Some crimes can only be prosecuted in the State Courts and others in both the State and Federal Courts. Not all criminal defense lawyers practice in both systems. Peter Aiken and Robert Foley actually began their careers as a Federal agents and Peter Aiken a Federal prosecutor. There is a world of difference between the two systems. It is many respects, it is similar to the difference between college football and professional football. The rules of evidence and procedure in many respects are different. Also, the quality of the investigations and the experience of the prosecutors is greater in the Federal system and the deck is stacked even more against you if you are indicted and have to go before a Federal judge in Tampa, Ft. Myers or Orlando.
What types of cases are prosecuted in Federal Court?
Major drug offenses involving smuggling marijuana, importing cocaine and distributing heroin, opiates and synthetic drugs are often charged there. Grow houses and money laundering are also common offenses. If a case is investigated by the FBI, the IRS, Secret Service, the ATF or ICE, it will be prosecuted there. Civil rights prosecutions against law enforcement officers are filed in the Federal system. Income tax evasion and the filing of false tax returns are prosecuted by federal prosecutors. All Customs violations end up in Federal Court as well as most bomb and terrorism cases. The Federal system is the big league when it comes to difficulty of defense and particularly sentencing. Many of the cases against doctors and health care providers are prosecuted in Tampa and Ft. Myers under the wire and mail fraud statutes. If cash or a large amount of money is involved and has been seized the Feds will generally take the money and try and forfeit it as contraband or seize it under the money laundering laws. Weapons violations involving machine guns, silencers, sawed off shotguns will all go to Federal Court where the Federal sentencing guidelines will put a person away for decades in the Federal prison system. When a crime is committed, even if the State does the arrest, they can send it into the Federal Courts to get the benefit of the harsher sentences. If you are under a Federal investigation, get a Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer. You have to have an attorney who knows the Federal law and Federal system.
Will my Case Go Federal?
It depends on who you are, what you have done and how bad they want you. If you are black and the case involves crack, or if you have a long criminal history, the local cops may hand your case over to the Feds. They know that if you are convicted there, you will get more time. Many of the crimes carry harsh minimum mandatory sentences and there is no chance of parole. Career criminals end up in Federal Court. Racism does exist and if you are of color, there is a greater chance of being prosecuted federally, particularly on the West coast of Florida. Peter Aiken, as a federal criminal attorney has actually tried cases in Federal Court all over Florida as well as in other cities like Los Angeles, Brooklyn, Savannah, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Jacksonville, Miami, Fort Lauderdale and most recently in a civil rights trial in Fort Myers.
Child Pornography and the Federal Courts
In recent years, the Feds have become heavily involved in prosecuting kiddie porn cases. The Federal sentencing guidelines have tripled the time you are facing if convicted. The judges often have no choice because of certain minimum mandatory penalties. There are defenses to these types of cases. As an Internet sex crime lawyer and former Federal prosecutor, Peter Aiken had defended men accused of possession and distribution of child pornography in the Courts. Some of the cases can be won on technicalities and in some cases there is a factual defense dealing with knowledge of what was on the computer. If you are contacted by a Federal agent and they ask for your computer, never voluntarily give it up. Cyber crime prosecution is up and Google regularly sends information about certain images to ICAC for investigation. You may be under investigation and never know it until they show up at your door. If arrested, they may try and get what is known as pretrial detention. That means no bond. Having a qualified experienced Federal criminal attorney is critical to success.
If you are arrested and end up in Federal Court you need quality representation by an experienced criminal lawyer. Not all lawyers have actually tried cases there. Look into an attorney’s background before making a decision. Do not rely on advertising alone. You need to meet with the lawyer and ask questions about his or her background, history, track record and then make your decision.