Federal Criminal Law and Warrants
Federal law and penalties can be quite different from state statutes. As such, if you are facing federal criminal charges or an arrest, you need an experienced federal criminal attorney on your side.
What is a “Federal Crime?”
Generally, a crime is considered a federal crime if it is in violation of the written United States federal laws. Often, this includes the suspect of the crime allegedly committing crimes of a similar nature across multiple states. When a crime crosses state lines, it is called an interstate crime.
The following are instances when a crime falls under federal jurisdiction:
- The United States is a party
- The case involves violations of the United States Constitution, treaties, or federal laws
- It is a legal dispute between citizens of different states or foreign citizens
- It is a bankruptcy, copyright, patent and maritime law case
- It involves a criminal matter listed in the United States Code
Federal crimes are violations of laws where there are federal or national interests at stake, or where the crime interferes with the federal government’s duties. Often, federal crimes involve conduct which interferes with interstate commerce, such as wire fraud, bank fraud, and drug trafficking.
Reasons for Federal Criminal Charges
Breaking Federal Law
Each state has its own unique laws and consequences for breaking them. At the same time, federal laws apply to every state in the country.
Matters that are addressed by federal law include:
- Federal Criminal Law
- Civil Rights
- Social Security
Federal criminal laws have many categories, such as fraud crimes, drug crimes, violent crimes, and others. Generally speaking, federal criminal charges are reserved for the most severe offenses. As a rule of thumb, if a federal organization, like the FBI, DEA, or ATF, is investigating the offense, it will likely result in federal charges being filed.
Crimes Across State Borders
Even if the crime you are accused of with doesn’t violate a federal law violation, you still may have federal charges depending on where the crime took place. Crimes that occur when crossing state lines can involve federal charges. For instance, traveling with drugs in your possession from Oklahoma to Texas or kidnapping a child and leaving the state.
Furthermore, even if the accused party doesn’t physically cross state borders, any crime that does can still be a federal offense. Wire fraud crime targeting others around the country through the internet is one example of this. Even though the accused person didn’t leave their home state, the crime was technically committed in other states across the U.S.
Defrauding a Federal Organization
If a federal organization is involved in a criminal act, it’s classified as a federal crime. The most frequent examples of fraud against a government agency include the following:
- Aggravated offenses
- Tax fraud
- Counterfeiting money
- Forging federal documents
- Medicare/healthcare fraud
- Social Security fraud
In addition, if a crime was especially atrocious or violent, it could result in federal charges. Examples of this include:
- Aggravated assault/battery
- Killing a federal officer
- Aggravated sexual abuse
- Child pornography
- Sex crimes against children
- Assisting with a prisoner escape
- Money laundering
What is a Warrant?
A warrant is a type of legal document authorizing government entities to take certain actions. For example, a judge can issue a warrant authorizing the following:
- The search of a device like a computer or a cell phone
- The entry into a closed space like a house, building, or other property
- The arrest of an individual who has broken the law
Affidavits accompany warrants. They are what law enforcement officers use to swear to the facts giving the presiding judge probable cause to sign the warrant. The person, such as a law enforcement officer who signs the affidavit, is known as an affiant. The affiant typically must sign acknowledging that they are open to prosecution for perjury if anything they assert in the affidavit isn’t true. Sometimes it must be signed in front of a notary or county clerk.
The judge must find probable cause or a reasonable belief that a crime has or is being committed in order to sign the warrant. In this step of the criminal justice process, it doesn’t take much evidence for a judge to have probable cause, compared to a jury that must have evidence proving beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime was committed in order to convict.
Arrest warrants usually identify what type of crime has or is being committed to authorize the arrest and can restrict the manner in which an arrest is made. Warrants can specify the time frame during which someone can be arrested and if the individual being arrested is eligible for bail, and how much bail should be set at.
Reasons for Federal Arrests
Often when someone is arrested on a federal warrant, they have been the target of a lengthy investigation. In fact, some investigations can take years, with federal agents performing countless hours of surveillance and going through thousands of documents to collect evidence. Federal agents executing the arrest will have typically sought and obtained an arrest warrant in a federal district court from a federal district judge.
Simply put, federal arrests generally aren’t spur-of-the-moment events. Suppose you or someone you know is the subject of a federal arrest warrant. In that case, it’s safe to assume that the government has already gathered significant evidence against you and is now finally prepared to prosecute you formally. With this in mind, it’s extremely important that you take a federal arrest warrant seriously.
What Happens in a Federal Arrest?
Most arrests associated with federal crimes are made via arrest warrants signed by a federal magistrate judge. Federal agents responsible for the arrest will visit the subject at their place of residence—or sometimes at their place of employment and announce their presence. Then they explain to the arrestee what is going on and why they are there. Sometimes they will also include an explanation of why the arrest is being made. They will read the arrestee their Miranda Rights. The arrestee is then transported to the nearest federal detention center. They will be booked and then scheduled for an initial appearance before a federal magistrate judge to set bail. Typically, if the individual arrested hasn’t had time to retain legal counsel, the court will appoint someone to represent the individual for purposes of bail. Finally, the arrestee has the opportunity to ask for pre-trial release and bail.
At this point, you should retain an experienced Georgetown criminal defense attorney who will also begin working on the pre-trial stage of your case, which includes things such as:
- Plea bargaining (if applicable to your specific case)
- Discovery review
- Pre-trial motions
- Trial preparation
Contact Us Today to Speak with a Georgetown Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer
Call a knowledgeable Georgetown federal criminal attorney at Stotts Law today at (502) 383-1550 or contact us online to schedule a consultation. We provide flexible scheduling and offer every client our personal attention. Whether you are under investigation, have had a warrant issued for your arrest, or have already been arrested, our competent and reputable team can help. The sooner you reach out to us, the more options we have to provide the best outcome possible in your case.