If I am being investigated by the feds, or I am being charged with a federal crime, do I need a “federal” criminal defense lawyer?

Yes.  Most certainly.

I have discussed the distinction between federal and state crimes here.  As you see, the state of Mississippi is divided into two federal districts, and your lawyer must be admitted to practice before the federal court in the district where your case is pending, or at least must get permission to practice there.  More importantly, however, your lawyer must understand the significant distinctions between the federal and state systems.  It is helpful to be represented by a lawyer that is familiar with the federal rules of criminal procedure, federal rules of evidence, federal trial procedure, and the federal court system in general, all of these of which are different than Mississippi state court.  It is even better when your lawyer is familiar with the U.S. Attorney’s office that is prosecuting your case, the Clerk’s Office and Court Administrators, and the federal law enforcement agency that has handled the investigation.

Finally, perhaps the most ominous distinction between state and federal court is the application of the federal sentencing guidelines.  Although these sentencing “guidelines,” which assist judges in determining a sentence for each crime, were originally mandatory and binding on judges (they couldn’t deviate from them; you got what you got), the U.S. Supreme Court made them only “advisory,” rather than mandatory, in 2005.  A federal judge can sentence you to whatever the judge believes is appropriate, up to the statutory maximum for each offense.  But the federal sentencing guidelines are still there, albeit only advisory in nature, and a judge must consider them in determining your sentence.  The guidelines are extremely complex, and are concerned with the characteristics of the offense(s) of which you are convicted, your criminal history, if any, and a number of other factors.  The guidelines themselves come in a thick volume, with two appendices, and are revised each year.  And each day more and more federal cases are published that apply them, interpret them, or change them, and it is important that your lawyer is up-to-speed with the latest law in order to be the most effective advocate for you. 

I’ve been in federal court with criminal cases almost constantly since I left active duty five years ago.  I am confident I can help you with your case.  If you need my assistance please give me a call at 601-991-1099.  I am here to help.