Illinois Lawyer Referrals and Legal Guidance
Federal Criminal Law 101
We try to use simple terms when explaining the law, which can be confusing even for a seasoned attorney. We realize this doesn’t always work – it can still be confusing and overwhelming. We understand that sometimes you just want a quick answer. You can always call us and talk to one of our attorneys (for free and usually right away). In the meantime, here are the basics on federal criminal law that we feel everyone should know.
- A crime is a federal crime if it violates a federal law. Something that would otherwise be a state crime, like theft, can become a federal crime if it occurs across state lines.
- Common examples include white collar crimes (securities fraud, money laundering, mail fraud, bank fraud, computer crimes), bank robbery, terrorism, crimes on federal property, as well as political crimes.
- Do not answer questions from a federal investigator (FBI) without speaking to an attorney. It’s never too early to get legal advice if you are being investigated.
- A grand jury is a jury that decides whether you should be charged with a crime. The prosecutor presents the case to the grand jury and if they think there is a chance you committed the crime, you will be indicted by the grand jury and charged.
- Federal court is very different from state court and you should hire an attorney with federal court experience to defend you. The deadlines and procedures are not the same as they are in state court.
- Look for an attorney who not only understands federal criminal law and procedure but focuses their entire practice in this area. Also, consider whether they have experience as a former federal prosecutor or federal public defender, which can be invaluable.
- While an attorney who is licensed to practice in federal court can do so in any state, it’s best to find an attorney with experience in Illinois’ federal courts. This way they are more likely to have a relationship with the judges and prosecutors, as well as a good reputation in the legal community as a federal defense attorney. These do not guarantee a result, but they can certainly help.
- Just like state criminal court, an experienced attorney can negotiate for leniency in your case.
- Unlike state prison sentences, those who get federal prison sentences are less likely to get out early. You can also lose the right to vote, lose the right to own a firearm, and face fines and parole. Federal crimes also can carry large fines.
- There are federal criminal attorneys who focus on sentencing and often just step in for the sentencing phase. Although federal sentencing guidelines are often followed, it is not required. It’s up to the judge.
- There are federal courts throughout Illinois, divided into districts, with locations in Chicago, Rockford, Rock Island, Springfield, Peoria, Urbana, Benton and East Saint Louis.
- If you lose your case, you can appeal to the federal court of appeals. Illinois, as well as Indiana and Wisconsin, is part of the Seventh Circuit, which is located in downtown Chicago. The next highest court, and your last option, is the United States Supreme Court.
- Federal defense attorneys usually charge clients by the hour. This fee will vary based on the amount of work your case requires and the experience of the attorney you hire. It can be anywhere from a couple of thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. An initial consultation is usually free, and payment plans are often available.
If you want to know more about any of these points, or have a different question altogether, let us know. We are here to listen to your situation, give you our opinion, and perhaps most importantly, to point you in the right direction. If you need an Illinois federal criminal defense attorney, don’t hesitate to contact us for a referral.
If you need to hire an attorney or need guidance on any Illinois legal matter including Illinois federal criminal matters, you can contact us. Findgreatlawyers.com is a free service, run by Illinois attorneys who will speak with you in strict confidence, and answer your questions and refer you to an attorney if needed. We have a vast network of attorneys with a successful track record in handling criminal law cases throughout Illinois. Please call us at (312) 346-5320 or (800) 517-1614, or you can fill out our contact us form and will contact you.