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Federal Criminal Defense and Sentencing

Posted by Alan Eisner | Nov 26, 2018

Federal Criminal Defense and Sentencing
Our criminal defense law firm often defend clients who are under investigation, or already charged with various federal crimes.

At Eisner Gorin LLP, a top-rated Los Angeles criminal defense law firm, we frequently defend individuals either under investigation for, or already charged with, federal crimes. While there is significant overlap in terms of defense strategy between State and federal crimes, several key distinctions are worth discussing.

If you, or someone you know, is under investigation by federal authorities or has already been indicted for a federal crime, immediate intervention by an experienced federal criminal defense attorney is key to achieving the best possible outcome.

Our top-rated law firm offers immediate phone consultations for defendants and family members to discuss options for representation.

Federal crimes, as the name implies, are prosecuted by the United States government as opposed to one of the 50 states.

Federal prosecutions are handled by the United States Attorney's Office, which is a division of the federal Department of Justice.

Federal investigations are handled by the various federal law enforcement agencies such as the F.B.I., D.E.A., and A.T.F., though the federal agents frequently partner with State authorities such as local law enforcement when conducting sting operations or executing search warrants.

In the investigative stage, federal authorities will often seek to interview the defendant in an attempt to elicit incriminating statements.

When faced with an investigation, clients are well served by retaining counsel at the outset to manage contact with the government on the client's behalf.

While it may not be possible to avoid charges being filed altogether, there may be opportunities for a pre-indictment plea agreement or even cooperation, depending on the allegations, which can leave the client much better situated than others who simply wait to be charged and arrested.

We have had many cases in which the client works through our firm with law enforcement and the assigned federal prosecutor to work out a favorable disposition before the case is ever formally filed in federal court. We could also file pretrial motions for your defense.

Federal Plea Negotiations

Once a case is filed in federal court, the client faces an important decision. They can either:

  • negotiate a plea agreement to resolve the case, or
  • fight the case in a federal jury trial.

In federal court, plea bargaining is a much more formalized process than in State court.

While in State court, plea negotiations are typically an informal discussion-based process that occurs between prosecutors and defense attorneys, a federal plea deal is a:

  • formal written document with a detailed factual basis,
  • explicit appeal waivers, and
  • agreements as to sentence recommendation.

Unlike in State court, a federal plea deal rarely results in a precise sentence which the defendant is guaranteed to receive.

Rather, the government agrees not to advocate for a sentence higher than a certain amount and the defendant in turn agrees not to advocate for a sentence lower than a certain amount.

Federal sentencing also differs from State sentencing in that the majority of federal sentences include some period of incarceration in federal prison. 

Probationary sentence do exist and are granted to first time offenders with low level offenses, but prison sentences are the norm.

Federal Sentencing Guidelines

Another significant factor in federal sentencing is the applicability of the United States Sentencing Guidelines.

On their face, the guidelines appear to be a purely mathematical calculation of a prison term based on offense level and criminal history category. 

However, a significant part of advocacy for federal criminal defendants is arguing the applicability of the numerous departure factors, which allow a judge to reduce or increase a guidelines sentence based on a multitude of factors.

As a result of federal case law, the guidelines range itself is now “advisory,” meaning that a sentencing judge in federal court retains significant discretion to “vary” from the guidelines based on yet another set of multiple factors.

An effective and persuasive sentencing memorandum is therefore key to persuade the judge to exercise their discretion in departing from the guidelines range, and then in further varying from that range for a total sentence which may be significantly less than what the initial guidelines range might indicate.

Another factor which differs in federal practice is the more prevalent application of mandatory minimum sentences, especially for drug offenses.

If the defendant possesses a relatively small amount of certain illegal narcotics, they may face a five or even ten-year mandatory minimum sentence from which the judge cannot vary.

State Court v. Federal Court

In a recent case, our firm represented two defendants in Los Angeles County Superior Court who were charged with trafficking methamphetamines. 

It was a significant benefit to the clients that they had been indicted in State, rather than federal, court as the amount of methamphetamines seized would have subjected them to a mandatory ten-year sentence minimum in federal court, whereas a State court prosecutor and judge agreed to only a four-year prison sentence which could be served at 50%.

When faced with sentencing in federal drug cases, therefore, effective advocacy in plea negotiations is particularly important to attempt to resolve the case in a way which does not trigger these draconian mandatory minimum sentences.

As in a State case, if a plea agreement cannot be reached, the ultimate remedy for the defendant is a federal jury trial. 

Twelve members of the public will reach a unanimous verdict after being presented with evidence and the arguments of the Assistant United States Attorney and the defendant's own attorney.

Common Federal Crimes

Track Record of Success in Federal Court

Our Los Angeles criminal defense law firm has tried numerous criminal cases in federal court and has had significant success.

We recently obtained an acquittal on RICO charges for a former gang member who was erroneously charged with maintaining association with a violent criminal street gang.

Additionally, aggressive advocacy by our attorneys resulted recently in acquittal for one of our clients charged with a felony in federal court after a physical altercation on an airplane, which is a federal enclave. 

The client was convicted only of the lesser-included misdemeanor of simple assault and received a probationary sentence.

Contact our Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers

Eisner Gorin LLP is a boutique criminal defense firm in Los Angeles, CA which practices in State courts throughout California and in federal courts around the United States. 

We exclusively practice criminal defense and have over 60 years combined experience in prefiling interventions, court representation, and jury trials.

If you or a loved one is under investigation or has been charged with a crime, contact our law firm at 877-781-1570 to discuss your legal options.

Eisner Gorin LLP 1875 Century Park E #705 Los Angeles, CA 90067 310-328-3776

About the Author

Alan Eisner

Alan Eisner  Van Nuys, California (818) 781-1570 (818) 788-5033 Email Me  Alan Eisner has practiced criminal law for over 28 years in Los Angeles County . Mr Eisner is a Certified Specialist in Criminal Law. (The California State Bar's Board of Legal Specialization has designated Mr. Eisner as a...

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