Santa Maria Federal Criminal Attorney
Federal courts differ from state courts in many ways. One of the most important differences is that federal sentencing can be exceptionally harsh on defendants who are convicted. In many cases, federal courts impose substantially longer prison terms than the sentences provided by California’s penal code.
If you or one of your family members has been charged with a federal offense in Santa Maria, it is imperative that you immediately contact a criminal defense attorney who not only has extensive experience handling federal cases, but is highly knowledgeable about the intricate rules and procedures governing federal court. Count on the Santa Maria federal criminal lawyers at The Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC to put our 22 years of experience to work for you. To set up a free consultation, call our law offices right away at (805) 643-5555.
Types of Criminal Cases That Can Be Tried in California Federal Court
Most criminal cases are prosecuted in state courts under state laws. However, there are some crimes which are prosecuted in federal court. These crimes are known as federal crimes or federal offenses.
There are many scenarios in which a case can be tried in either federal court or a state court, such as one of California’s superior courts. However, there are also some scenarios where only a federal court has jurisdiction, or authority to make legal decisions, over a given case. The United States District Court for the Central District of California has jurisdiction over seven counties, including Santa Barbara County and therefore Santa Maria.
Some examples of crimes that may be tried in federal court include:
- Crimes that occur on federal property, such as bank robberies (18 U.S. Code § 2113), crimes that are committed on military reservations, or crimes that are committed at national parks. For example, if a murder is allegedly committed on a military reservation, it would be prosecuted under the federal murder statute (18 U.S. Code § 1111) rather than California’s murder statute (Cal. Penal Code § 187).
- Crimes that cross over state lines, such as alleged drug trafficking or human trafficking that passes across state boundaries.
- Many types of “white collar” crimes, or crimes of a financial nature. Some examples could include:
- Bank Fraud (18 U.S. Code § 1344)
- Counterfeiting (18 U.S. Code § 2320)
- Credit Card Fraud (18 U.S. Code § 1029)
- Mail and Wire Fraud (18 U.S. Code § 1341, 18 U.S. Code § 1343)
Depending on the type of crime being alleged, investigations may be conducted by various government agencies, including the:
- DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration)
- ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement)
- IRS (Internal Revenue Service)
- FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation)
Federal Sentencing Guidelines: Prison Terms and Mandatory Minimums
Judges have some discretion over sentencing if a defendant is convicted in federal court. However, judges do not impose arbitrary sentences. Instead, they look to pre-determined sentencing guidelines, which undergo periodic revisions.
The federal sentencing guidelines are both harsh and highly complex. There are no fewer than 43 “offense levels” which can be assigned to a criminal act. Furthermore, each defendant receives one of six possible “criminal history category” designations based on their prior offenses, if any.
Sentencing is based on how an offense level and criminal history category interact, among other factors. Judges may select a sentence from a range of possible options, unless there are variables which have not been addressed by the guidelines, in which case the judge may order a different prison term, with a written explanation. For instance, mitigating factors can shorten a sentence, while aggravating factors can make a sentence longer. If the judge gives the defendant a shortened sentence, the federal government may appeal (challenge) the decision. Conversely, the defendant may potentially appeal if he or she receives an extended sentence.
Due to mandatory minimums, judges have limited sentencing flexibility when it comes to certain crimes. For example, there is a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years for defendants who are convicted of certain federal child pornography offenses under 18 U.S.C. § 2251. The maximum sentence may range up to 30 years.
Federal Defense Attorneys Representing Defendants Arrested in Santa Maria, CA
If you, your spouse, or one of your family members is under investigation by the federal government, it is crucial that you contact a highly experienced federal criminal attorney as soon as possible. It may be possible to intervene before criminal charges are formally filed against you or your loved one. A federal defense lawyer from The Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC will fight tenaciously to protect your legal rights, fight the allegations against you, and minimize the negative consequences to your career, reputation, and personal life.
It is critical that you act immediately if you were arrested in Santa Maria, or if you even suspect that you are being investigated. Do not wait until it is already too late to seek skilled legal counsel. To arrange a free and completely confidential legal consultation, call The Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC at (805) 643-5555 today.