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While certain aspects of the criminal process are shared by both state and federal criminal prosecutions, other aspects of the two settings are worlds apart. Generally, Oklahoma federal courts create a much more difficult environment for negotiating a plea agreement due to the existence of the federal sentencing guidelines. However, the fact that Oklahoma federal criminal court is generally more difficult to navigate in no way should lessen the perceived seriousness of an Oklahoma criminal prosecution in any other setting.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that Federal criminal prosecutions have been on a steady rise for the past 15 years. Moreover, federal criminal charges are often viewed as more serious than Oklahoma state criminal charges due to the prosecuting party. Obviously, the State of Oklahoma is the prosecution in an Oklahoma state criminal proceeding; however, in a federal prosecution, it is the full force of the United States of America trying to convict the Defendant. Understandably, the United States of America has greater resources and manpower that it is willing to unleash on any individual who draws its wrath. As such, any Defendant charged with a federal crime in Oklahoma needs an experienced federal criminal lawyer.
The easiest way to explain the process for resolving a criminal case in federal court is to first note that some of the steps seem almost backward as compared to the process in state court. In federal court, the prosecution is started in one of two ways. In some instances, the Defendant will be contacted by the United States Attorney's Office for the federal district in which he or she is charged (this will be either the Western, Northern, or Eastern District of Oklahoma). The U.S. Attorney's office will send what is known as a target letter to the Defendant, advising him or her that charges will be filed by indictment unless the Defendant, or his or her attorney, contacts the prosecution to discuss the case. One can also be charged in federal court by indictment.
If you are indicted, you will be made aware of the indictment and then required to appear in front of a magistrate judge to answer to the charges for which you were indicted. However, most cases in federal court proceed forward by a target letter.
If you receive a target letter and move forward with meeting the prosecution, you may be given a plea agreement to sign and file. This agreement will not lay out the specific sentence that you will receive as in state court; instead, it will only explain the charges, the promises that the government intends to keep if the agreement is reached, and the promises the Defendant must keep for the agreement to be reached.
From there, the case will be set for what is known as a "waive and file" hearing, where the Defendant will waive his right to indictment and request that the judge accept his guilty plea to the charges. After the waive and file hearing, a pre-sentence report (PSR) will be conducted by the U.S. Probation Office. The PSR will then be distributed to all parties, and they will have the opportunity to make objections and request corrections to the report.
After the corrections have been made to the PSR, the case will move forward towards sentencing. Each party will be allowed to submit a sentencing memo to the judge explaining the requested sentence and outlining the law and facts that support the request.
Ultimately, the sentence is determined by the judge. The judge will take into consideration the advisory sentencing guidelines and the statutory law in relation to the charges. The judge will then order the Defendant to a specific term of probation or incarceration. That is why the federal process seems backward compared the state process: in federal court, most cases begin with a plea agreement and then spend the rest of the case arguing for a specific sentence. In state court, you spend the majority of the case arguing for a specific sentence from the start, and then it usually ends in a plea agreement.
Immigration prosecutions have dominated the realm of federal criminal prosecution in recent years. In 2009, immigration was the most prevalent federal criminal charge in the United States at the time of arrest and investigation. As the United States has made further efforts to “beef-up” its border patrol, more and more individuals are being apprehended and prosecuted for allegations of illegal immigration. Regardless of the truth of the allegations, individuals must realize that the United States Constitution protects the rights of all human beings subject to its authority and not merely U.S. citizens. As such, any person charged with a violation of criminal law in this country deserves the protection and shelter of at least the minimal constitutional protections the United States of America was founded on. A person’s citizenship is of no consequence to his or right to an effective Oklahoma immigration attorney.
With the United States continually crusading its largely unsuccessful “War on Drugs,” federal drug crimes have taken a front seat in the eyes of federal prosecutors. In 2009, federal criminal drug charges where the most prevalent federal criminal offense at the time of adjudication and sentencing. Federal drug charges were also reported as the largest area of conviction for Defendants in prison and under federal supervision.
The vast majority of federal drug charges stem from the movement of illegal drugs or illegal drug funds across state lines. This is because the major basis for Congress' drug-enforcement authority comes from its Constitutionally-granted powers over the areas of commerce, taxation, and the postal service. As such, whenever illicit drugs or material related to the distribution or manufacturing of such drugs perks the federal government’s collective ears, there is always the possibility that agencies such as the ATF, DEA, or FBI may become intimately involved with the investigation and prosecution. Drug crimes require specific defense strategies. If you're facing charges make sure to speak to a qualified attorney familiar with these cases.
As noted earlier, many aspects of the criminal process are shared by both federal and state criminal prosecutions. Though white collar crimes do not generally involve violence, there is always a victim. A single scam can destroy a company, devastate families, or cost investors billions of dollars. The stakes may be higher when dealing with white collar prosecutions on the federal level, but federal white collar crime still draws many similarities to Oklahoma white collar crime.
Violence happens every day in the United States. Often times, the violence will be isolated to one state or municipality; however, there has been a study influx of federal violent crime throughout our country’s history.
Please read more here about laws pertaining to homicide, arson, and assault & battery. Any act of violence can be investigated and prosecuted by the federal authorities when it occurs in more than one state. Furthermore, federal agencies are able to prosecute violence when they are able to fit the allegations into the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), which was created by the federal government in 1970 to prosecute the Mafia as well as others who were actively engaged in organized crime. Regardless, RICO’s influence has grown much more widespread in recent years and serves as an invaluable tool for federal prosecutors.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a federal crime in Oklahoma, time is of the essence. You need an experienced federal criminal lawyer, and you need one right now. Call the Law Offices of Adam R. Banner, P.C., and retain an accomplished attorney ready to fight for your rights. Call us today at (405) 778-4800 for a free consultation.