What is the difference between being charged for a state or federal crime?
Most criminal defendants are charged for violation of state criminal laws. There may not be a parallel federal charge as an option. After all, states are required to pass legislation to protect citizens from crime, as well as defining what behavior will be considered illegal within their boundaries. The federal government has limited jurisdiction under the Constitution; any crimes defined in federal law have to be concretely linked to a specific federal power in the Constitution itself (e.g., commerce power or postal power) to be valid.
Nevertheless, in the last 60 years or so, the amount of federal crimes enacted by Congress has been voluminous. Many of the federal criminal laws today deal with illegal drugs (transport, manufacture, distribution, sale), and there has been significant growth in federal legislation to create crimes dealing with organized criminal activity overall (e.g., the RICO Act), as well as a great many federal gun laws and federal computer and internet crime legislation.
Given the choice, state prosecutors may prefer to tip their hat to their federal counterparts because federal penalties – especially for drug charges – are usually much more severe than their state counterparts. Economics also may come into play – which court (state or federal) will undertake the expense of prosecution, and what is the likelihood of their success under either the state or federal option?
Therefore, when a client is facing state or federal charges it is very important to have an attorney well versed in both state and federal law, as well as experienced in practicing before both state and federal courtrooms, on their side. It may make all the difference in whether or not an individual is formally charged with a crime, as well as whether or not that client will be facing significant state or federal jail time.
When I was arrested, no one read me my rights. Can the charges be dismissed?
Not on that basis alone. One of the great things about television today is that most citizens know that they should have their rights given to them when they are arrested. And, many know that this is technically called a “Miranda warning” after the United States Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966).
However, what many do not know is that when there is a failure to give a Miranda warning, the result is not a dismissal of the case. Instead, failure to give a Miranda warning could result in whatever incriminating statement was made by a client to law enforcement after the arrest being kept from the jury.
In other words, if a citizen can reasonably be considered to be in custody, (does not have to be in handcuffs) and that citizen is asked questions by law enforcement, (interrogation) that results in a custodial interrogation.
If a citizen makes an incriminating statement during a custodial interrogation and the citizen is not advised of the protections afforded by the 5th and 6th Amendments to the United States Constitution, (the Miranda Warning) and the trial court rules accordingly as a result of a timely filed motions, then the statements are never heard by the jury.
Additionally, if they do read a suspect his rights and he invokes his right to remain silent or his right to speak to a lawyer, the police must stop their questioning. If they keep questioning the suspect, then anything the suspect says as a result of this questioning is also subject to being suppressed by the trial court.
Whether or not a case will be dismissed when there was no Miranda warning given will depend upon the strength of the prosecution’s case once all the statements made by the defendant have been excluded.
The police are investigating a possible sex crime and law enforcement has contacted you, asking to talk or maybe even take a statement from you. Should you do it?
Probably not. Odds are high that you have been contacted because you are possibly a criminal suspect in their sex crimes investigation – and if you may be a suspect, then you should never speak with the police without your criminal defense lawyer present.
Furthermore, do not think that police are going to be straight up with you. Police officers are often manipulative. Many take pride in it. They may tell you that they just want to chat. In reality, they may be trying to gather information to use against you. Law Enforcement may tell you that not talking with them will hurt you much more than talking with them. Wrong. You’re under no duty to help them do their job.
To a certain degree, the law allows law enforcement to lie to a citizen during this investigation. Do not trust law enforcement; trust your criminal defense attorney. They are trying to build evidence to prove that a crime has been committed, and who is responsible for that crime, in order to punish the wrongdoers.
Any connection with a sex crimes investigation can be personally and professionally devastating if rumor and gossip begins that the agents are even talking to you. Get an experienced sex crimes criminal defense lawyer to help you whenever you think that law enforcement may be trying to involve you in a sex crimes investigation.
How expensive is it to hire a criminal defense lawyer?
Successful and experience criminal defense lawyers are going to charge more – that’s understandable. You do get what you pay for in the field of law.
However, many criminal defense law firms require a flat, lump sum fee to be paid when they are hired. This flat fee covers the entire case through trial to a jury. And, these firms will charge this large fee even though the matter is resolved early on, sometimes even before indictment.
At the Ford Law Firm, we do not believe this is fair. Here, each case is individually evaluated before a fee is requested. And, if the case can be resolved before the public record is involved, then the firm will not charge for courtroom time. Instead, a smaller retainer is initially requested and only if the case becomes more serious and a trial may be had will a second retainer be required.