Federal Criminal Attorneys in Michigan
“Don’t make a federal case out of it.” We’ve all heard that saying. But until you’ve actually been accused of or charged with a federal crime, you can’t fully appreciate what that means. If you’re being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), or any other federal agency, you’ll soon realize that it’s not a fun experience. You need the assistance of an experienced attorney at Grabel & Associates can help.
It’s important to point out the difference between state criminal cases and federal criminal cases. A civics lesson is necessary here. Under the United States Constitution, the federal government has certain “enumerated” powers—i.e., those listed in the Constitution. In other words, if it’s not listed in the Constitution, the federal government can’t do it. State governments, on the other hand, are not so encumbered. Rather, any powers not belonging to the federal government are reserved for the state governments. Importantly for our purposes, this means that the state has the so-called “police power,” the power to govern the “health, safety, morals, and welfare” of its citizens. This is why the state can outlaw murder, sexual assault, drug use, etc. Thus, most garden-variety crimes that we’re all familiar with will be exclusively crimes against the state government and not the federal government.
For the federal government to criminalize something, there needs to be a hook in the Constitution. Very often, that hook is the “commerce clause”—the power of the federal government to regulate interstate commerce. If an act could potentially have an effect on interstate commerce, the federal government can criminalize it. The federal government has used this to criminalize all sorts of activities that arguably have only minimal or tangential effects on interstate commerce. The result? A bloated federal criminal code and more opportunities for a criminal defendant to find himself or herself in federal court.
So what kinds of crimes are federal rather than state? Let’s take a look at some common examples.
If you’re accused of defrauding the federal government or defrauding someone in violation of federal law, you could be facing a fraud charge in federal court. Each kind of case is unique and requires a unique approach. Here are some common federal fraud cases we see:
- Federal Tax Fraud
- Welfare Fraud
- Healthcare Fraud
- Social Security Fraud
- Bank Fraud
- Mortgage Fraud
- Mail or Wire Fraud
Most low-level drug deals will not be on the federal government’s radar. Such cases will more often be handled by local county prosecutors. But if you’re accused of trafficking drugs across state lines—especially large amounts of drugs—you’re more likely to attract the attention of the federal government. If the feds are involved, you know it’s serious. You need to hire a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney.
White Collar Crimes
So-called “white collar” crimes often implicate professionals and businesspeople. They usually involve the alleged misappropriation of money. People often assume that white collar crimes aren’t very serious since they’re nonviolent. In truth, though, federal prosecutors often pursue white collar crimes more aggressively than “traditional” crimes. And a federal prison sentence is almost always a possibility. You need to protect yourself and your assets. White collar crimes can be extremely complicated cases, and you’ll need a thorough and dedicated criminal defense attorney on your side. Here are some common white collar crimes that we see in our practice:
- Money laundering
- Falsifying business records
- Security violations
If you’re charged with possession or production of child pornography in federal court, you better buckle up. Federal prosecutors take these charges very seriously. Do not expect leniency. The prosecutor will not be sympathetic to any claim that you “only had a few pictures.” Nevertheless, you may have defenses in your case. Are the images in fact child pornography, i.e., are the people in the images less than 18 years old? Were you aware that the images were child pornography? Could someone else have downloaded the images? Who had access to the computer or device where the child pornography was allegedly found? There’s a lot for a criminal defense attorney to explore.
Federal Criminal Faqs
I am being investigated by the federal government in Michigan, but I haven’t been charged with anything yet. Do I need to hire a federal defense attorney?
Yes, if you’re being investigated by the federal government in Michigan, you need to retain a federal defense attorney as soon as possible, even if you haven’t been charged. Why? So, you don’t get charged in the first place.
As the saying goes, the nine most terrifying words in the English language are “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” They’re not here to help. If you’re already being investigated by the federal government, they’re doing everything they can to build a case against you.
So what can an attorney do for you? First, an attorney becomes the gatekeeper between you and the federal government. This is important because federal investigators often isolate suspects and skillfully extract ill-advised statements from them. An attorney can make sure that doesn’t happen.
Second, an attorney can assist in launching a counter-investigation. Again, the federal government is trying to build a case against you. They’re not looking for evidence that benefits you. An attorney can help you uncover and present favorable evidence that proves your innocence.
Finally, an attorney can open a line of communication with federal prosecutors, the ones who make the final decision on whether you get charged. An attorney can give the prosecutors the full story—not just the black-and-white narrative from federal investigators—to persuade the prosecutors why you shouldn’t be charged.
What are possible defenses to a federal criminal charge in the Michigan district courts?
There are several potential defenses to a federal criminal charge in the Michigan district courts. What defenses will be available in your case depends, of course, on the facts of your case and what you’re charged with. Here’s a sampling of some of the most common defenses in federal criminal cases.
For federal child pornography charges, can the federal government prove that you knowingly received or distributed the pornography? Was the pornography found on a computer or device that was accessible to other people besides you? And even if they can prove possession, can they show that you knew that the images or videos were child pornography (i.e., that the participants were less than 18 years old)? There are myriad ways to defendant a federal child pornography charge.
For federal drug charges, there will often be a basis for a Fourth Amendment challenge—that the charges are the result of an unreasonable search or seizure. Did the police have proper grounds to pull you over or search your house? Did the police follow the parameters of a search warrant? Did the police properly conduct surveillance on you? If the answer to any of these questions is no, you may have a defense in your case.
For federal white-collar charges, most defenses will be based on your knowledge and intent. Did you know that your actions were part of a scheme to defraud the federal government? Did you intend to defraud the federal government? Or were your actions innocent or, at worst, merely negligent? Federal white-collar charges will often be defendable on these grounds.
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