How a Federal Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help

With the high penalties from federal charges, a skilled attorney is crucial.

An attorney protects your rights, fights your charges, and presents a compelling defense.

They’ll Protect Your Rights

Federal officers and other law enforcement officials might have violated your constitutional rights either during your arrest, through illegal search and seizure, or by overstepping their legal boundaries in different ways. Your federal criminal defense attorney won’t let you get taken advantage of.

They’ll Negotiate with the Prosecution or Defend You at Trial

Depending on your case, negotiating a plea agreement with the federal prosecutor may help get your charges reduced. Otherwise, your federal criminal defense lawyer is prepared to fight your case at trial.

They’ll Introduce Reasonable Doubt

The federal prosecutor can only obtain a conviction if they prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Your federal criminal defense lawyer must introduce reasonable doubt through strong evidence, expert witness testimony, and the dismissal of unlawfully obtained evidence.

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Morris Law Defends Against All Federal Crimes

If any type of federal law enforcement agency like the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the United States Postal Service (USPS), the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), or others are involved. In that case, you can expect to face federal charges.

No matter your situation, Seth Morris provides a strong defense against the following offenses:

  • Bank robbery – under 18 U.S.C. § 2113, this involves attempting to take or taking by intimidation, force, or extortion, any money or property of value from any bank, loan or savings institution, or credit union.
  • Mail fraud – under 18 U.S.C. § 1341, this involves scheming to defraud with intentional deception for monetary gain through mailing a letter.
  • Money laundering – under 18 U.S.C. § 1956, this involves attempting to conceal the source of illegally obtained money.
  • Drug trafficking and other drug-related offenses – under 21 U.S.C. § 841, it is against federal law to transport, import, export, or sell illegal controlled substances.
  • Internet fraud – under 18 U.S.C. § 1030, this involves defrauding or taking advantage of people through Internet access or services.
  • Organized crime – under 18 U.S.C. § 1961, it is against federal law to be involved with or participate in crimes for the benefit of an organized criminal network, including money laundering and counterfeiting, trafficking drugs, people, weapons, and armed robbery.
  • Border crossing and immigration law violations – under 8 U.S.C. § 1324, it is against federal law to cross or aid in the crossing of people without U.S. citizenship into the United States.
  • Forgery and counterfeiting – under 18 U.S.C. § 21, this is when you use, possess, make, or alter important documents to commit fraud.
  • Child pornography – under 18 U.S.C. § 2251, it is illegal to possess, create, receive, or distribute videos or images depicting a minor engaged in any type of sexual act.
  • Tax violations – under 26 U.S.C. § 7201, it is against federal law to attempt to evade or evade taxes.
  • Securities fraud – under 18 U.S.C. § 1348/1349, it is against federal law to defraud people in relation to securities or obtain money or property through the sale or purchase of securities by false or fraudulent pretenses.
  • Criminal conspiracy – under 18 U.S.C. § 371, it is against federal law to agree to commit a criminal act with another person.
  • Racketeering – under 18 U.S.C. § 1961, it is against federal law to conspire, attempt or actually commit serious crimes for the benefit of a criminal enterprise.
  • Healthcare fraud – under 18 U.S.C. § 1347, it is against federal law to attempt to deceive or misrepresent a medical claim to the government.
  • Drug manufacturing – under 21 U.S.C. § 841, this involves attempting to produce or producing illegal controlled substances.
  • Terrorism – under 18 U.S.C. § 2332b(g)(5), this involves attempting to or actually coercing or intimidating the government or public through dangerous or violent activity.
  • Antitrust – under 15 U.S.C. § 1-38,, this is when you engage in practices that threaten commerce and trade such as price discrimination, monopolization, price fixing, and restraints.
  • Espionage – under 18 U.S.C. CHAPTER 37, this involves obtaining private secrets and disclosing them to foreign entities.
  • Social Security fraud – under 42 U.S.C. § 1383a, this is when you willfully and knowingly make false representation or statements to obtain Social Security benefits.
  • Murder as a federal crime – under 18 U.S.C. § 1111, this involves committing murder with “malice aforethought.” This means the victim died during a felony act such as rape.
  • Firearms Charges – This involves unlawfully possessing firearms or illegal weapons, smuggling them across state borders, committing violent crimes with them, and selling them illegally.

Criminal Conspiracy

Conspiracy in California involves two or more people agreeing to commit a crime and then actually acting to advance that agreement.

Federal Gun Crimes

You may know that California judges gun crimes harshly. However, when the scope of your charges extends beyond state borders, the highest law of the land determines your future.

Federal Drug Charge

Many California residents could face drug charges at the State level; however, you could end up with federal charges in certain situations.


Federal Crimes Produce Heavy Penalties

When you are found guilty of a criminal offense at the state level, you may face time in a county jail or prison. But when you are facing federal criminal charges, the penalties are often far more severe. This is for several reasons, including:

  • Federal prosecutors have less room for negotiating plea agreements
  • Federal judges are required to follow strict sentencing guidelines under federal law
  • The maximum punishment for federal crimes is much higher
  • Federal offenses often carry punishment enhancements

Here are some general federal crimes and their penalties.

A serious criminal offense that can be prosecuted at the federal level is child pornography. At the state level, the punishment for a felony conviction results in up to eight years in prison and fines up to $100,000.

However, a first-time federal conviction of producing child pornography results in a minimum of 15 to 30 years in prison. This sentence is on top of additional fines. Other federal crimes and their respective potential sentences include:

  • Bank robbery – Maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison; fines as high as $250,000.
  • Mail fraud – Maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison; fines as high as $1,000,000.
  • Money laundering – Maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison; fines up to $500,000.
  • Drug trafficking – Maximum sentence of life in prison; fines as high as $20 million.
  • Internet fraud – Maximum sentence of life in prison; fines as high as $1 million.
  • Forgery and counterfeiting – Maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; fines up to $250,000.
  • Tax violations – Maximum sentence of one year in prison; fines as high as $250,000.
  • Criminal conspiracy – Maximum sentence of five years in prison; fines as high as $250,000.
  • Racketeering – Maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and millions of dollars in fines.
  • Healthcare fraud – Maximum sentence of five years in prison; fines as high as $250,000.
  • Drug manufacturing – Maximum sentence of life in prison; fines as high as $10 million.
  • Terrorism – Maximum sentence of life in prison, the death penalty; fines up to $2 million.
  • Accounting fraud – Maximum sentence of 30 years in prison; fines up to $1,000,000.
  • Antitrust – Maximum sentence of 10 years in prison; fines as high as $1 million.
  • Espionage – Maximum sentence of 15 years in prison; fines as high as $5 million.
  • Murder as a federal crime – Murder as federal crime convictions are punishable by death.

Sentence enhancements are based on the facts of your case. Using the child pornography charge as an example, the number of images of child pornography, the age of the children in the images, and whether the image was in video or photo form all factor into your sentencing.

Additional Consequences

Federal convictions are often much harsher than those at the state level. This is due to many reasons, including:

  • Serving time in a federal prison, which may be much farther away from your family
  • Convictions result in serving a minimum of 85% of the sentence instead of only 50% at the state level before being eligible for release, depending on the circumstances.

When Can You Be Charged with a Federal Crime as Opposed to a State Crime?

Most crimes are charged at the state level. These crimes might include arson, burglary, rape, and even murder. But there are some types of crimes that warrant federal charges. This usually occurs in situations where:

  • Crimes occur on federally owned land
  • Crimes involve federal officers
  • There is a crime involving a federal government or a government agency
  • Criminal conduct occurs across state lines
  • Criminals cross state lines

What is RICO?

The “Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations” Act, RICO, expands the scope of prosecution for people who are involved in organized crime. It creates opportunities for harsher penalties if the defendant is convicted.

RICO charges rely on proving a pattern of behavior linked to organized crime. Suppose someone committed a murder, but the murder was not linked to organized crime. In that case, they could not face RICO charges in addition to their murder charges.

What is the Difference Between State vs. Federal Level Trials?

There are many differences between state and federal level charges. Although both have the power to prosecute defendants for criminal offenses, these systems do have distinct differences.


Federal court judges are nominated by the president, approved by the Senate, and serve in their position for the rest of their lives. State judges, however, rise through the rankings after being selected to serve the government.

Rate of Conviction

People facing federal criminal offenses are also more likely to be convicted. More than 90% of people prosecuted at the federal level will plead guilty rather than risk going to trial.

This shows the severity of the federal charges against you and how critical it is to get a highly experienced federal criminal defense lawyer on your side if you hope to avoid a conviction.

Morris Law Crafts a Solid Defense

Unlike state trials, requirements must be met for potential defenses to be used in federal trials. This might include meeting necessary pre-trial steps to determine whether a defense is appropriate.

Failure to meet these requirements could mean that the court does not accept your defense. Defenses that may require notice and other pretrial requirements include:

  • Public authority – The defendant has reasonable belief they were authorized to engage in illegal acts by a government agency.
  • Venue – This is when the trial is moved to another county or jurisdiction.
  • Alibi – The defendant couldn’t have committed the crime because they were somewhere else when the crime occurred.
  • Mental incapacity – The defendant was not responsible for their actions at the time due to a psychiatric disorder or condition.
  • Outrageous government conduct – This defense is used in cases where government officials act in a way that is “so outrageous that due process principles would absolutely bar the government from invoking judicial processes to obtain a conviction.”
  • Entrapment – The defendant argues that law enforcement enticed them to commit a crime they would not have otherwise committed with the intention of prosecuting them.
  • Vindictive or selective prosecution – Vindictive prosecution occurs when the prosecutor violates a defendant’s right to due process. Selective prosecution occurs when the prosecutor decides to move forward with prosecution with regard to the defendant’s ethnicity, race, or gender.

The specific type of defense that your attorney may suggest utilizing in your case can vary widely depending on the type of federal charges you are facing.

Here are three defenses your attorney might focus on for your federal criminal defense strategy.

Affirmative Defenses

Affirmative defenses involve admitting to the act in question but arguing that your actions were justifiable. Here, your lawyer will need to prove that you should be acquitted based on a preponderance of the evidence. Common types of affirmative defenses include:

  • Self-defense – You used reasonable force when you had reasonable belief that you or someone else was at immediate risk of serious bodily injury.
  • Withdrawal or abandonment – You withdrew from the crime before the commission of the crime.
  • Duress – You only committed the crime because you feared severe injury or death.
  • Battered woman syndrome – The only way to escape life-threatening abuse at the hands of your spouse was to kill them.
  • Necessity – You engaged in unlawful activity but had no other choice to prevent further occurrence of harm.

Specific Intent Defenses

For federal prosecutors to obtain convictions, they must prove your intent to commit a crime.

Even if there is evidence that you committed a crime, proving your intent is an entirely different matter. Some of the more common types of specific intent defenses used in federal criminal cases include:

  • Negating mens rea – This means you lacked the intent to commit a crime
  • Automatism – This means your lacked criminal intent due to dissociation
  • Advice of counsel – This means you acted on the advice of your retained legal counsel
  • Good faith – This means you acted in good faith and lacked intent to commit a crime

Special Defenses for Federal Crimes

Special defenses are unique in that they often do not fit into any type of categorization. While these defenses may have similar elements to other types of crimes, their use depends on the specific details of the federal charges against you. Some examples of special federal defenses could include:

  • Claims of extraterritorial jurisdiction – Arrests from outside the U.S. brought into the U.S. for prosecution
  • Derivative citizenship – U.S. citizenship being given to children whose parents are naturalized U.S. citizens and have green cards