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Federal Crimes

Should I Hire a Virginia Criminal Lawyer for My Federal Case?

If you have received a summons to appear in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, you will need to choose an attorney who has been admitted in federal court. Not all Virginia criminal lawyers are barred in federal court, so it is important to do your research before you hire an attorney for your federal crime.

On the day of your court hearing, it is important to give yourself plenty of time to park, get to the courthouse, and locate your courtroom. Cell phones and electronics are not permitted inside the courthouse, so please leave it in your vehicle. You will be required to pass through security and show your government issued ID.

Contact a Federal Attorney Today

Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division:

Albert V. Bryan Courthouse
401 Courthouse Square
Alexandria, Virginia 22314

As you seek a Fairfax federal case lawyer, you will find that the field is quickly reduced among Fairfax County attorneys; not all of them are properly licensed to appear in federal court. You can save even more time in your search by simply contacting the Virginia federal attorneys of Robinson Law for a free consultation about your case. We have handled a wide variety of cases in Federal Court, such as DWI and DUI, reckless driving and investigations. Federal courts are different than state courts. Federal prosecutors are not the same as Virginia state prosecutors, and federal judges see the law in a unique way.

Because of certain differences in procedures and case law, attorneys who wish to practice in the Federal Courts are required to be barred or licensed in those courts separate from the local or statewide license. It is very important for you to consult with a firm that has attorneys who are experienced and licensed in Federal Courts when facing these types of charges.

Federal Charges vs. State Charges

While many people charged with a crime will be going through the local or state justice system, some crimes are considered Federal crimes. This means that the crime that the individual is accused of committing either involved the violation of specific federal laws, occurred on some federal property, or crossed state lines. Some of these locations include the GW Parkway and the Pentagon.

The processes in federal courts are different than the average state court proceedings. The main difference that people will notice is that instead of a local prosecutor’s office and police or sheriff’s department prosecuting you, the United States Attorney’s Office will be prosecuting you. Usually, these cases involve the FBI or some other federal agency that has significantly more resources than the local law enforcement office.

Reasons Your Criminal Case in Northern Virginia Could Be a Federal Case

You could be facing federal charges because you committed a crime on federal property, which can easily happen in Fairfax County because of the numerous federal agencies and buildings in the area. Also, crimes committed in national parks or on military property may result in different charges than you would normally face in Fairfax County.

Whether you were charged with DUI on the grounds of Fort Belvoir or trespassed in Great Falls Park, you will need a criminal lawyer who is experienced in handling federal matters. Whether you have been accused of a property crime on Manassas National Battlefield Park or Defense Health Headquarters, our federal attorneys are here to help. Other crimes that bring federal charges may include vandalism, property crimes, traffic offenses, and breaking and entering on federal property. More serious federal charges may result from crimes such as money laundering and wire and mail fraud, gang crimes and forgery.

Under Investigation in Federal Court: Do I Need a Federal Attorney?

In many cases the first indication that you are under investigation by the United States Attorney’s Office will be a target letter. This is a letter, normally sent to you by an Assistant US Attorney informing you that the court is intending to put information related to you and a specific charge or charges in front of a Grand Jury. The practical upshot of this is that they are trying to tell you that they will be seeking to officially charge you with a crime. If this happens, you need to contact a Virginia federal lawyer right away.

This letter will have some information about the charge or charges. The letter will likely advise you to have an attorney. Make sure to consult with a federal attorney prior to contacting any prosecutor in these situations. If you make any statements to law enforcement, those statements may negatively impact your case down the road.

Hiring an attorney at this point is crucial for several reasons. First, a lawyer experienced in the Federal Court system will explain the charges to you more fully, discuss possible penalties and advise you on how to proceed. Secondly, if you have an attorney reach out to the Assistant United States Attorney, he or she can obtain information and review any evidence. If this is accomplished prior to any charges being officially filed, you and your attorney may determine the next best move.

Your federal attorney will be equipped with information on your case to see if there is sufficient evidence to consider a plea agreement, cooperation or a trial. Third, if you do decide that a plea agreement or cooperation is the best option for you, by entering into an agreement early and “pre-indictment,” you frequently can receive certain reductions in the sentencing guidelines that you might not have had otherwise. Fourth, this allows you and your attorney to take some measure of control over the speed of the proceedings and may allow you to position you and your family given the likely consequences.

Virginia Criminal Attorneys for Federal Crimes Wire Fraud & Mail Fraud

Two of the most common types of financial crimes prosecuted in Federal Court are Mail fraud and Wire Fraud. The basics of the crimes are the same, the only difference is how the crime is carried out.

The common elements to each are the taking of certain actions which are intended to obtain money, property or other item of value through false representations or promises. Essentially, this is lying to another individual in order to get them to give you something of value that you do not have a right to.

The difference comes in how those lies, representations, or promises are communicated and where they are communicated. If the communication is made by mail, it is mail fraud. The use of the postal service makes the crime automatically qualify as a federal crime.

If the communication is made by any form of electronic communication (email, text message, etc.) AND the communications cross state lines, or leave the United States, then it is wire fraud.

If you have received a target letter for one of these charges, or are currently charged with these offenses, hiring an attorney is important to determining your options and how best to present your case.

DWI & DUI in Federal Court

In order for you to be charged with a DUI or DWI in Federal court, the government must prove that you were operating your motor vehicle on federal property. Most commonly in Northern Virginia, these cases come from the George Washington Parkway or on one of the many access roads and parking lots owned and operated by Federal agencies.

DWI and DUI law in Federal Courts is based off of the state DWI and DUI code and case law. However, because they are interpreting the laws in a different system of courts, there are cases in which the same set of facts will get different results based on whether you are in state court or federal court. Also because of the way the federal system works, the federal court cannot actually suspend your license, but can put conditions on your probation that have the same effect. What this means is that in those cases where a conviction does occur, frequently we can get permission to drive for purposes that we cannot get in the state court. Mandatory minimum sentences also are not applicable in the federal system, but frequently the prosecutors will seek the same amount of jail time associated with the charges as if they were in the state court. However, there are alternative options available to us in federal court that are not available in state court as well, such as house arrest.

These kinds of differences make it very important to hire an attorney who is familiar not only with the Virginia case law and code, but also the federal application of those laws. Our attorneys have experience with both aspects of these cases.

For more information on DWI and DUI cases in Virginia please click here.

Federal Drug Crimes

With the current state of laws related to controlled substances, knowing what you are doing and where you are going is very important. One important example of this is Marijuana. Something as simple as possessing a substance which may be legal in one state, such as marijuana, and transporting it into Virginia open you up to a charge in Virginia state court and also in federal court. Some circumstances where this arises frequently is in an airport. The DEA, TSA and Virginia police departments frequently engage in what is commonly known as drug interdiction, where they will have a canine unit check bags brought into the airport. If you have certain items in your possession that may indicate drug trafficking (such as a one way ticket to a state where marijuana is legal and large amounts of cash, and perhaps a THC pill, edible or vape cartridge) can cause you to be targeted by these officers, even if you are not intending to transport any drugs. Remember, while marijuana may be legal in different states for different reasons, it is ILLEGAL federally, possessing marijuana on federal property is therefore still illegal as well.

Federal law with respect to drug trafficking has much harsher penalties, even for first offenders, than the state equivalents, and the guidelines are based on the amount of the substance that you are in possession of. You may also be charged with more than just whatever substances that you believed that you were handling, especially when the Federal Government can prove a conspiracy, or agreement between two or more people to obtain, sell and/or distribute such illegal substances. In some circumstances, low level buyers of seemingly legal opiates, such as oxycodone, can be charged with a larger part of the conspiracy simply because someone above them is involved in a much larger distribution ring.

The complex nature of these types of charges, which can cause an individual to be charged with a crime in a location that they never entered, requires the expertise of attorneys with experience in both the state and federal court system. If you have received a target letter related to a drug charge in federal court, please reach out to us immediately so that we can help you analyze your situation and determine the best course of action for you.

False Statement to Law Enforcement – 18 USC 1001

The crime of making a False Statement to a Federal Law Enforcement Officer is a very broad charge. All that is required is that the individual make a statement, to a Federal Law Enforcement Officer, that the individual knows to be false, that the individual knowingly and willfully make the statement, that the statement was “material”, and that the statement was “within the jurisdiction” of the officer. Destroying or concealing material evidence may also cause you to be charged with this crime.

A statement is “material” when it has the ability to influence the officer’s investigation or conclusions. The matter is “in the jurisdiction” of the officer if it relates to the investigation. Even something as simple as giving a wrong time for an event may be enough to run afoul of this statute.

Often an individual may accidentally make a false statement without the necessary intent, however, an individual may still be charged and be forced to vindicate themselves through the criminal justice system.

Making a false statement to a federal law enforcement officer is a much more serious crime than in a state proceeding. In Virginia a false statement to a law enforcement officer is a class 1 misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of up to 1 year in jail. In Federal court, this same crime is punishable by up to 5 years in a federal prison. It is important to have counsel with you when speaking with federal law enforcement for this very reason.

Discussing the matter with an attorney prior to being interviewed by a federal law enforcement officer can be very helpful to prevent being charged with this offense. It is important that you discuss with your attorney what you intend to say and allow them to counsel you on the best way to communicate what information you are willing to give, as well as whether to give any information at all. Having an attorney present who has had experience with federal investigations can also prevent you from being charged with making a false statement. This is important even if you are not the focus of the investigation, because being the person under investigation is not a requirement of this charge.

Please contact us immediately if you have been approached to discuss any matter with a federal law enforcement agent, or any federal investigative employee, whether you are the target of the investigation or not, to protect you. Our attorneys can discuss the matter with you prior to meeting with the federal official and be present with you during any such discussions.

Possession, Creation or Distribution of Child Pornography

Unlike many of the other charges that you may face in the federal system, the first notification that you are being investigated for possession of child pornography may be a search warrant executed on any and all electronic devices that you possess or have access to. Sometimes these search warrants can be served a year or more before any charges are ultimately brought.

These charges have complex issues related to metadata on files that may be on your computer, without you even knowing it. Peer to peer transfers may have transmitted these files to your computer without your knowledge. Simply possessing the files is insufficient to convict you of these charges, they must prove that you knowingly accessed them and were aware of the content.

It is unnecessary that the images in question actually be of a minor engaging in a sexual act, sexually suggestive behavior or poses can be sufficient to consider the image or video as child pornography.

Another consideration to be aware of is that a single video is not equivalent to a single image, there is a calculation done based on the number of frames within the video to determine the number of images in one’s possession.

There are no protections for individuals who create such images or videos with an individual under the age of 18, even if the age of consent in the state in which the images or videos were created is less than 18.

One recent issue that has come up is minors sending nude or otherwise sexually suggestive images or videos of themselves to boyfriends/girlfriends. This is no exception to the possession, creation and distribution of child pornography statutes. This means that the individual who created and sent the picture or video may be convicted of possession, creation and distribution of child pornography, and the individual receiving these images and videos may be convicted of possession of child pornography.

If a search warrant was served on you by a federal law enforcement agency related to your electronic devices, or if you have received a target letter related to one of these charges consulting with one of our attorneys can assist you in being prepared for if/when you are officially charged.

Client Reviews
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Informative, responsive and helpful in handling a traffic case and getting fines reduced. The rates for retaining representation were very reasonable too. I highly recommend using their services! Leslie F.
We cannot thank Mr. Crowley enough for his efforts! He is honest, diligent and very knowledgeable. Being local and easily accessible was a huge plus. Highly recommended and well respected too! John H.
Quick response not only to my initial questions, but also in the follow up to my case. Ms. Ralls and her team were excellent to work with. Thank you! Susan
Very excellent firm, I would recommend anyone in the Northern Virginia area to obtain their services. Ben really helped me in hard times through my case and represented me the whole time time. He was very easy to get in touch with and diligent in his work. Now I finally have my life back and can move on to a better future. Thanks again for everything true life savers. Herbo T.