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Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys in Tampa

Although most criminal offenses are prosecuted in state court, the federal government also has jurisdiction to prosecute a wide range of misdemeanor and felony offenses. The jurisdiction to prosecute the case within the federal criminal justice system can occur because of any of the following reasons:

  • the crime impacts interstate commerce;
  • the crime happened on land owned by the federal government; or
  • the allegations involve a loss or harm to the federal government.

Many federal cases begin with a letter to the target of a federal criminal investigation (often called the “target letter”) from the United States Attorney’s Office. For a target letter issued in the Middle District of Florida out of the Tampa Division, the letter will advise you that you are the target of a Federal Grand Jury investigation into criminal violations. The letter notifies you that the United States Attorney’s Office is prepared to proceed before a Federal Grand Jury to seek charges against you. 

The letter will often say that before the United State Attorney’s Office proceeds to bring these formal charges against you, the federal prosecutor would like to discuss the matter with you and your attorney. The letter will invite you or your attorney to contact the federal prosecutor as soon as possible to schedule an appointment. 

The letter will also say that if the federal prosecutor does not hear from you or your attorney by a certain date, that the federal prosecutor will assume you do not wish to discuss the matter and will proceed accordingly.

Act quickly to present exculpatory evidence and mitigation to the federal investigators and the Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) assigned to the case. Letting your attorney advocate on your behalf during the very early stages of the investigation often leads to the best results. 

Attorneys for Federal Criminal Defense in Tampa, FL

If you need an experienced federal defense attorney for a crime that is being investigated or prosecuted within the federal criminal justice system out of the Middle District of Florida in the Tampa Division, then call an attorney at the Sammis Law Firm. We provide free and confidential consultations to discuss the facts of your case, possible defenses, and the attorney fees needed for your defense.

We can help you understand the decisions that you need to make immediately to protect yourself after a criminal accusation is made against you in the federal courthouse.

U.S. District Court Violation Notice

The most common cases prosecuted in federal court involve the "United States District Court Violation Notice." One of the most common offenses prosecuted at MacDill Airport Base is Trespass on Military Property for Unlawful Purpose under 18 USC 138. A violation notice can also be issued for DUI under Florida State Statute 316.193 even if it occurred at the military base.

If the allegation against you is criminal in nature, then a court appearance is mandatory. Criminal offenses under federal law charged in the violation notice can be charged under the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), the United States Code (USC) or the Florida State Code.

For criminal violation of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), "Minor Federal Offenses" are those crimes for which the authorized penalty does not exceed imprisonment for a period of 1 year, or a fine of not more than $1,000, or both. 18 U.S.C. 3401f.

"Petty Federal Offenses" are defined as crimes for which the authorized penalty does not exceed imprisonment for a period of 6 months or a fine of not more than $500, or both. 18 U.S.C. 1(3).

Crimes charged under the U.S. Code are classified as either an infraction, a misdemeanor or a felony. Within each classification, the crimes can be further classified by a Class grade between A to D as provided below:

  • an infraction is punishable by no imprisonment or by five days or less;
  • a Class C misdemeanor is classified by six to thirty days;
  • a Class B misdemeanor is classified by thirty-one days to six months;
  • a Class A misdemeanor is classified by more than six months to one year;
  • a Class E felony is classified by more than one but less than 5 years;
  • a Class D felony is classified by more than five but less than 10 years;
  • a Class C felony is classified by more than ten years but less than 25 years;
  • a Class B felony is classified by more than 25 years; and
  • a Class A felony is classified by the death penalty or life imprisonment.

The United States District Court Violation Notice will tell you the time and date of the offense, the location of the offense, a description of the charge and a factual basis. If the violation is criminal, then a court appearance is required and the notice will tell you the next court date or the information will be mailed to you after the notice is served.

What are Federal Criminal Violations and Who Investigates these Crimes?

Many of these criminal violations occur on federal property such as military installations, post offices, federal buildings, national wildlife refuges, a national forest, or the Veteran Affairs medical center. Other violations occur on privately owned land but involve violations of federal law.

Federal criminal violations are issued by law enforcement officers and agents for a variety of federal agencies located within the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division, including: the Veteran Affairs Police, the U.S. Border Police, U.S. Customs agents, U.S. Postal Police and Inspectors, Military Security Forces, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and the U.S. Park Police.

If the violation notice says that a court appearance is mandatory, then you must appear in court. In some cases, your attorney can appear on your behalf after receiving permission from the court to waive your appearance.

If you do not hire an attorney and then fail to appear in court on the date and time scheduled then the court can issue a summons ordering you to appear or issue a warrant for your arrest. If the case involves a motor-vehicle violation, then the court might suspend your driving privileges and/or vehicle registration.

Additionally, the Florida Department of Highway Safety might impose an additional reinstatement fee after the suspension is cleared. In many of these cases, the court will impose probation, community service or deferred prosecution.

Felony Investigations in Federal Court

More serious federal crimes include various white collar offenses such as fraud, mortgage fraud, gun charges, immigration crimes such as illegal entry) or drug offenses.

Recent statistics show that federal prosecutors have a 94% conviction rate. The penalties for federal crimes are severe. When you first learn that you are under investigation, it is critical that you do NOT talk to any law enforcement agent or investigator. Instead, seek out the services of a criminal defense attorney immediately.

Federal prosecutors often joke about "picking the low hanging fruit." But it is no joke that certain types of federal offenses are easier to prosecute than others. If you talk to a federal agent about what you did, then it makes it infinitely easier for the prosecutor to file the charges and prosecute the case.

Your criminal defense attorney is often in the best position to help you provide your side of the story and present all mitigating or exculpatory evidence on your behalf. In many cases, those decisions that you make immediately after learning that you are a target of a criminal investigation are critical to the way the case is ultimately resolved.

Federal crimes involve a complete set of rules and procedures that require a certain level of skill and experience. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney about your case today.

Federal Sentencing Guidelines

The Federal sentencing guidelines were designed to mandate certain minimum sentences that are considered by the court at the time of sentencing. The Federal Sentencing Guidelines involve a complex maze of rules and factors that must be evaluated carefully by your attorney.

The Federal Courts have broad latitude to take certain factors into consideration to drastically reduce or increase the typical sentence. This decision is often made during a sentencing hearing. Hiring an experienced attorney can help set the stage to convince the court to impose the most favorable sentence possible if you decide to enter a plea to the charge instead of proceeding to trial.

No matter the charge, your attorney needs to understand the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. In most of these cases, your attorney is fighting to prepare the case for trial and to negotiate the best possible resolution short of trial. Often, the more work done to prepare the case for trial, the more willing the prosecutor is to negotiate a better resolution.

When a pre-trial resolution is not possible, your federal criminal defense attorney needs to be prepared to file every viable motion to suppress or exclude prejudicial evidence. Before trial, your attorney must be prepared to file and litigate every viable motion to dismiss the charges.

In the event that a pre-trial resolution is not possible, your attorney needs to be prepared to take the case to trial to fight for a "not guilty" verdict.

Finding a Federal Criminal Defense Attorney in Tampa, FL

Call the experienced attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm to discuss your case. Our offices are conveniently located just a block from the federal courthouse in downtown Tampa (known as the Sam M. Gibbons U.S. Courthouse).

Let us put our experience to work for you for any criminal charge being prosecuted in federal court or for any serious felony criminal investigation being conducted by federal agents. Whether your case involves a violation of the United States Code (USC) or the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), we can help.

Whether your charges are for an infraction, to a misdemeanor, to a serious felony charge, having an experienced criminal defense attorney that understands the federal justice system can make all the difference in how your case is resolved.

We represent clients charged with a wide variety of federal crimes from white collar crimes to drug trafficking, to crimes involving the exporting or smuggling of firearms. 

Call 813-250-0500 today to discuss your case.

This article was last updated on Monday, November 6, 2017.