Federal Criminal Defense Attorney in Seattle, Washington
Being tried for a criminal charge in a federal court is a much different challenge than being tried in a county or municipal court for a state criminal violation. For the most part, the federal justice system and the states have separate jurisdictions – some crimes belong solely to the federal government and the others to the states – but there are crimes in which both can be involved.
Thus, despite the Fifth Amendment’s prohibition against “double jeopardy,” or being tried twice for the same crime, if you’re acquitted of a state crime, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) may still be able to charge and then prosecute you for a violation of federal law.
A misdemeanor or minor conviction on the metropolitan or state level might never end up being investigated by the DOJ, but if you face a federal charge, the ground rules and legal challenges are different – with often greater penalties – than being tried locally.
If you are being investigated for or charged with a federal crime in or around Seattle, Washington, contact my firm, The Law Office of Dan N. Fiorito III, for legal guidance. As a former prosecutor, I know how the other side pursues its case and can develop a defense strategy to blunt their tactics and challenge evidence and witness testimony.
Contact my firm, The Law Office of Dan N. Fiorito III, today for legal help. I proudly serve clients in Western Washington, including the Puget Sound Area, Bellevue, Tacoma, and Everett, as well as Seattle.
Understanding Federal Crimes and Jurisdiction
Under the U.S. Constitution, the federal government was bestowed with what is now known as subject area jurisdiction. Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution grants the federal government, through Congress, sole authority over certain issues, including patents, immigration, bankruptcy, the Postal Service, and coining and regulating money.
The Fourteenth Amendment added violations of civil rights to federal jurisdiction. The Constitution’s “commerce clause” has been used by the government to legislate crimes involving business operations and dealings. With the addition of the Sixteenth Amendment, the federal government also obtained authority over tax evasion and tax fraud.
Another area where the federal government has jurisdiction is when the crime is committed on federal property, which includes national parks, federal buildings, courthouses, prisons, the District of Columbia, and Indian reservations. Airplanes in flight and vessels in U.S. waters are also subject to federal jurisdiction.
Crimes committed across state lines are also subject to federal jurisdiction. These include not only the transport of illegal drugs and firearms but also kidnapping, and human trafficking, along with mail and wire fraud.
The federal government often has concurrent jurisdiction with the states. This refers to the example above of the dropping of the “double jeopardy” guarantee when the same crime is prosecuted by both the federal and state government. If a person is acquitted in a federal trial, they can still be charged and convicted in a state court, and vice versa. This is because state and federal statutes are considered different “offenses.”
How Prosecution Differs on the Federal Level
A local charge that leads to criminal prosecution often results from, so to speak, being caught in the act. From that point on, police and investigators must build the case against you. Granted, some arrests result from ongoing investigations on the state level, but when the feds get involved, almost everything begins with an investigation. When they think they have something against you, they will probably charge you with a federal crime.
In other words, prosecutors at the federal level probably have much more of a case against you when they begin than local prosecutors do. Federal courts also have different rules regarding “discovery.” Discovery is the process during which the defense can ask to examine the evidence the prosecution has. On the federal as opposed to the state level, for example, prosecutors can often decline to share witness statements.
The prosecutors themselves are often much more seasoned at the federal level. The trial is prosecuted by an Assistant United States Attorney, and it is held in a federal courthouse. Also, if you are tried locally in the county where you live, the jury pool will be drawn from the same county. In a federal trial, the courthouse could straddle several counties, and the jury pool might be much more diverse.
The judges are also different. U.S. District Court Judges, who will hear your case, have been appointed by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate for lifetime tenure. They hear fewer cases than local judges and have only one trial at a time to preside over.
Finally, though there are other important differences and considerations, federal penalties are generally much more severe than an equivalent state charge. While on the state level, you may get a minor jail term and probation if convicted for possession of a few ounces of cocaine, on the federal level, you may end up in prison for five years. Federal guidelines, established in 1987, dictate both minimum and maximum penalties.
Federal Criminal Defense Attorney Serving Seattle, WA
A federal criminal charge is a serious matter. Even if you are merely being questioned by federal agents, you need to seek the help of a criminal defense attorney immediately. At The Law Office of Dan N. Fiorito III, I have the knowledge and experience to develop a strong defense for you on a federal charge. Reach out today – I proudly serve clients in Seattle and Western Washington.