Federal Crimes Blog

How to Choose Your Attorney in a Federal Criminal Case?

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding | Oct 24, 2022

People who have been arrested and are being charged with a federal case or even their loved ones who are searching for an attorney because their loved one is in custody and can't search for their attorney, start to try to figure out how do I select for my federal criminal defense attorney?

Because it's not easy if you've never actually had to choose an attorney before, especially in the federal realm, because it's a unique area that is not like state court or not like anything anyone has seen before.

How to Choose Your Attorney in a Federal Criminal Case?

Most people are unfamiliar with the process of a federal criminal case filed by the United States Department of Justice.

Criminal cases involving federal statutes can only be handled in federal courts. Some common federal crimes include offenses committed on federal property, drug crimes into the country, mail fraud, wire fraud, health care fraud, and robbing a bank.

I think you begin the process of finding someone local to where the federal court is or someone used to travel out of state. If you're out of California, in a different state, and you've got the funds to afford an attorney to come in from Los Angeles, then you want to make sure that person has the experience and they've been in different federal courts.

Suppose you're in the Central District and looking for an attorney. In that case, you want to ensure that you've got an attorney who actually practices in those areas in the Central District, Los Angeles, Ventura, Riverside, and Orange County.

Because that is what is controlled by the Central District's three courts: the Santa Ana court, the downtown Los Angeles court, and the Riverside court, so I think having a lawyer that is familiar with dealing with a case in the court that you're going to be in is important. 

What Are the Stages in the Federal Criminal Process?

The federal court process is much different from the state process, and you need to know what to expect at each step. Some of the crucial steps in a federal criminal case include the following: 

  • investigation;
  • charging;
  • first court hearing;
  • discovery;
  • plea bargaining;
  • preliminary hearing;
  • pretrial motions;
  • trial;
  • sentencing.

The process for a defendant charged with a federal crime depends not only on the complex Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure but also on federal code provisions, case law, local rules, and the court's practices, customs, and conventions.

What Are Some Common Federal Crimes?

  • 18 U.S.C. § 21 – Counterfeiting,
  • 18 U.S.C. § 371 – Conspiracy,
  • 21 U.S.C. § 841 - Drug Trafficking,
  • 18 U.S.C. § 1956 - Money Laundering,
  • 18 U.S.C. § 1030 – Computer Fraud,
  • 18 U.S.C. § 1341 - Mail Fraud,
  • 18 U.S.C. § 1343 - Wire Fraud,
  • 18 U.S.C. § 1344 - Bank Fraud,
  • 18 U.S.C. § 1347 - Health Care Fraud,
  • 18 U.S.C. § 1348 - Securities Fraud,
  • 18 U.S.C. § 1961 – Racketeering,
  • 18 U.S.C. § 2113 - Bank Robbery,
  • 18 U.S.C. § 2251 - Sexual Exploitation of Children,
  • 18 U.S.C. § 2252 - Child Pornography.

Federal Sentencing Guidelines

A significant factor in federal sentencing is the applicability of the United States Sentencing Guidelines. They appear to be a mathematical calculation of a prison term based on offense level and criminal history category.

Federal Sentencing Guidelines

Still, part of advocacy for criminal defendants is arguing the applicability of the numerous departure factors that allow a judge to reduce or increase a guidelines sentence based on many factors.

As a result of federal case law, the guidelines range is “advisory,” meaning that a sentencing judge in federal court holds significant discretion to vary from them based on another set of multiple factors.

A persuasive sentencing memorandum is a key to persuading the judge to exercise their discretion in departing from the guidelines range and then further varying from that range for a total sentence that may be significantly less than what the initial guidelines range might indicate.

Another factor that differs in federal practice is the more general application of mandatory minimum sentences, especially for drug crimes.

Suppose the defendant possesses a relatively small amount of certain illegal narcotics. In that case, they could face a five or even ten-year mandatory minimum sentence from which the judge cannot vary.

Why Is Experience in the Federal System Important?

I also think it is essential to find somebody with experience – who's done a lot of federal – and is confident and familiar with the federal sentencing guidelines, knows how to deal with the prosecutors, the assistant U.S. attorneys, and knows how to deal with federal judges.

The last thing, and I think the most important when you're trying to choose your federal criminal defense attorney, is you want somebody you feel comfortable with.  I would, at minimum, call the attorney, talk to them, give them the details of your scenario and then ask them some questions.

Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers in California

Listen to what they say.  See if there's someone that you feel comfortable with.  See if there's someone that sounds knowledgeable and see if it's someone who can help you.

One question you can certainly ask is, here's the scenario.  How do you think things are going to go down?  Like what is going to happen moving forward, and then you'll start to get a feel for not only whether you like the attorney but also what's going to happen, which will start to give you more comfortable because you'll begin to take control of the situation.

That's what I do.  I've been practicing federal criminal defense now for almost 30 years.  I've traveled all over the nation.  My office is based in the Central District, so obviously, I do many cases there, but for those clients who have the funds to pay me to go wherever they are, whatever state they might be in, I know what I'm doing.  I've done this a long time.

I've been to different courts.  I've been in front of other judges.  I've negotiated with various prosecutors, so I know what it takes to get the best result.  I know when we can fight the case because there are problems of proof, and I know when the government's got the case against you, we need to take other mitigation-type moves to bring you the best result.

So, if you need the best if you or a loved one is charged with a federal criminal case, get somebody like me who has the experience, understands how to deal with cases across the United States, and understands the federal sentencing guidelines nationwide. It's the same federal sentencing guidelines in Idaho as in California and any other jurisdiction that handles federal cases.

Give me a call.  Let's talk.  I think you'll realize I'm trying to help you or your loved one.  I know the topic very well, and I can answer your questions and get you moving in the right direction.   Pick up the phone now.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.  I stand at the ready to help you. 

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About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding

What Makes Ronald Hedding Uniquely Qualified To Represent You? I've been practicing criminal defense for almost 30 years and have handled thousands of cases, including all types of state and federal sex crime cases. All consultations are discreet and confidential.

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Hedding Law Firm is committed to answering your questions about Federal Criminal Defense issues in Los Angeles and Encino California. We'll gladly discuss your case with you at your convenience. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.