Find a Criminal Law -- Federal Lawyer

Criminal law is the body of law that legislates punishment for those who commit crimes against individuals, corporations or the government. Crimes are defined as those acts that are unlawful as dictated by federal statutes or common law. Generally, those found guilty of crimes are punished with imprisonment, fines, or other penalties. Federal criminal law is defined both by the federal judiciary system and by Congress. Some crimes are exclusively federal offenses; others are punishable by both the state and federal systems.

In federal criminal cases, charges are brought against the accused party by the government. Bringing charges means that a person is being formally accused of a crime. The prosecution attorney of a criminal case works for the government and has the responsibility for working with a grand jury in determining whether charges should be filed, what the charges should be and then when the case goes to court proving “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the person accused of the crime did, in fact, commit it. Criminal defense attorneys represent the people accused of crimes.

In the United States, federal court cases for prosecuting people convicted of crimes must follow certain procedures. Title 18 is the federal criminal code that specifies many of these procedures; they are designed to protect the rights of those accused of crimes. The federal government also has detailed regulations to handle evidence and how it must be handled and presented in criminal cases.

Federal criminal attorneys also commonly work with issues having to do with federal prisons and prisoners' rights. Another area that falls under the expertise of criminal law is death penalty cases. Criminal attorneys may also handle cases having to do with juvenile offenses when they are of a federal nature, although most juvenile cases fall within state jurisdiction.

Some of the most common federal statutes under which people are charged of crimes include: mail fraud (fraud conducted using the U.S. mail system), money laundering (the process of concealing the origins of illegally obtained money), RICO (the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, which regulates insider trading), obstruction of justice (impeding court proceedings), drug related offenses (the manufacture, use, possession or distribution of illegal drug products), and conspiracy (a secret agreement between at least two people to engage in an illegal act or acts). Other examples of federal criminal cases include prosecution for federal tax fraud, terrorist and national security threats, counterfeiting, weapons charges, kidnapping and some instances of murder.

Since the federal criminal system has unique rules and procedures, it is vital for someone being prosecuted within the system to have not only an experienced criminal attorney, but a criminal attorney with federal court experience. Attorney referrals can be found online or through the American Bar Association. When someone is convicted of a crime, if he cannot afford a private attorney, he has the right to a court-appointed defense attorney. Federal criminal prosecution lawyers work directly for the federal government. Court appointed defense lawyers may work for the government or may private attorneys assigned to the case.

By Ann MacDonald           

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