Federal Defense Lawyer
Federal criminal attorney with 35+ years of experience
Many people who are arrested and charged with a federal crime don’t immediately understand the severity of the charges they face. They’re not aware that many of these crimes could mean more severe penalties versus charges at the state level, and they’re often shocked to find out how quickly the math adds up. Just a few charges – or multiple counts of a single charge – could mean decades in prison. If you are facing federal criminal charges or even suspect that charges might be brought, immediately consult with a federal defense attorney in Fort Lauderdale to best ensure that your rights are protected from the get-go.
What’s your best legal option?
If you’re facing federal criminal charges, do not leave your fate in the hands of a public defender who has a stack of case files on his desk and is already over-extended coming in. When your freedom’s on the line, you need someone who will fight for you every step of the way. You need personal, dedicated representation from an experienced Fort Lauderdale federal lawyer who has successfully defended more than 1,100 federal cases over more than three decades. Representing clients in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Joffe Law, P.A. will work tirelessly to bolster your defense and ensure that you are treated fairly and in accordance with the law. You have rights, and we work vigorously to defend them.
When does it become a federal criminal charge?
Federal crimes are offenses that are expressly prohibited under federal law. They may occur on federal property, or involve people or property that is transported across state lines, overlapping state jurisdictions.
While the Fifth Amendment prohibits “double jeopardy,” the clause does not refer to cases that involve crimes that are recognized as offenses by both federal and state law. Therefore, it is possible for a defendant to be acquitted of a crime in state court, but later convicted in a federal court. Crimes are investigated by the FBI or, in some cases, other regulatory agencies. They are prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and defendants appear before federal judges in Broward County U.S. District Court.
For most people who are arrested on federal charges, the race to find an experienced Fort Lauderdale federal criminal attorney begins quickly. While it is important to have the help of a federal criminal defense lawyer after being taken into police custody, in many cases, there are even earlier opportunities to get a lawyer involved, to avoid potential damage to your reputation, personal life and career. By the time an arrest is made, law enforcement agencies have typically worked many hours and likely days to determine whether they will arrest someone in relation to a crime they are investigating. This is especially true of federal crimes.
Hiring a federal attorney as early as possible can pay off later if the individual is eventually required to face charges in court. State and federal statutes often overlap; therefore, knowing the difference between state and federal crimes is essential. Anyone who believes he or she may be suspected of a crime should contact a federal defense lawyer in Fort Lauderdale to learn more about the nature of the potential charges and to determine the best way to proceed.
Federal Cases Handled
Our attorneys fight for your rights throughout the U.S.
Years Being AV Rated
Mr. Joffe is recognized as a top attorney by his peers.
Years of Experience
When your freedom is on the line, experience becomes critical.
Defending Fort Lauderdale, Florida
I've lived in Ft. Lauderdale most of my life and never once had any major issues with the law. My luck changed about a year ago. Although my charges were not bad as most, I did not want to discuss my situation with many people so I searched online for a criminal lawyer. I came across Joffe & Joffe who specialize in Criminal Law, and after meeting with him, I was confident (or as confident as one can be in this situation) he would be able to help me. He had my charges dropped significantly, in order for me to avoid any issues with my current employer. If you need a criminal defense attorney or a criminal lawyer in Fort Lauderdale or Miami- these are your guys! I just can't say enough about him! Too bad I can't really tell many about them, but I'll sure recommend them as often as possible.Google Reviewer
Types of cases our federal criminal defense lawyers handle
White collar crime
A phrase that is believed to have been coined in the 1930s, “white collar crime” refers to offenses that are mostly committed by business and government professionals. These crimes are non-violent in nature, and the motivation is financial gain. Most federal white collar crimes fall under the following categories:
- Ponzi schemes
- insider trading
- RICO or racketeering
- computer crimes
- money laundering
- identity theft
The federal government regulates white collar crimes through legislative acts passed by Congress and monitoring by regulatory agencies like the SEC and IRS. These offenses are investigated by the FBI; therefore, defendants must appear in federal court versus state court, though there are cases in which both federal and state governments have enacted legislation prohibiting certain white collar crimes. As federal offenses, white collar crimes typically carry severe sentences, which may include prison time and large fines. In some situations, white collar crime defendants may also face civil court actions in addition to criminal punishment, making it critical to retain the services of a trial-tested, experienced federal defense attorney in Fort Lauderdale, best suited for your unique case.
Federal fraud cases
Defined as an intentional deception or misrepresentation that is intended to benefit the perpetrator or a third party, fraud is a federal offense. Fraud can take many different forms, including:
Other common types of fraud include bank fraud, mortgage fraud, and Ponzi schemes. Penalties for fraud may include up to 30 years imprisonment, probation, paying restitution to the victims, and paying fines. Being convicted of fraud can also severely limit an individual’s future employment prospects as well as impact social and personal relationships.
Violent sex crimes and those that are committed against minors are generally very aggressively prosecuted by state and federal governments. Though most sex crimes fall under the jurisdiction of the states, there are some over which the federal government is more likely to exercise authority in investigating and prosecuting:
- aggravated sexual assault
- sex crimes involving minors
- human trafficking
- crimes involving repeat sex offenders
- federal sex offender registry compliance violations
Crimes that involve child pornography are aggressively investigated and prosecuted by the government. Federal law prohibits the possession, distribution, sale, and production of pornographic material that portrays a person who is under 18 years old. Defendants who are convicted of a child pornography-related offense are required to enroll and maintain their personal information in the federal sex offender registry, in addition to facing significant prison time. Always consult with a Fort Lauderdale federal defense attorney to learn your options immediately after you suspect you’re being investigated.
Federal drug crimes
Federal drug-related offenses, like drug trafficking cases, are more likely to be prosecuted in federal court while most drug possession cases are processed by Florida state courts. Federal law prohibits delivering illegal controlled substances as well as conspiring to deliver an illegal controlled substance. Cases that involve manufacturing and distributing drugs are also more likely to be prosecuted by the federal government. In addition to “street” drugs, prescription drugs have also become of increasing concern to federal law enforcement and prosecutors. Fort Lauderdale has grown increasingly notorious for its methadone clinics and has come under heightened scrutiny for its high volume of prescription drug-related fraud.
The term “alien” refers to a person who is not a citizen or national of the United States. The federal government prohibits the transportation of aliens beyond a designated port of entry of the United States. A person who does so for the purpose of private financial gain, labor, or commercial advantage may be fined and/or imprisoned for up to 10 years. An individual who causes injury to an alien in the course of smuggling may be imprisoned for up to 20 years. If the smuggler causes an alien’s death, he or she may be sentenced to life in prison. Federal law also recognizes aiding with alien smuggling and conspiring as criminal offenses.
FAQs: Federal Criminal Law
When do crimes become federal?
The State of Florida processes the majority of crimes within the state, but numerous offenses and circumstances elevate cases to the federal level. Many financial crimes fall under federal jurisdiction due to its regulation of banking and securities. Crimes that use shipping and telecommunications systems are federal as well, such as mail and wire fraud or telemarketing fraud. Crimes that involve crossing state or international borders, which can range from money laundering to smuggling undocumented people into the country, are in the hands of federal law enforcement agencies.
Drug crimes also become federal when the manufacturing and distribution activities take place across multiple states or countries. Additionally, a large-scale drug operation may invite federal prosecution instead of state prosecution due to sheer amount of money or drugs involved and racketeering activity. FDA regulation of medication also places prescription drug crimes under the purview of federal agents in some situations.
Crimes taking place on government property, like a VA hospital or national park, will be handled at the federal level. Crimes against federal employees get the same treatment. Offenses involving public officials and corruption frequently require federal prosecution.
In general, any area managed by federal statutes, like bankruptcy or IRS tax codes, are prosecuted by the federal government because that is the entity with jurisdiction. Frauds against public insurance programs, like Medicare and Medicaid, are also federal crimes.
What’s the purpose of a grand jury in a federal case?
Allegations against an individual in Fort Lauderdale are sometimes examined by a grand jury before federal charges are filed. A prosecutor forms a grand jury consisting of 16 to 23 jurors. They will have the laws applicable to the allegations explained to them and then hear evidence about the suspect. The jury will then vote to decide if the person should be indicted on one or more criminal charges. A majority vote suffices to produce an indictment instead of a unanimous vote.
A grand jury is not open to the public because it is not yet an actual criminal trial. Grand juries sometimes do not indict individuals.
Overall, grand juries function as a way to vet an investigation and provide a collective opinion about the validity of the allegations. A grand jury indictment may weigh heavily upon a defendant due to the evidence already having convinced a group of people that a crime possibly took place.
Charges resulting from a grand jury indictment also provide the government with a reasonable expectation that it may win the case. Federal agencies prefer to move forward with arrests when they feel confident about securing a conviction.
What happens when state and federal laws are violated?
Violations of state law are prosecuted by the state, and violations of federal law are prosecuted by the United States. However, individuals may find themselves accused of breaking both state and federal laws. When that occurs, the prosecutors within the state and federal criminal justice systems could decide to have only one system process the case. Depending on the circumstances, a case might go to the state or federal court.
Although picking a single venue of prosecution may be an option, defendants can face charges in both state and federal courts. This does not violate the Double Jeopardy Clause in the U.S. Constitution because separate “sovereign” entities are charging the person criminally. A failure to convict in state court could prompt the federal system to pick the case back up and prosecute the person or vice versa.
In some cases, both jurisdictions proceed with their cases. An individual would then have to wage a defense in both court systems, either at trial or by negotiation of a plea bargain. The state court would prosecute the state-level charges, and the federal court would pursue the federal crimes.
What are federal sentencing guidelines?
In 1987, the U.S. government established sentencing guidelines to create a uniform standard that guides judges in how they apply penalties. Guidelines have been developed for each criminal offense and take into account multiple factors when recommending ranges of prison time and fines.
Primary factors are the severity of the offense, referred to as base level, and the harm resulting from the criminal actions. For example, the base level of a fraud increases with the amount of financial losses experienced by victims. Changes to base level are called adjustments, and judges apply them to reflect defendants’ level of involvement in a crime, acceptance of responsibility, or convictions on multiple counts.
As guidelines, the sentencing recommendations are not mandatory although judges generally work within the framework. At a minimum, the guidelines serve as a starting point as a judge develops a suitable sentence. Should a federal judge choose to deviate from the sentencing guidelines, the judge needs to provide an explanation as to why the sentence was less than or more than what the guidelines state.
The application of sentencing guidelines may come under review if a case is brought before a U.S. Court of Appeals. Appellate judges are more likely to view sentences handed down in accordance with the guidelines as reasonable.
What’s a ‘mandatory minimum penalty’ on a federal charge?
Unlike the sentencing guidelines, which are not set in stone, conviction for a federal offense with a mandatory minimum penalty does not leave much discretion to judges. The only discretion the judges have is whether or not to apply more than the mandatory minimum.
The U.S. Congress created the laws that impose mandatory minimum sentences for some federal offenses, especially drug crimes. An offense connected to a mandatory minimum sentence subjects the defendant to an automatic prison term upon conviction.
Some examples of mandatory minimum sentences for federal drug offenses are:
- trafficking of 1 kg or more of heroin: Minimum 10 years in prison
- same offense including death or serious injury: Minimum 20 years in prison
- same offense with prior felony conviction: Minimum 20 years in prison
- same offense including death or serious injury AND prior felony: Life in prison
Mandatory minimum sentences for federal drug, firearm, or pornography charges highlight the vital importance of representation from an experienced federal criminal defense attorney. A strong legal defense may prevent exposure to charges connected to mandatory minimum sentences.