We have prepared this listing of frequently asked questions about federal crimes to help you. If you do not see your question answered below or you would like to speak about your specific legal situation in a free consultation, please call (412) 281-2146 to speak to one of our experienced federal defense attorneys at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC.
I am under federal investigation but haven’t been charged yet. Do I need an attorney?
If you are under federal investigation, you are likely to be arrested or indicted. It is very important to hire an experienced attorney as soon as possible, even if you are only being investigated. It can mean the difference between moving on with your life and facing federal criminal charges. Many times we can help you avoid being indicted altogether.
An attorney may be able to obtain information about the investigation that is crucial to the decisions you will need to make. Throughout this important stage, your federal attorney will ensure that your rights are protected under the U.S. Constitution. An attorney will know how to fight you federal case.
What is the difference between federal and state cases?
Federal cases fall are those that fall under federal jurisdiction. They involve interstate crimes or crimes that cross international boundaries. There is a difference between state and federal cases.
Who investigates federal crimes?
U.S. government agencies, including the FBI, DEA, Secret Service and ATF, investigate federal crimes. In some instances, Pittsburgh police may work along with federal agents to investigate a case.
Who prosecutes federal crimes?
If the alleged federal crime took place in the Pittsburgh area, it will likely be prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania.
What role does the grand jury play?
Federal grand juries investigate whether a federal crime took place and, if so, who likely committed that crime. When a grand jury finds that there is probable cause that a crime was committed, they will indict the person they believe violated the law.
Grand jury proceedings are secret. Witness testimony and the evidence presented are not disclosed to the public.
I am the target of a federal investigation. Will I have to testify before a grand jury?
During the process, a grand jury has the right to subpoena witnesses to testify before them. If someone is the target of a federal investigation and they are subpoenaed to appear before a grand duty, there is probably evidence they have committed a crime and they are likely to be indicted. Prior to issuing a subpoena for the target to testify, prosecutors will first attempt to have them testify voluntarily. If they don’t appear voluntarily, prosecutors will likely seek to have them subpoenaed.
What is asset forfeiture?
Asset forfeiture means that the federal government has seized money or property in connection with a crime. In criminal cases, federal law gives the government the right to confiscate assets such as money or vehicles that allegedly represent the proceeds of a crime.
If the government seizes your assets, you will receive a notice that informs you they intend to keep them. You will then have a limited time during which you can challenge the government’s right to retain your money and property. An experienced federal defense attorney can help you navigate this process and fight for your property.
What are federal sentencing guidelines?
Federal courts use a complex system of sentencing guidelines. Offenses are classified at 43 different levels, and points are added on based on prior convictions and other factors. Using this combination, sentencing judges determine which of four sentencing zones, each with a range of prison time, should be used to punish the defendant. Additionally, the judge has the leeway to increase or lessen a sentence based on extra or mitigating factors.
If you are found guilty in a federal court, your sentence will usually be harsher than if you were convicted in a Pennsylvania court.
Where will my case be tried?
In Pittsburgh, your case will be tried in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania located at the U.S. Courthouse, 700 Grant Street in downtown Pittsburgh.