Federal Charges

When Facing Federal Charges, Experience is Your Ultimate Defense

Being charged with a federal crime in Florida is a life-altering experience. The stakes are high, the legal system complex, and the penalties potentially devastating. You need more than just a lawyer; you need seasoned federal criminal defense attorneys who are as tenacious as they are knowledgeable.

At Meltzer & Bell, P.A., we’ve built a decades-long track record of defending clients in Florida’s federal courts. Our experience includes:

  • Former Prosecutors Turned Defenders: We know how federal prosecutors build cases, their tactics, and how to expose the weaknesses in their arguments.
  • Trial-Tested in High-Stakes Cases: We’re not intimidated by the courtroom. With over 500 combined jury trials fought to verdict, we relentlessly defend your rights and best interests.
  • Strategic Defense for Complex Charges: Federal cases often involve vast evidence, nuanced laws, and severe potential sentences. We build meticulous defenses tailored to your unique circumstances.
  • Protecting Your Future Inside and Outside Court: These charges impact not just your freedom but also your career and reputation. We fight to minimize the long-term consequences of your case.

Navigating the World of Federal Criminal Defense

Federal charges demand a different level of expertise. Here’s what you need to know:

What is a Federal Crime?

Federal crimes violate laws passed by the United States Congress. They often involve:

  • Crimes crossing state or international borders
  • Offenses on federal property
  • Financial crimes, fraud, or white-collar crimes
  • Major drug conspiracies

Agencies Investigating Federal Crimes

  • FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation): Investigates diverse federal crimes from public corruption to drug trafficking.
  • DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency): Focuses on major drug offenses and large-scale drug trafficking organizations.
  • ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives): Enforces firearms laws and investigates related crimes.
  • IRS (Internal Revenue Service): Handles tax fraud, money laundering, and financial crimes.

Stages of Federal Criminal Prosecution

  1. Investigation: Federal agencies gather evidence through surveillance, witness interviews, and other investigative tactics.
  2. Arrest and Indictment: A grand jury reviews evidence and decides whether to issue an indictment (formal charge).
  3. Arraignment: You’re informed of the charges against you and enter a plea.
  4. Pre-Trial Motions: Legal arguments and disputes are settled before trial.
  5. Trial: If no plea agreement is reached, the case goes to trial.
  6. Sentencing: If convicted, the judge determines your sentence based on federal sentencing guidelines.

Delay Can Be Disastrous – Get Help Now

If you suspect you’re under investigation or have been charged, contact Meltzer & Bell today. We move quickly and aggressively to build your defense.

Florida Federal Defense Attorneys

At Meltzer & Bell, P.A., our criminal defense attorneys are both licensed and experienced in the U.S. District of Southern Florida, which includes federal courts in West Palm Beach, Miami and Fort Lauderdale. We are prepared to defend you if you face charges of violating any laws in the United States Code.

Rather than a public defender, you can have a West Palm Beach federal defense lawyer from Meltzer & Bell, P.A. who will be dedicated to you, instead of the massive caseloads these defenders often face. You will have access to one of our partners 24/7 and a team of experienced attorneys, who will work zealously on your behalf.  Call us today at (561) 557-8686 to set up a free consultation.

We can represent anyone facing criminal charges in the Southern District of Florida, including at the Paul G. Rogers Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in West Palm Beach, the U.S. Federal Building and Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale or any federal court in Miami.

Overview of Federal Crimes in the U.S.

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What is the Difference Between Federal and State Crimes?

The overall differences between federal and state charges are relatively slim. Both jurisdictions prosecute similar offenses, impose penalties on the convicted and offer alternative sentencing if it applies to your case. However, a crime on the federal level is much more likely to have harsher penalties than if it was charged at the state level. This is because crimes prosecuted on the federal level tend to be much more serious and constitute a greater threat to the public or national safety in general.

Many are charged on the federal level for crossing state lines when they committed the offense. Some examples of this can include parental kidnapping or stealing a car and crossing state lines. It’s important to understand that a crime can also “cross” state lines virtually. Computer crimes such as transmission of child pornography are often tried at the federal level because the offender sent sexual material of a child to a person or people in another state.

Crimes charged under state jurisdiction are nearly always committed within state lines. There are some instances where a Florida resident may have committed a crime in another state and is able to attend their court dates in Florida, but most state-level cases are tried in the state the offense was committed.

Immigration crimes are normally tried in the federal jurisdiction which can include harboring immigrants or committing visa fraud. Additionally, most terrorism-related crimes are charged in federal court since it’s a threat to national safety and security.

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Examples of Federal Crimes in the U.S. Code

federal defense lawyer West Palm Beach

You can be tried for a variety of crimes within the U.S. Code. However, many people are charged on the federal level because the crime was committed in the federal jurisdiction, the offense was connected to terrorism or espionage, or the offense was considered especially heinous. Some crimes that are commonly prosecuted in federal court include the following:

  • Counterintelligence crimes;
  • Violation of civil rights;
  • Organized criminal activity or racketeering;
  • Murder or attempted murder;
  • Corruption of the public;
  • Theft of jewelry, art or other items of high value;
  • Threats, kidnapping or violence against members of the government;
  • Money laundering or embezzlement;
  • Fraud;
  • Transmission or distribution of child pornography;
  • Human trafficking;
  • Sex trafficking;
  • Reproduction of child pornography;
  • Counterfeiting and forgery;
  • Tax violations;
  • Drug trafficking across borders;
  • Identity theft and access device fraud;
  • Computer crimes;
  • Harboring aliens;
  • Falsely claiming U.S. citizenship;
  • Illegal re-entry in the U.S;
  • Marriage fraud;
  • Visa fraud; and
  • Terrorism

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Who Investigates Federal Crimes in the U.S.?

It’s important to note that a federal prosecutor has much more resources at their disposal than a District Attorney in Florida. Multiple agencies and organizations within the U.S. government can be utilized when investigating a federal crime. This means the prosecutor will be able to collect a multitude of evidence against you that could jeopardize your case.

Some federal agencies that could assist in investigating your federal charge include:

  • S. Border Police;
  • Veterans Affair Police;
  • S. Customs agents;
  • S. Fish and Wildlife;
  • S. Park Police;
  • S. Postal Police and Inspectors;
  • Military Security Forces;
  • Drug enforcement Administration;
  • Environmental Protection Agency;
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI);
  • Health and Human Services;
  • S. Marshal Services; and
  • S. Secret Service

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What is the U.S. Federal Sentencing Guidelines?

Federal courts use something known as the Federal Sentencing Guidelines when deciding an offender’s punishment. These guidelines can be complex and challenging for a newcomer trying to understand. Having an attorney who is knowledgeable about federal sentencing guidelines isn’t just important, but essential. This is critical for you and your attorney to understand the severity of the crime and whether a plea bargain is the best course of action.

The federal sentencing guidelines divide every crime into level of offenses. As the severity increases so does the level of the crime. Each crime has a classification known as a base offense level, which is known as the starting point to determine the seriousness of their offense. For example, a white-collar crime is commonly placed on base level 6 or 7.

Another type of secondary level is known as a crime level. The crime level for an offense can be decreased or increased depending on certain factors existing within the offense. For instance, if the crime involved a gun, then the offense will be increased by five crime levels. The base level can also be increased if certain factors existed during the commission of the crime. If the gun discharged in our prior example, then not only the crime level would be changed but the base level could be susceptible to change.

The federal court will make further adjustments if needed. These can be at either the crime or base level for the offense. The court will then consider personal adjustment factors which has to do with the offender’s personal criminal history. If you have numerous convictions or an extensive criminal background, then the court may increase your crime or base level,

It’s important to remember that if you accept responsibility for your actions the court may apply a two-point reduction at the judge’s discretion.

Many charges in the U.S. Code, including drug trafficking, also have mandatory minimum sentences, with long prison terms. For instance, being convicted of possessing more than five kilograms of cocaine will result in a prison sentence of at least 10 years behind bars.

As an additional consequence, the U.S. government can seize assets it proves were used in the crime. You could lose millions to asset forfeiture, especially if your home or business is found to be tied to your crime.

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Federal Courthouses in South Florida

U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Florida: The Southern District covers Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade Counties, with five courthouses in the region:

Paul G. Rogers Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse

701 Clematis Street Room 202

West Palm Beach, FL 33401

(561) 803-3400

U.S. Federal Building and Courthouse

299 East Broward Boulevard #108

Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301

(954) 769-5400

Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr. United States Courthouse

400 North Miami Avenue

Miami, FL 33128

(305) 523-5100

Clyde Atkins United States Courthouse

301 North Miami Avenue

Miami, FL 33128

(305) 523-5100

James Lawrence King Federal Justice Building

99 N.E. Fourth Street

Miami, FL 33132

(305) 523-5100

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Additional Resources

U.S. Code | Crimes and Criminal Procedure – Visit the official website for the U.S. Code to learn more about what offenses are tried in the federal jurisdiction, the penalties, immunities to witnesses, and how they handle juvenile federal crimes.

2018 Federal Sentencing Guidelines – Visit the official website for the United States Sentencing Commission to learn gain access to the U.S. Government’s Sentencing Guidelines. Access the document to find charts illustrating base or crime levels, types of adjustments and the ultimate process of determining a sentence.

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Federal Defense Attorney in West Palm Beach, Florida

Federal charges call for a strong, well-prepared defense. At Meltzer & Bell, P.A., we are a skilled team that can fight for your rights. You can have an experienced West Palm Beach federal defense lawyer fighting for you in the U.S. Court in the Southern District of Florida, whether in West Palm Beach, Miami or Fort Lauderdale.

Call us today at (561) 557-8686 to set up a free consultation. We will sit with you, hear your case and start charting out a strong defense for your today. Meltzer & Bell, P.A. accepts clients throughout the greater Palm Beach County area including West Palm Beach, Wellington, Palm Beach, Jupiter and Boca Raton.

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FAQs: Protecting Your Rights and Understanding Federal Cases

Q: What should I do if federal agents show up at my house?

A: Stay calm. Anything you say can be used against you. You have the right to remain silent. Politely inform them you want to speak to your lawyer and contact Meltzer & Bell, P.A. immediately. Do not consent to searches or answer questions without legal representation.

Q: What is a grand jury subpoena?

A: A subpoena is a legal order compelling you to testify or produce documents before a federal grand jury. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re the target of an investigation, but it requires immediate consultation with an experienced federal defense attorney.

Q: What should I do if I’m indicted for a federal crime?

A: Contact Meltzer & Bell immediately. An indictment means a grand jury found probable cause for the charges. We’ll analyze the case, explain your options, and start crafting your defense strategy.

Q: What is a PSR, and how will it impact my case?

A: PSR stands for Pre-Sentence Report. If convicted, it’s prepared by a probation officer and contains details about your background, criminal history, and more. It heavily influences the judge’s sentencing decision. We’ll carefully review the PSR for errors and address any inaccuracies.

Q: Prosecutors offered a plea bargain, should I take it?

A: Never accept a plea deal without first consulting an attorney. Plea bargains may seem tempting, but they carry long-term consequences. We’ll analyze the offer, your case’s strengths, and the potential outcomes of both a plea deal and going to trial.

Q: How often does the government succeed in getting convictions?

A: Federal prosecutors have high conviction rates, but that doesn’t mean your case is lost. A seasoned federal defense attorney knows how to challenge the government’s evidence, expose weaknesses in their case, and negotiate strategically.

Q: Does hiring a federal defense lawyer improve my chances of a better outcome?

A: Absolutely. The federal criminal justice system is complex. An experienced attorney navigates its intricacies, protects your rights, and presents the strongest possible defense. With your future on the line, having a skilled advocate makes a significant difference.

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