Los Angeles Federal Criminal Defense Attorney
The first thing you should do if you are about to be charged with a federal crime or have already been charged with one is to say nothing and set up a face-to-face meeting with a seasoned federal criminal defense attorney. Talking to the federal authorities (FBI, DEA, ICE, or other federal entity) is almost always a huge mistake. Most of the time, I see clients' cases who have made statements; the information they gave during the statement is usually the best evidence against them in the case.
If you sit down with a criminal defense attorney, then they can represent you and do the talking for you. They can also help you decide whether to speak to the authorities or not. If you do choose to talk to the federal prosecutors and their agents, there are certain protections you can utilize to your advantage. Being charged with a Federal crime is not to be taken lightly.
What is a "Queen for a Day" Agreement?
There are several scenarios where it makes sense in a federal case to sit down with your attorney and the federal government and answer their questions. Sometimes they have a misconception about you and your guilt related to federal criminal charges, and this meeting gives you the chance to explain what is going on with you. Other times you want to sit down with them to convince them to provide you with some advantage or time of your sentence.
The “Queen for a Day” letter permits you to give them information and answer their questions without risking them using the information against you. This type of agreement says that anything you say during your meeting with them is not allowed to be used against you in any criminal way.
The only way the feds can use a statement made during a “Queen for a Day” meeting is if they can show you lied to them or if you get on the witness stand in a future proceeding and say something different than you did during the meeting with the feds.
The point here is that you will not be able to make statements in the future that are inconsistent with the information made under this particular agreement. To determine whether it makes sense for you to participate in a “Queen for a Day” session is to discuss it with your attorney and let them guide you through this process and make the right decision. During a “Queen for a Day” meeting, you are treading dangerous water. Make sure you have an experienced federal crime attorney in such a scenario.
What Is the Best Strategy for a Federal Case?
Suppose you face federal charges in a Central District of California Federal Court. In that case, your first move should be to hire a seasoned federal criminal defense attorney that has handled cases like yours to a successful resolution. If you find an attorney who knows what they are doing, you should sit down with them with a list of questions and clarify what you are up against and the potential defenses you may have. Once you are clear on the parameters of your case, you will have a sense of control back, and you can proceed to resolve your matter with confidence.
Our federal crime lawyers in the San Fernando Valley can clear away all your confusion and answer any questions you may have relating to your case. If you know what you are facing and the steps to achieve the best possible result for your case, this sense of clarity will hopefully begin getting this situation behind you.
I find that once a client comes and sits down with me. I explain to them how the judge and prosecutor will likely deal with their case invariably; I notice that the client feels better and has a sense of calmness in knowing that now they can begin putting their life back together.
Once a sound plan is structured between myself and the client, it is just a matter of executing the strategy and doing everything possible to achieve the best result. As a San Fernando Valley Federal crime attorney, I have done this for many clients.
What Can You Expect in Your Federal Case?
The United States Federal Government is one of the most powerful and well-financed globally. Its criminal justice system is second to none. To match forces with them, you must have an attorney that has been around the block in the federal arena and had success! Because of the sophistication level of the national criminal justice system, the prosecutors and agents are typically very prepared and do a detailed job in the investigation and prosecution of a criminal case.
Thus, the answer to the question above is to find a more prepared and seasoned attorney than they are and provide them with the information necessary to defend your case correctly. Over ninety percent of cases are resolved through a negotiated plea in the federal system. Hence, your attorney is better at dealing with your issue and making sure you are in the best position when it comes time for sentencing.
Our attorneys are experienced and confident at the Hedding Law Firm handling criminal cases in state and federal courts. Suppose you are being charged with a crime in federal court. In that case, it is essential to retain the services of an experienced lawyer that is knowledgeable on all federal criminal laws and courtroom procedures. We know how the system works and how to work the system, including bail and pretrial release. That being said, your best interest is our top priority.
How Does The Federal Court System Work?
The initial step is an investigation conducted by federal agencies such as Homeland Security, the DEA, the FBI, or other federal agencies. The investigation results are submitted to the federal prosecutor's office. The prosecutor will evaluate the case and decide if a further investigation needs to take place or if they will file a criminal case. If the prosecutor believes that a crime has been committed, they have options on how to proceed.
If you already have a federal criminal defense attorney representing you, they will typically call the attorney and discuss the case and attempt to decide how to proceed. If there is no attorney available to talk to, they will usually send federal agents to arrest you, and you will appear in federal court and can argue not to be detained while your case is pending.
Having an attorney from the beginning of your case puts you in the most vital position to defend yourself and achieve the best possible result. When the federal prosecutors call me after they decide to file a case, I can often structure the entire case during that first conversation.
I can convince them not to make you post bail and work out a resolution that makes sense based on your circumstances. Other times, I can give them the defense's position in the case and convince them not to file certain charges, and deal with the issue in a way that is best for my client.
What Are the Federal Sentencing Guidelines?
In a federal criminal case, the judge and attorneys on a particular case will use the federal sentencing guidelines to determine the sentence for a specific case. They are referred to as guidelines because the parties can argue for a higher or lower sentence than what the guidelines say, and ultimately once the judge consults the guidelines, listens to the attorney's arguments, listens to the defendant, and reviews the pre-sentence report, they can sentence the defendant with whatever sentence they deem appropriate.
Anyone entering the federal criminal arena must realize and respect their judge's tendencies and hire an attorney, particularly a Federal crime attorney in the San Fernando Valley, CA, who can do what is necessary to assert your rights and achieve the best possible outcome for you.
These guidelines are typically adhered to by prosecutors and judges alike. They outline what the appropriate considerations and sentences are for all federal crimes. Your attorney must be familiar with them and apply them to many cases to represent you successfully. I find it essential to go over the applicable guidelines on every topic with my clients to know what they are up against and how to combat the government and angle the case in our favor.
How To Work Out a Deal to Know Your Sentence
In most state cases, if a person works out a deal with the prosecutors, they know precisely their sentence before the judge ever says a word at the sentencing. In federal criminal cases, the defendant does not know what the penalty will be because, ultimately, it is up to the federal judge to make that final decision.
This may sound strange to most people, but it is how the system is set up. In most cases, it ends up working out OK for the defendant as long as they have mitigating circumstances on their side. Their attorney does an excellent job of pointing out all of the mitigating factors related to their case.
Before a federal judge can sentence a person in a criminal case, they must consider certain essential sentencing vehicles. First, they must consult the sentencing guidelines related to the particular case to be sentenced. Further, they must view the Pre-sentence Report that the Federal Probation Department prepares. And finally, they will review the defendant's sentencing position and the prosecutor's position and listen to oral arguments at the sentencing before they pass judgment on the particular defendant.
The way the system is set up can sometimes work to the benefit of the defendant and other times to the use of the government. Another huge issue that I have seen over the past 25 years is the judge who makes a crucial difference in the ultimate sentence. However, even the most demanding judges can be convinced of the defendant's position if their attorney makes the right moves and presents the proper evidence.
What Are the Federal Jury Instructions?
In California, where I'm based, that's in the Ninth Circuit, and those jury instructions are typically called the Manual of Model Criminal Instructions, which came out in about 2010. That's the one for the criminal. So, the Ninth Circuit controls California, Los Angeles, and San Diego. So, suppose you're going to do a trial in a federal court in Los Angeles.
In that case, they're typically using the Model Criminal Jury Instructions that came out in 2010. The judges will read those to the jury before the trial starts – sometimes even during the test if they want to make a point – and even after the trial.
These jury instructions are essential in federal court and any federal case because they are the road map given to jurors in a criminal case. Suppose someone is charged with bank robbery, for example. In that case, the judge, in the end, is going to give them all the elements that the prosecution – the Assistant United States Attorney – has to prove the person guilty of bank robbery.
If they miss one element, they cannot prove the elements or one of the elements of a bank robbery case in that example; then the jury will have to find the defendant not guilty. Each defendant in federal court and most courts across the United States is presumed innocent unless prosecutors prove them guilty. So, with that presumption of innocence, if the jurors had their vote at the beginning of a federal case before they heard any of the evidence, they would have to find the person not guilty because they hadn't heard any evidence, and there's a presumption of innocence.
In addition, in the Ninth Circuit, when it comes to these jury instructions, each of the elements and each of the charges in the indictment that is read to the jury before the case starts and that they're going to be working off of as far as the charges, has to be proved to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt. Suppose there's reasonable doubt in the jury's mind as to whether or not any of the elements were established. In that case, they will have to find the defendant not guilty in federal court and all the state courts in California.
Can Judges Modify a Jury Instruction?
Most of the time, the judges will use those model rules in 2010 for a federal criminal jury case. However, if there's a particular issue that comes up – and it does happen once in a while in a case – and there's case law that covers that issue. Sometimes I see judges modify the jury instructions or give an additional jury instruction that's not in the Model Rules to fit the case, fit what the prosecution is claiming that the defendant did, or sometimes the defense can come up with their jury instructions.
Of course, it's based on the law and based on the facts of the case, to show that there is a defense to the case and to show that the prosecutors have not proven the charges against them, and they can argue in the closing argument that the jury should find the defendant not guilty. They can then point to the Model Rule or modified jury instruction the judge gave and argue that the prosecution has not met its burden.
Downward Departures in Federal Criminal Cases
There are a lot of cases that are prosecuted at the national border. I had a client who had young children, no criminal record, and was just a mule but had a lot of drugs in her possession. So, she was looking at the 10-year mandatory minimum because it's a federal drug case, and the number of medications she had easily hit the national minimum.
We ended up getting a 24-month sentence which is an incredible sentence when you're talking about that many drugs, but some of the things that we utilized were near the San Diego border. There's a fast track available for defendants. Because of her kid, she also had family circumstances; she had a good job. And I think what breathed life into her story was that she had a strict upbringing, and she was trying to do this to make her life better and her kids' lives better.
So, if you've got a good story that makes sense, even if the feds have you, there are mitigating factors. They call them downward departures in federal criminal defense, where we can go below the 10-year mandatory minimum.
We can use such things as a safety valve and several other angles that can be utilized to avoid that 10-year mandatory minimum for a federal drug case. That would be served 85% of the time because it's federal.
So, we need to look at what happened in your case — whether the evidence against you is good because if they don't have good evidence or illegally searched you or illegally wiretapped you, there are motions we can file to try to get rid of the case.
Avoiding the 10-Year Mandatory Minimum Sentence
But, if we have a scenario where they've gone things the right way and have the goods on you, that doesn't necessarily mean it has to be a 10-years sentence or more. There are ways to get around that 10-year sentence.
There are ways to salvage your life still and keep you out of federal prison for an extended period. Still, you will have to be completely honest with an attorney like me who has been doing this now for 26 years, handling federal criminal cases — specifically federal drug cases, RICO charges are over the nation.
Contact a Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer
So, when it comes to jury instructions in federal cases, it's a vital subject whether you're handling a case in the Ninth Circuit or anywhere across the country. You're going to want to know what the rules are. You're going to want to know what the law is. You're going to want to be prepared from the beginning of the case to challenge and attack the elements of the crimes and let the jury know that the prosecution has not proven their case in the closing argument because the jury will read those jury instructions throughout the case. They will be given a copy of the jury instructions to take back in with them in their deliberations.
They're going to be read a whole long list of jury instructions before they go back to deliberate and decide a federal criminal case. You want to be familiar with all those elements as a federal criminal defense attorney and even as a defendant if you're going to testify.
You'll want to know precisely what the government has to prove to find you guilty in a case. So, you're going to want to have that in your mind, and you're going to like to discuss with your attorney all the elements that have to be proven and any defense instructions that are going to be given.
So, when the prosecutor comes to challenge you and attack you on cross-examination, you can know where they're attacking you from and be able to best defend yourself and answer the questions in an honest, straightforward manner that covers those jury instructions. We have helped clients in similar cases over the years.