Call Today - (510) 995-0000
Jan 05, 2021

What to Do When Facing Federal Criminal Charges?

When you’re facing a federal criminal charge, you might be stressed out and worried. You know this is much more serious than a state crime and you could end up serving a much longer prison sentence. You could also have to pay bigger fines.

You’re wondering: What is your life going to be like for the next several years? Will you ever get to go back to a normal life, and to the way things were before all this happened?

Learning about what a federal crime is and what to do if you’re facing federal criminal charges could give you some peace of mind. If you know what could possibly occur, then you can plan for the future and hire the right professional, a criminal defense lawyer, to help you get through this difficult time. Then, you’ll be much more prepared when you step into the courtroom.

What Is a Federal Crime?

The criminal justice system can seem complicated from an outsider’s perspective. But essentially, there are local ordinances and state and federal laws that everyone needs to follow.

For example, a local ordinance in Marin County, California could state that there’s no trespassing at the local playground between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. A state law might stipulate that you can’t drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08%. And a federal law may say that creating counterfeit money goes against the law of the United States.

The U.S. Congress, which is made up of the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, creates federal laws to keep people safe. These criminal laws deal with issues with interstate commerce and national security, or other areas where the federal government could get involved. For instance, if a crime occurs on federal property like in Washington, D.C., a federal Indian reservation, a national park, or a federal building, then the perpetrator will be charged under federal law. Federal law enforcement like the FBI, NSA, DEA, or Border Patrol will investigate the crime and U.S. attorneys will persecute them in federal courts that have federal judges.

List of Federal Crimes

The complete list of federal crimes is extensive. Some of them include:

  • Aggravated sexual abuse
  • Aggravated identity theft
  • Airplane hijacking
  • Armed robbery
  • Arson
  • Bank robbery
  • Bond default
  • Blackmail
  • Bribery crimes
  • Child abuse
  • Child pornography
  • Counterfeiting
  • Cyber crimes
  • Demands against the U.S.
  • Destruction of an energy facility
  • Destruction of corporate audit records
  • Detention of armed vessel
  • Domestic terrorism
  • Domestic violence
  • Drug trafficking
  • Entering train to commit crime
  • Exportation of drugs
  • Extortion
  • False bail
  • Falsely claiming citizenship
  • False information and hoaxes
  • First degree murder
  • Forcible rape
  • Forgery
  • Hacking crimes
  • Harboring terrorists
  • Hate crime acts
  • Homicide
  • Identity theft
  • Illegal possession of firearms
  • Immigration offenses
  • Impersonate making arrest or search
  • Insurance fraud
  • International parental kidnapping
  • Manslaughter
  • Misuse of passport
  • Money laundering
  • Motor vehicle theft
  • Murder by a federal prisoner
  • Obstruction of court orders
  • Obstruction of justice
  • Partial birth abortion
  • Perjury
  • Pirating
  • Possession of false papers to defraud the U.S.
  • Probation violation
  • Ransom money
  • Rape
  • Reproduction of citizenship papers
  • Rescue of seized property
  • Robbery
  • Sabotage
  • Sale of citizenship papers
  • Serial murders
  • Sexual abuse
  • Sexual assault
  • Sexual battery
  • Sex trafficking
  • Smuggling
  • Tampering with a witness, victim, or informant
  • Transportation of stolen vehicles
  • Transportation of terrorists
  • Trespassing
  • Treason
  • Use of weapons of mass destruction
  • Vandalism
  • Violence at international airports
  • Wire fraud

There are many other crimes that would be classified as federal crimes. When you’re being charged, you can find out if the crime is under the federal, state, or local jurisdiction.

One thing to note is that it is possible to be charged with both a federal and a state crime at the same time. For instance, if you rob a convenience store that is located on a federally protected Indian reservation, the state and federal government could charge you with robbery. Typically, a guilty verdict for both crimes would mean that the state sentencing is added on top of the federal sentencing. Even if you’ve been acquitted for a state crime, the federal government can charge you with a federal crime.

What You Should Do if You’re Facing Federal Criminal Charges

The first thing to do when you’re facing federal criminal charges is to hire a criminal defense attorney who can defend you. You can schedule consultations with attorneys and ask about their experience representing clients who were charged with federal crimes and what the outcomes were for those cases. Of course, it’s best to ask how much it will cost for the lawyer to represent you, and to look at testimonials from other clients they have represented as well.

Then, you should gather all the information you have about your case including evidence that could show that you are innocent. For example, perhaps you were at work when the supposed crime occurred and your supervisor is willing to attest to that fact. Maybe you were somewhere that had security cameras and you could pull that footage. If you have any other photos, videos, witness statements, or notes you took on what happened, then make sure to present them to your lawyer and indicate that they are attorney client privileged.

While your case is still ongoing, don’t discuss the details of it with anyone but your lawyer. If information gets out, it could end up hurting your case.

A Plea Bargain vs. a Trial

There are three possible outcomes for federal criminal charges: A dismissal, a plea bargain, or a trial.

If your criminal defense attorney is unable to get the charges dismissed, then they may be able to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor. Your attorney will give you guidance on if they believe a plea bargain is in your best interest. You also have a say in what course of action you choose. If at any time you feel like your criminal defense attorney is pushing you to take a plea deal, you can absolutely question why.

If you do not choose to go with a plea bargain, then you can fight the charges in court when you go to trial. There, the burden of proof is on the prosecutor, who will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are indeed guilty of the federal crime. The judge or jury has to be convinced that all evidence points to you being guilty.

A Felony vs. a Misdemeanor

Some less serious federal crimes are misdemeanors, while more severe crimes are felonies. Federal felonies fall into five categories: A, B, C, D, and E. The most serious crime is a Class A federal felony, which carries a maximum prison term of life imprisonment as well as up to $250,000 in fines. A Class E federal felony is the least serious one; it carries a prison term of up to five years and a maximum fine up to $5,000.

Federal misdemeanors fall into three categories, which are A, B, and C. Again, A is the most severe. If someone is guilty of a Class A federal misdemeanor, they will go to prison for one year or less, but the sentence must be a minimum of six months. There is a maximum fine of $100,000. With a Class C misdemeanor, there is a prison term of 30 days or less. The minimum sentence is five days, and there’s a maximum fine of $5,000.

Punishments for Federal Criminal Charges

Punishments for federal crimes are going to be much harsher than punishments for local or state crimes. For instance, if you are convicted of money laundering, you’ll owe twice the value of the amount of money you laundered up to $500,000 and you’ll face a prison sentence depending on what other crimes you committed (like money laundering for drug trafficking). Money laundering is what’s called a white-collar crime, and you can go to prison for committing one. Sometimes, in high-profile cases, defendants will be able to get probation instead of prison time.

For bank fraud, you could face a fine up to $1 million and a prison sentence of up to 30 years, and for firearms violations, you might have to go to prison for up to 30 years and pay fines of up to $10,000. For human trafficking, you’ll face a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison depending on the ages of the victims who were transported and other factors.

Federal Prisons in the U.S. and California

When you’re found guilty of a federal crime, you will be sent to a federal prison. In the U.S., there are 110 federal prisons with nearly 2.3 million people in them. The Department of Justice’s Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) manages these prisons. In federal prison, it is extremely difficult to get probation. Instead, you will most likely serve at least 85% of your prison sentence and then go through a period of supervised release.

If you’re convicted of a federal crime in California, you may serve your sentence at one of these federal prisons:

  • Metropolitan Correctional Center, San Diego
  • Metropolitan Detention Center, Los Angeles
  • United States Penitentiary, Victorville
  • Federal Correctional Institution, Herlong
  • Federal Correctional Institution, Terminal Island
  • Federal Correctional Institution, Victorville
  • Taft Correctional Institution

In these federal prisons and others like it across the U.S., the most common crimes prisoners have been charged with deal with immigration, public order, property, and drugs.

What Happens if You Have Federal Criminal Charges on Your Record

If you have federal criminal charges on your record, it could make your life very difficult once you get out of prison.

These charges could affect your future in a few different ways. When trying to secure housing, a landlord will be able to see any charges you have on your record and they may not want to rent to you. Additionally, an employer may not want to hire you based off your criminal record. However, the decision not to hire you has to be related to your charges. For instance, if you robbed a bank and were applying to work at one, that employer would likely be cautious about hiring you. But if you wanted to work as a car mechanic but you went to prison for vandalism, an employer may not have a good reason not to hire you.

If you want to go to college, you will not be eligible for grants and loans, so you’ll have to save up money or take out a private loan. Since college is expensive, your options may be limited.

Fighting your charges in court to get them dismissed could be the best option for you. Then, you won’t have this criminal record following you for the rest of your life and affecting your housing, employment, and education.

Calling on a Criminal Defense Lawyer for Help

If you are facing federal criminal charges and need representation, Elliot Silver can help. He has over 25 years of experience as a criminal defense lawyer in Oakland and has helped many clients fight their federal criminal charges. He will work hard to ensure that justice is served.

Just look at Silver Law Firm’s results: In 2017, Elliot Silver got a domestic violence charge reduced to a misdemeanor, and his client got a lesser sentence. In another case, Silver represented a man who was selling marijuana brownies. This man had a prior deferred judgment for selling drugs, which made everything a bit more complicated. However, Silver Law Firm was able to secure a dismissal once the man completed outpatient drug treatment. There are numerous successful cases like these on our law firm’s website if you want to find out more.

If you’re ready to get in touch and learn about our services, then contact Silver Law Firm today to schedule a free and confidential consultation. You can email us at, fill out the form on our website, or call us anytime at (510) 995-0000.

We look forward to hearing from you and helping you with your federal crimes case in California.

    100% Confidential