Q: What is the difference between a federal and state crime?
A: A federal crime is a violation of a statute passed by the United States Congress. A state crime is a violation of a statute or ordinance passed by the state legislature or a local authority. Many crimes could be prosecuted in both state and federal courts.
Q: Who investigates and prosecutes federal crimes?
A: Federal criminal offenses are usually investigated by agents of federal agencies such as the FBI, DEA, ATF, Secret Service, etc... Occasionally, state law enforcement officers work with federal agencies. Federal crimes are usually prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office in the area where the crime was committed.
Q: Do I need a "federal" defense attorney if I am charged with or under investigation for a federal crime?
A: Yes. Your lawyer must be licensed to practice law in federal court where the case is pending. Because the federal court system is different than the state court system, it is important your attorney has experience in federal court.
Q: What are the Federal Sentencing Guidelines?
A: From 1987 until January 2005, if a defendant in federal court was found guilty or pleaded guilty, the judge would determine punishment based on the federal Sentencing Guidelines. The United States Sentencing Guidelines manual contains the rules for determining the nature of the sentence that the judge would issue. Just recently in January 2005, Congress declared the mandatory nature of the guidelines unconstitutional. Now the guidelines are used as advisory tools to help judges determine sentences.
Q: If I am simply under investigation for a federal offense and haven't been charged for a crime do I need an attorney?
A: Yes. To help protect your rights, you should contact an attorney right away. The investigation phase is crucial for the defendant, and statements that are made or not made to law enforcement officers could change the outcome of the case for better or worse. To have an attorney at this point is very important. Call Sumpter & Gonzalez at 512-381-9955 and we will set you up with an appointment with an attorney immediately.