Federal Criminal Defense

An experienced criminal defense attorney is the most important weapon you can have when you are under federal investigation or indictment. The Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reserves ordinary police power to the individual states. What that basically means is that any laws not explicitly stated in the Constitution are reserved for states like New York to enforce. Local police departments therefore enforce most criminal laws and the litigation that stems from that enforcement occurs in state court. So anything from as small a crime as simple assault or petit larceny to something as serious as murder tends to be a state matter. However, the U.S. Constitution does grant the federal government the right to regulate “interstate commerce.” From that very small provision in the Constitution comes an enormous body of criminal laws and regulations that the federal government enforces. For the past hundred years, that “commerce clause” has consistently been used to justify just about any criminal law that the federal government passes. The net effect of this is we all live in a country where a tremendous amount of criminal behavior can be prosecuted by not just your local and state government (as was the case for the first 130 years of our country’s history), but by the federal government as well. Historically, the expansion of federal crimes has had both good and bad effects.

The bad effects are a decrease in overall freedom for citizens and the feeling that having two powerful governments that each have the right to put you in prison for the same conduct is above and beyond what the framers of our Constitution had in mind when they created this “free” country. For example, Colorado and Washington, as states, decided they no longer want marijuana to be illegal. Indeed, California for close to 20 years now has allowed for medical marijuana. Despite these democratically elected positions that the Constitution explicitly reserves for the individual states, the actual citizens of those states can still be (and are) prosecuted for possessing marijuana under federal law. This is true despite the fact that the citizens in those states have clearly spoken.

The good effect of having active federal enforcement of laws is the federal government is in a unique ability to take on and eliminate powerful forces that the individual states are simply too ill-equipped to handle. The federal government has infinite resources and has at its disposal the biggest police force, military, and expendable cash in the world. This behemoth has successfully eradicated the mafia, combated organized crime, dismantled international drug cartels, and is actively waging the “war on terror.” While all productive citizens of this country agree that we should be thankful for this force that is capable of combating these evils, what happens when this juggernaut decides to turn its sights on ordinary citizens?

Not only does the federal government have unlimited resources, but the laws are heavily rigged in the government’s favor when you are in litigation against them. The U.S. Constitution was intended to give those accused of a crime certain rights in “fighting” these charges. For example, anyone accused of a crime has a right to confront all witnesses against him. He also has a right to have an independent court act as the referee between the accused and the government. However, due to the enactment of the federal sentencing guidelines and because of mandatory minimum prison sentences, most federally accused people are too afraid to exercise those rights so they just plead guilty. For example, if you’re in a situation where you are legitimately innocent of what the government is accusing you of doing, but the minimum period of incarceration is twenty years in prison, you may seriously consider pleading guilty when the government gives you an opportunity to do so and be sentenced to only 3 years in prison. So in this hypothetical example, you just waived all the rights you have because of a perfectly rational fear. This is reason why the United States makes up 5% of the world’s population, but contains 25% of the world’s prisoners.

The light at the end of the tunnel is that there are ways to fight back against the government when you are accused of a crime or are the subject of a federal investigation. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you in your time of need.

If you find yourself the target of a federal investigation or are actively being prosecuted by a U.S Attorney's Office, do not hesitate to contact John Buza, a criminal defense attorney who is a former prosecutor, for a free consultation.

Click on the links below to see specific issues regarding sub-areas within Federal criminal law practice.