (In Violation of Restraining Order)
- Stolen Property; Buying, Receiving, or Possessing
- Subornation of Perjury
- Suits Against Government Officials
- Tampering with a Witness, Victim, or Informant
- Tampering with Consumer Products
- Tampering with Vessels
- Theft of Trade Secrets
- Trafficking in Counterfeit Goods or Services
- Transmission of Wagering Information (Gambling)
- Transportation into State Prohibiting Sale
- Transportation of Slaves from U.S.
- Transportation of Stolen Vehicles
- Transportation of Terrorists
- Unauthorized Removal of Classified Documents
- Use of Fire or Explosives to Destroy Property
- Use of Weapons of Mass Destruction
- Video Voyeurism
- Violation of Prohibitions Governing Atomic Weapons
- Violence at International airports
- Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering Activity
- Willful Wrecking of a Train Resulting in Death
- Wire Fraud
Important Steps in the Federal Criminal Process
- Initial Hearing/Arraignment
- Plea Bargaining
- Preliminary Hearing
- Pre-Trial Motions
- Post-Trial Motions
Once a federal investigation has begun, federal agents can employ a multitude of techniques to invade every aspect of your life. Federal agents, with the help of prosecutors, can obtain court orders and subpoenas for your bank records and social media records.
Often, the government can obtain “trap and trace” or “wiretap” orders and track your whereabouts via your cell phone and even listen to your calls and read your text messages. Law enforcement can keep tabs on you by placing cameras in public areas near your home or a law firm and conducting surveillance (sometimes “rolling surveillance”) and following you wherever you go.
Once the prosecutor feels they have built a case, they can seek an indictment against you.
Federal Grand Jury Indictment
A federal grand jury consists of a group of people who live in the court’s jurisdiction. They meet in secret and hear evidence from the prosecution and its witnesses (i.e., law enforcement agents).
The rules of evidence do not apply and the grand jurors are sworn to keep testimony and deliberations confidential. Once the prosecution convinces the grand jury that probable cause exists, they can Indict, or charge, that person.
The government can seal the indictment so that you do not find out about it until they want you to.
Once a person has been charged and arrested, the court will conduct several preliminary hearings that typically take place before a magistrate judge. The magistrate court determines if there is sufficient evidence to detain the defendant, if the defendant will be detained or make bail (and whether that bail will be secured by any collateral), and if there is probable cause to support the charge.
These hearings occur rather quickly, within days after a charge has been filed.
In criminal cases, by contrast, discovery is much more limited. Typically, criminal discovery is limited to materials that are intended to be used directly at trial, as well as evidence that materially exonerates the defendant. The rationale for a more limited right of discovery in criminal cases is that the government cannot force the defendant to produce evidence against himself, therefore, the defendant should be limited in what he can discover from the government.
Although this more limited right of discovery in criminal cases may sound “fair” in light of the defendant’s right against self-incrimination, in practice the limited discovery often results in unfair surprise at trial, or worse, conviction of innocent defendants.
What can defendants obtain from discovery in federal criminal cases?
Federal criminal discovery is governed by three sources of law: Rule 16 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the Supreme Court cases of Brady and Giglio, and the Jencks Act.
Rule 16 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure is the chief source of law governing discovery in federal criminal cases. Under Rule 16, once a defendant makes a demand on the government, the government is required to produce items such as the defendant’s statements, the defendant’s criminal record, reports of any examinations and tests, documents or other physical objects it intends to introduce at trial, and more. Rule 16 is a reciprocal rule: once the defendant invokes Rule 16 for discovery, the government can demand the same from the defendant.
BRADY AND GIGLIO
The Supreme Court has held through a series of cases, starting with Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), that the government has a duty to produce exculpatory evidence to the defendant. For example, if a defendant is suspected of murder, but the government has evidence that a DNA test conducted on the murder weapon does not match the defendant, the government must produce that evidence to the defendant.
In Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150 (1972), the Supreme Court extended Brady’s rule to cover impeaching information. Thus, in addition to exculpatory evidence, the government is required to disclose all information that tends to undermine the credibility of its witnesses. For example, if the government plans to call an agent to testify, and the agent was previously disciplined, the government must produce the information about the disciplinary action to the defendant.
Together, Brady and Giglio are extremely important rights of discovery in criminal cases. Although the government is required to produce this information on its own, often it is to the defendant’s advantage to send a Brady letter to the government outlining the things that he believes are exculpatory. By doing so, the defendant can ensure that the government will not overlook certain evidence that is potentially exculpatory.
The Jencks Act is the final source of discovery for criminal defendants. Under the Jencks Act, a party calling a witness is required to produce any recorded statements of that witness pertaining to the witness’s testimony. For example, if the government calls a victim to testify about an assault, and it has a recording or a report of a previous interview with the victim about the assault, it must produce the report or recording to the defendant. Importantly, the Jencks Act only applies to recorded statements. Thus, if the victim was previously interviewed, but the interview was not recorded or written down, the Jencks Act would not compel the government to produce a summary of the interview.
Although most law enforcement agencies in the federal government have written policies requiring all interviews to be recorded, it is still a good practice for the defendant to send a letter to the government specifically requesting that interviews and meetings with potential witnesses be memorialized in writing.
Together, Rule 16, Brady/Giglio, and the Jencks Act represent the only sources of discovery available to defendants in a federal criminal case. Thus, it is paramount for an attorney in a federal criminal case to make good use of these three sources, and to ensure that the maximum amount of information is obtained under each.
How does federal criminal discovery work in practice?
In an actual federal criminal case, discovery typically begins after a defendant has been arraigned. At the arraignment, the prosecutor and the defendant’s attorney may sign a discovery agreement that outlines the deadlines for the government to disclose each type of material that is discoverable. Often, the government will seek deadlines that are close to trial. It is important for your attorney to try to negotiate for early disclosure, so that you have ample time to review the documents and other disclosures with your attorney and to prepare for trial.
How discovery is actually produced tends to vary by jurisdiction as well as by case. In most cases, the government will simply send your attorney documents or, as is more often the case today, electronic data on hard drives or DVDs. Sometimes, especially in cases involving sensitive information or vulnerable witnesses, the government may not produce the actual documents, but instead require your attorney to review the documents at their office.
Discovery in federal criminal cases tends to be an ongoing affair. This means that the first set of documents or data produced by the government in a case will rarely be the last. The production of discovery will continue throughout the life of the case, and sometimes continuing even into the trial. Obviously, when the government produces important evidence right before trial, or during trial, this can cause problems for the defense attorney, who may not have time to review all this information for trial. Sometimes this is through no fault of the government: they simply did not have this information until right before trial.
Sometimes, however, the government may have deliberately delayed producing discovery in order to secure a tactical advantage. It is important for your attorney to keep an eye out for any abusive discovery practices by the government, and to raise any suspicious discovery practices with the presiding judge.
Federal criminal discovery can be a complex field to navigate, and sometimes local practices may not, in fact, comply with the letter of the rules. If you are involved in a federal criminal case, make sure that your attorney is familiar with how federal criminal discovery works, or you may miss important information that could help you win your case.
A federal criminal jury trial closely resembles a jury trial in a state court. The court sends out a group of summonses to citizens in the district who then report to the courthouse for jury duty. The judge conducts the jury selection called voir dire.
Although traditionally in federal court the attorneys do not have an opportunity to directly question the jury panel, or venire, a modern trend in federal court has grown to allow lawyers for both sides to address the potential jurors.
Once concluded, each side excludes, or strikes, a predetermined number of people (usually 6 for the government and 10 for the defense) and the first 12 remaining members become the jury.
The government proceeds with its evidence first. The prosecutor will call witnesses who testify and present evidence to the jury. As with state court, the government bears the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
Once evidence has concluded, the jury retires to deliberate on whether the defendant is not guilty or guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If the jury finds the defendant not guilty, the trial ends and the defendant is released. If the jury finds the defendant guilty, the case proceeds to sentencing.
Unlike in State court, once a federal jury finds a defendant guilty of a crime, the defendant does not have an option to elect the jury conduct the sentencing. In United States District Court, the judge always sentences a defendant.
State cases are often subject to a wide range of sentencing options, depending on the crime of which the defendant has been convicted, any previous criminal history, and multiple other factors. However, in federal court, sentencing is strictly controlled by various factors.
Estimating a defendant’s sentence based upon the statutory range of punishment, the federal sentencing guidelines, mitigation evidence, and aggravating factors (e.g. role in the offense, criminal history, etc.) can be one of the most complex tasks in criminal law.
As an experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer, Heath Hyde has successfully represented clients in federal court in a variety of cases. From bank robbery, to complex fraud cases, to multi-defendant drug conspiracies, Heath Hyde has fought against the federal government on behalf of his clients and enjoys a 90% success rate.
Contact Heath Hyde Today
If you are under investigation for or charged with the following federal crimes:
- Possession of a Controlled Substance
- Drug / Narcotics Trafficking and Distribution
- Bank Robbery
- Money Laundering
- Conspiracy Charges
- White Collar Crimes
- Internet Crimes
- Weapons Charges
- Immigration Fraud
- Illegal Re-Entry
- or any other federal crimes.
As a former prosecutor, Heath Hyde can help you prepare your defense and protect your rights when it comes to a federal charge. We understand the mindset of the prosecution and can help put that to use for you. Call us at 903.439.0000 or submit an online contact form for a free consultation today.