The Kann California Law Group: Federal Criminal Law
“What Should I Do If I've Been Charged With A Federal Crime?”
While California maintains its own criminal legal code, it is also subject to the law of the United States of America. Thus, courts of California apply both state and federal law. You may encounter federal law via enforcement agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and many others. Whether an investigation has just been initiated against you or you have already been charged, you will need the representation of an experienced California federal criminal defense attorney if you've been charged with a federal crime.
The Kann California Law Group offers federal criminal legal defense representation. Below you'll find information on what federal crimes are in general, the differences between state and federal courts, a list of nearly forty well-known federal crimes, discussion of why federal sentences are often harsher than state sentences, insight into whether you'll have to serve the same percentage of your sentence for violating federal criminal law as state criminal law, a brief recitation of agencies that enforce federal criminal law, advice on what makes a good federal criminal defense lawyer, and help on what you should do if you've been accused of violating federal criminal law.
Please feel free to contact the Kann California Law Group in Santa Clarita, Ventura, Encino, Pasadena or Los Angeles/Los Angeles County with further questions. Your goes directly to a lawyer - guaranteed.
“What Are Federal Crimes, In General?”
Federal crimes, in general: 1) Involve breaking the criminal law of the United States; and/or; 2) Involve committing a crime on property regulated by the federal government, like court buildings or airports.
“What Differences Are There Between State And Federal Courts?”
There are many differences between state and federal courts. Perhaps most significant, the federal government has jurisdiction over laws created by the US Congress. These laws are valid in all states, regardless of whether the states have affirmatively consented to their application. Currently, there are in excess of 100 such federal offenses applicable in California.
Most federal crimes are prosecuted by federal prosecutors, known as United States Attorneys (or US Attorneys), and proceedings occur in a federal district court, not a state facility. Penalties under federal law are often more severe than their state equivalents. Finally, sentences imposed under the federal regime are served in federal prisons.
State crimes, in contrast, will be prosecuted by state prosecutors in state courts. State courts can be found in every California county and are in fact very common. In these courts, state law directs punishment. Sentence time will also be served in either a county jail or a state prison under state law.
“Which Agencies Investigate Violation Of Federal Criminal Law?”
While it is impossible to present an exhaustive list on this page, below are three of the better-known agencies that investigate violation of federal criminal law.
- The Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
The IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS/CI) says that it investigates “potential criminal violations of the Internal Revenue Code and related financial crimes in a manner that fosters confidence in the tax system and compliance with the law.” The CI pursues individuals and businesses if there's irregularity in federal income tax payments. The IRS prosecutes business and individuals, and often embroils itself in federal fraud investigations.
- The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
The FBI investigates crimes ranging from terrorism to counterfeiting. The statutory purpose of the FBI is investigation and enforcement as these pertain to federal criminal law. If you're suspected of a federal crime of any sort, therefore, there's a good chance that the FBI will take at least some interest in the case.
- The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)
The DEA says that “All of the resources and people of DEA are dedicated to [its] mission of enforcing the controlled substances laws and regulations of the United States.” This includes investigating criminals and gangs. The DEA also regulates the manufacture and distribution of controlled pharmaceuticals, and coordinates with other enforcement agencies.
“What Crimes Are Punished Under Federal Law?”
While a complete list isn't possible here, the following crimes are punished under federal law:
- Accounting Fraud
Accounting fraud (United States Code [U.S.C.] Title 18, § [Section] 1520) applies when any accountant who conducts an audit of certain kinds of issuers of securities fails to maintain audit or review workpapers for a period of five years from the end of the fiscal period in which the audit or review is concluded. Failure to promulgate rules relating to retention of relevant records is also criminalized by the statute. Violation of Section 1520 may result in a term of up to ten (10) years in a federal prison and/or substantial fines.
- Antitrust (The Sherman Antitrust Act)
The Sherman Antitrust Act (15 U.S.C. §1-38) outlaws all contracts, combinations, and conspiracies that unreasonably restrain interstate and foreign trade. The Act also makes it a crime to monopolize any part of interstate commerce. Violation may result in criminal penalties. Punishment under Section 1 of the Act may result in up to ten (10) years in a federal prison and/or a fine of up to $1,000,000 (one million dollars) (for a private person).
- Bank Fraud
Under 18 U.S.C. §1344, you can be prosecuted for bank fraud if you knowingly use or attempt any scheme to defraud a financial institution. The same is true of fraudulently obtaining money, credit, securities, or other property from a financial institution by false pretenses or misrepresentation. Violation may result in up to forty (40) years in a federal prison, a fine of up to $1,000,000 (one million dollars), or both a fine and imprisonment.
- Bank Robbery
Title 18 U.S.C. §2113 criminalizes using force, violence, or intimidation, to take, or attempt to take, property or money or anything of value belonging to, or in the care of, any bank, credit union, or any savings and loan association. If you're convicted of Bank Robbery, you face up to twenty (20) years in a federal prison and/or substantial fines.
- Bankruptcy Fraud
Under 18 U.S.C. §157, you commit bankruptcy fraud if you devise, intend to devise, execute, conceal or attempt to execute or conceal a scheme to defraud using any bankruptcy court to carry out your crime. Violation may result in up to five (5) years in a federal prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000 (two-hundred-fifty-thousand dollars) (for an individual).
- Bringing In & Harboring Undocumented Aliens
Federal law makes it illegal to bring in and harbor undocumented aliens (8 U.S.C. §1324). Statute also prohibits aiding or encouraging an undocumented person to enter the country. Conspiracies to bring and and/or harbor undocumented aliens are similarly criminalized. If convicted, you face up to twenty (20) years in a federal prison and/or a substantial fine.
- Child Pornography
Child pornography (18 USC §2251) is criminalized broadly under federal law. Employing, using, persuading, inducing, enticing, or coercing children to participate in pornography are prohibited under Section 2251 of the United States Code, among illegal acts. The statute further criminalizes conspiracies connected with child pornography. Conviction under this Section may generate a term of life in a federal prison and a substantial fine.
- Citizenship Fraud
Citizenship fraud (18 U.S.C. §911) involves falsely and willfully representing oneself as a US citizen when one is not. The crime can result in up to three (3) years imprisonment, a fine of up to $250,000 (two-hundred-fifty-thousand dollars), or both imprisonment and a fine.
Conspiracy law (18 U.S.C. §371) criminalizes committing any offense against the United States, or defrauding the United States, or any of its agencies, in any manner or for any purpose, so long as the conspirators do something to put the conspiracy into action. If the conspiracy is meant to commit a felony, you face the possibility of five (5) years in a federal prison and a fine.
- Controlled Substances
Possession of a controlled substance is criminalized under 18 U.S.C. §844. The statute makes it unlawful to knowingly and intentionally possess a controlled substance unless it was obtained directly, or pursuant to a valid prescription or order, from a practitioner who was acting in the course of professional practice, or except as otherwise authorized by law. Conviction may result in up to three (3) years in a federal prison and a fine of at least $5,000 (five-thousand dollars).
Counterfeiting is criminalized under 18 U.S.C. §471. The statute makes it illegal for anyone, with fraudulent intent, to falsely make, forge, counterfeit, or alter any obligation or other security of the United States. If you are convicted, the penalty may be up to twenty (20) years in a federal prison and substantial fines.
- Drug Trafficking
Federal drug trafficking law (21 U.S.C. §841) makes it illegal to manufacture, distribute, or dispense, or to possess with intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense, a controlled substance. It also criminalizes creating, distributing, dispensing, or possessing with intent to distribute or dispense, a counterfeit substance. If you're convicted of the offense, you face the chance of life in prison and a fine of up to $20 million (twenty million dollars) (as an individual).
- Embezzlement (By Bank Officer or Employee)
Embezzlement under 18 U.S.C. §656 occurs whenever an officer, director, agent, or employee connected in any capacity with any Federal Reserve bank or member bank embezzles funds or securities entrusted to the bank or to the accused person. Violation of the statute permits up to thirty (30) years in a federal prison and/or a fine of up to $1,000,000 (one million dollars).
It is illegal to enter upon, sketch, record or surveil any of a number of government properties listed in 18 U.S.C. §793. The entry must've occurred for the purpose of obtaining information respecting national defense matters. Such information must be used to the detriment of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation. Violation permits up to ten (10) years in a federal prison, a fine, or both imprisonment and a fine.
Federal forgery law (18 U.S.C. §471) makes it illegal for anyone, with fraudulent intent, to forge any obligation or other security of the United States. If you are convicted, the penalty may be up to twenty (20) years in a federal prison and a substantial fine.
- Gun Crimes
Federal law encompasses a wide array of criminal laws pertaining to gun use. The statutes are too numerous to recite here. However, the most basic law is 18 U.S.C. §922, Possession of Firearm or Ammunition by a Prohibited Person, which restricts the right to possess firearms in seven categories of persons listed in the statute. Violation may result in up to fifteen (15) years in prison and fines. Another important statute (18 U.S.C. §924) criminalizes stealing firearms. Conviction of that crime can result in a sentence of ten (10) years in a federal prison and a fine.
Hacking (18 U.S.C. §1030) occurs whenever a computer is wrongfully accessed, or personal data is accessed via computer, without the victim data owner's permission. If you're convicted under this Section, you face up to ten (10) years in federal prison and fines.
- Health Care Fraud
Health care fraud (18 U.S.C. §1347) occurs when anyone knowingly and willfully attempts to defraud, or defrauds, any health care benefit program. The same is true if you obtain, by false representations, any money or property owned by, or under the control of, any health care benefit program. The fraudulent act must occur in connection with the delivery of, or payment for, health care benefits, items, or services. Violation permits up to twenty (20) years in federal prison and/or substantial fines.
- Human Trafficking
Federal human trafficking law (18 U.S.C. §1589) prohibits providing or obtaining labor or services of a person by means of force, threats of force, physical restraint, or scheme. Profiting from trafficking is also prohibited under this Section. Violation may result in a term of life in a federal prison and/or significant fines.
- Identity Theft
Identity Theft (18 U.S.C §1028) may occur when the theft of an identity is committed using a computer connection. If you're convicted of the crime, you face up to fifteen (15) years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000 (two-hundred-fifty-thousand dollars), and forfeiture of the property connected to the offense.
- Immigration Law (The Immigration and Nationality Act)
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) (beginning with 8 U.S.C. §101) reorganized the structure of immigration law and has been amended many times over the years. It contains many of the most important provisions of immigration law. Violation of the Act may result, at minimum, in revocation of your lawful immigrant status.
- Internet Fraud
Internet fraud (18 U.S.C. §1030) occurs in one of its principal forms when anyone knowingly accesses a protected computer without authorization, or exceeds authorized access, and by means of such conduct furthers an intended fraud and obtains anything of value. Conviction may result in up to ten (10) years in federal prison and fines.
Federal kidnapping law (18 U.S.C. §1201) prohibits, among other acts, abducting or carrying away another person and holding that person for ransom under circumstances specified in the Kidnapping statute. Violation may result in death or life imprisonment and a significant fine.
- Mail Fraud
Title 18 U.S.C. §1341 establishes mail fraud, which involves any scheme or artifice to defraud in which material is sent or delivered by the Postal Service, or deposited with, or delivered by, any private or commercial interstate carrier. Mail fraud also occurs if you take or receive any such matter or thing or knowingly cause it to be delivered by the mail. Violation may permit up to thirty (30) years in a federal prison and/or a fine of up to $1,000,000 (one million dollars).
- Medicare Fraud
Medicare fraud (18 U.S.C. §1347) occurs when anyone knowingly and willfully attempts to defraud, or defrauds, the Medicare program. The same is true if you obtain, by false statements, any money or property owned by, or under the control of, the program. The fraudulent act must occur in connection with the delivery of, or payment for, health care benefits, items, or services. Violation permits up to twenty (20) years in federal prison and/or substantial fines.
- Money Laundering
Money laundering law (18 U.S.C. §1956) makes it illegal to conduct a number of forms of business using money that you know to have been obtained from any illegal source. Such forms of business include transporting illegal funds into or out of the US, concealing the existence of illegal money, or committing other specified crimes. Violation permits up to twenty (20) years in a federal prison and/or fines of up to $1,000,000 (one million dollars).
- Mortgage Fraud (Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act (FERA))
Mortgage fraud occurs with the perpetration of any illegal scheme involving misrepresentation or misstatement on a mortgage document. The Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act (FERA) permits federal enforcement of mortgage fraud laws and provides for federal sentences of up to thirty (30) years in federal prison, as well as fines of up to $1,000,000 (one million dollars).
Murder (18 U.S.C. §1111) is the killing of a human being with malice aforethought. It is a federal crime when committed on federal property and/or in any manner prohibited by federal statute. If convicted of the crime, you face the possibility of death or imprisonment for life in a federal prison and significant fines.
- Organized Crime
Beginning with Title 18 U.S.C. §1961, federal organized crime law prohibits a range of racketeering associations meant to effect specified offenses. If you're convicted of using illegal money to acquire a business or enterprise interest (18 U.S.C. §1962), you face up to twenty (20) years in a federal prison and/or forfeiture of all aspects of the enterprise interest.
Phishing is defined under 18 U.S.C. §1028 as fraudulently obtaining personal information via computer by posing as an entity or agency or using viruses or malware to access personal computer information without authorization. If you're convicted of the crime, you face up to fifteen (15) years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000 (two-hundred-fifty-thousand dollars), and forfeiture of the property connected to the offense.
- RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act)
Federal RICO law (beginning at 18 U.S.C. §1961) allows authorities to punish a number of different kinds of criminal activity, with an emphasis on racketeering crime. RICO statutes focus on the leaders of criminal organizations. To be charged with RICO violations, you must've taken part in activity related to business, irrespective of whether the business was legitimate. Violation may result in life in a federal prison and forfeiture of all crime-related interests.
- Securities Fraud
Securities fraud (18 U.S.C. §1348) criminalizes knowingly executing, or attempting to execute, a scheme designed to defraud any person in connection with any commodity, any option on a commodity for future delivery, or any security. It's also made illegal to obtain money or property in connection with any commodity, option, or security, by false pretenses. If convicted, you face up to twenty-five (25) years and/or a substantial fine.
- Sex Crimes
Sex crimes under federal law include: Aggravated Sexual Abuse (18 U.S.C. §2241) (making it illegal to cause a person held in custody, or a minor, to engage in a sexual act by using force or threat); Sexual Abuse (18 U.S.C. §2242) (it is illegal to cause a person in custody to engage in a sexual act by threatening or placing that other person in fear), and Sexual Abuse of a Minor or Ward (18 U.S.C. §2243) (making it illegal to engage in a sex act with someone in custody who is aged twelve, but not sixteen, and at least four years younger than the accused).
- Social Security Fraud
Social security fraud (42 U.S.C. §1383a) involves making or causing any false statement or representation of a material fact in any application for any benefit. The statute also makes it a crime to fail to disclose information showing that someone is no longer entitled to a benefit, and to conspire to do any of these things. If convicted, you face up to ten (10) years in a federal prison and/or significant fines.
- Tax Evasion
Tax evasion (26 U.S.C. §7201) involves attempting in any manner to evade or defeat any tax or tax payment imposed by federal law. If you're convicted of the offense, you face up to five (5) years in a federal prison and/or a fine of up to $100,000 (one-hundred-thousand dollars).
Federal terrorism law (18 U.S.C. Chapter 113B, Sections 2331-2339D) criminalizes a wide array of acts of violence perpetrated against the United States or its citizens. Harboring or concealing terrorists is also prohibited, as is providing material support to terrorists, among other crimes. If you're convicted under this Chapter of the Unites States Code, you face the possibility of death or life imprisonment in federal prison and substantial fines.
- The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA)
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act makes adult victims of severe forms of trafficking who've been certified as such by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) eligible for benefits and services to the same extent as refugees. The Act also declares minor aged victims of severe trafficking eligible for these benefits, though they needn't be certified. Penalties for trafficking in persons and/or assisting in the same are significant in cost.
- Wire Fraud
Wire fraud (18 U.S.C. §1343) involves employing any scheme to defraud or obtain money or property by false pretenses and then transmitting via wire, radio, or television any writing, sign, signal, picture, or sound for the purpose of executing the fraud. The crime may be punished by up to thirty (30) years in federal prison and/or a fine of up to $1,000,000 (one million dollars).
“Why Are Federal Sentences Often Harsher Than State Sentences?”
There are a number of reasons that federal sentences are often harsher than state sentences.
The maximum punishment for federal crimes is often statutorily much higher than the punishment for equivalent state crimes. Furthermore, federal law often calls for harsher sentencing than state law in regards to crimes that can be filed in state or federal court. In fact, federal statutes permit sentence enhancement (increasing the length of federal prison time and/or the size of fines) for many crimes.
Note, additionally, that federal judges are obliged to entertain strict sentencing guidelines. Their state counterparts are not necessarily handcuffed in this way. Federal judges are, therefore, given significantly less latitude than state judges in deciding sentence length. Given these facts, it is unsurprising to find that federal prosecutors also have less discretion in plea bargain negotiation than state prosecutors.
“Will I Have To Serve The Same Percentage Of My Sentence For A Conviction Under Federal Criminal Law And State Criminal Law?”
You'll likely have to serve a larger percentage of your sentence for a conviction under federal law than state criminal law.
Federal criminal law will require that you serve 85% of your sentence, should you be convicted of a crime. However, state convictions typically involve serving about half of one's sentence. This is true of most California felonies.
“What Makes A Good Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer?”
Attorneys who are skilled in state law are still often incapable of navigating the abstruse rules and complicated procedures that characterize federal criminal courts. Therefore, a good federal criminal defense lawyer must be distinguished from others. This can be done by evaluating three critical traits.
First, a good federal criminal defense lawyer must be proficient in federal law. This may seem obvious. But attorneys can practice in federal court without having a great deal of experience with the federal law. For those lawyers, it's just a matter of being certified to practice in federal court – and nothing more. Therefore, you should know that your federal criminal defense lawyer has real knowledge of the federal law and equally serious proficiency in how federal law works.
Secondly, a good criminal defense attorney must know the rules of federal court. The rules of the federal court system are unique. They can differ dramatically from state rules. The federal rules govern everything from pleading to filing timelines. Failing to know them can cause a defense to fail in ways that are entirely avoidable. Knowledge of the federal court rules is thus essential for a federal attorney.
Finally, a good federal criminal defense lawyer must be licensed to practice law in the district relevant to your case. Lawyers must obtain licensure to practice in federal courts. Not all have the same rules. (See below.) Therefore, if your federal criminal defense attorney isn't licensed to practice in the court relevant to your defense, you'll find that your attorney can't defend you in many fundamental ways.
“What Should I Do If I've Been Accused Of A Federal Crime?”
The United States government regards violation of federal criminal law as a serious concern. If you or someone you know has been accused of a federal crime, it's essential that you retain a skilled, dedicated federal criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Your rights and livelihood may be at stake.
Remember, a professional federal criminal defense attorney may be able to:
- Negotiate a lesser charge in a plea bargain;
- Reduce your sentence;
- Or even get charges dismissed completely.
The attorneys at the Kann California Law Group have an excellent understanding of the federal courts and an extensive knowledge of the federal criminal justice system. We can represent you in Ventura, Santa Clarita, Los Angeles, Encino, Pasadena, and many other Southern California cities.
If you or someone you know has been accused of violating federal criminal law, our attorneys will analyze the facts of the case and plan a strategy that will help to obtain the best possible outcome.
Contact the Kann California Law Group today to schedule a free and confidential consultation.
 See “Criminal Investigation,” Internal Revenue Service. IRS.gov.
 See “What We Investigate,” Federal Bureau of Investigation. FBI.gov.
 See “What We Do,” United States Drug Enforcement Agency. DEA.gov.
 See Title 18 United States Code [U.S.C.] § [Section] 1520.
 See 15 U.S.C. §1.
 See 18 U.S.C. §1344.
 See 18 U.S.C. §2113.
 See 18 U.S.C. §157.
 See 8 U.S.C. §1324.
 See 18 U.S.C. §2251.
 See 18 U.S.C. §911.
 See 18 U.S.C. §371.
 See 18 U.S.C. §844.
 See 18 U.S.C. §471.
 See 21 U.S.C. §841.
 See 18 U.S.C. §656.
 See 18 U.S.C. §793.
 See Endnote 14.
 See “Quick Reference to Federal Firearms Laws,” Justice.gov.
 See above.
 See 18 U.S.C. §1030.
 See 18 U.S.C. §1347.
 See 18 U.S.C. §1589.
 See 18 U.S.C. §1028.
 See “Immigration and Nationality Act,” U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. UCIS.gov.
 See Endnote 21.
 See 18 U.S.C. §1201
 See 18 U.S.C. §1341.
 See Endnote 22.
 See 18 U.S.C. §1956.
 See “Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act of 2009,” 111th Congress, 1st Session, March 23,2009.
 See 18 U.S.C. §1111.
 See 18 U.S.C. §1961.
 See 18 U.S.C. §1962.
 See Endnote 24.
 See U.S. Code Chapter 96 (Sections 1961 – 1968), 91st Congress, 1970.
 See 18 U.S.C. §1348.
 See “Federal Sex Offense Laws,” West Virginia Foundation for Rape & Information Services (fris.org).
 See above.
 See Endnote 38.
 See 42 U.S.C. §1383a.
 See 26 U.S.C. §7201.
 See 18 U.S. Code 113B.
 See “H.R. 3244 - Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000,” 106th Congress (1999-2000). Congress.gov.
 See 18 U.S.C. §1343.
 See “Felonies & Misdemeanors,” Kann California Law Group website. Kannlawoffice.com.