Florida Federal Crimes Attorney
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Although federal offenses have varying levels of severity, from misdemeanors to felonies, crimes are usually of a serious matter for the government to become involved. If you find yourself facing federal crimes charges, you may be up against the full force of the federal authorities. With this level of prosecution ahead of you, it is necessary to retain the experienced help and guidance of Florida federal crimes lawyers from Musca Law. With more than 150 years of collective experience, our team can provide you with the legal services you need in order to effectively fight for the best possible outcome on your behalf. By devoting tremendous amounts of time and resources to our clients’ cases, we are better prepared to defend their rights and exploit the weaknesses of our opponents’ cases.
Defining a Federal Crime
Overall, the difference between federal and state crimes is relatively slim, only narrowed down to which legislation has created the laws. For example, some forms of public safety violations or murder may be reviewed at local, state, or federal levels.
As the name suggests, federal crimes constitute offenses that violate federal law, resulting in these cases being presented in federal court. In many cases, some of these crimes can be even more serious than violations of local and state laws, as the offenders may constitute a greater threat to public safety or national safety.
Based on the list generated by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), here is a closer look at some examples of offenses labeled as federal crimes:
- Counterintelligence crimes
- Corruption of the public
- Violation of civil rights
- Organized criminal activity
- Violent crimes
- Theft of art, jewelry, or other items of value
- Immigration crimes
- Threats against members of the government
- White-Collar crimes
Organizations That Handle Violations of Federal Law
In the event that a person, a pair of people, or an organized group has committed a crime at the federal level, one or more agencies will handle an investigation of one or more of these serious violations:
- Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosive
- Department of Veterans Affairs
- Drug Enforcement Administration
- Environmental Protection Agency
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- Fish and Wildlife Service
- Health and Human Services
- Immigration and Customs Enforcement
- Internal Revenue Services
- U.S. Marshals Service
- U.S. Postal Inspection Service
- U.S. Secret Service
Full Listing of Federal Crimes and Relatable Punishments
For a full readout of federal crimes, be sure to visit the official website for the Code of the United States House of Representatives, as set in place by the nation’s government. Included is a list of violations and the management of offenses in federal court.
Committing an Act of Terrorism in Florida
As outlined in the Code of the U.S. House of Representatives Title 18, Chapter 113B - Section 2331 (1), an act of terrorism constitutes two different types of crimes:
- International terrorism: acts of violence that endanger human lives and violate the laws set in place by the United States of America (if committed within U.S. jurisdiction)
- Domestic terrorism: acts of violence that endanger human lives within the jurisdiction of the United States of America or any U.S. state
In keeping with Chapter 113B-Section 2232 (a-c), any individual who has been charged with an act of terrorism will face a variety of penalties, depending on the type of crime:
- Homicide: Anyone who murders a U.S. citizen outside U.S. borders may face a fine, the death penalty, or a life sentence
- Conspiracy to Homicide: Anyone who attempts to kill a U.S. citizen will face fines and 20 years to life in prison
- Physical violence: An individual who physically attacks and causes harm to a U.S. citizen will be fined and face a 10-year imprisonment
If you are facing charges related to committing a terrorist act, you are in a very serious situation. Since the September 11th attacks that occurred back in 2001, the federal government has taken extremely aggressive measures to fight against the war on terror. If the federal government suspects that you are involved in terrorism, you will immediately be under investigation and quickly placed under arrest and charged with terrorism.
After being charged with terrorism, not only will you be rigorously prosecuted, you could face life imprisonment or even the death penalty. That is why it is critical that you hire the services of a seasoned Florida criminal defense attorney. At Musca Law, we have the skills and experience necessary to represent clients against all types of serious felony crimes effectively and can provide you with an uncompromising defense to take on your terrorism charges. Contact us today at 1-888-484-5057 to learn more about your legal rights and options.
There are several acts that constitute terrorism, which include:
- Chemical attacks
- Biological attacks
- Threats against a large number of people
- Hijacking an aircraft or other mass transit vehicle
- Weapons of mass destruction
Cybercrimes in Florida
We exist in an age where technology has opened up new pathways of growth and commerce. As a result, prosecutors have identified and defined a host of new criminal charges. Specifically, the internet does not just allow for the use of social networking and online shopping; it exposes users to viruses, ransomware, worms, hackers, and distributed denial of services (DDoS) attacks. These actions constitute cybercrimes in Florida, and as technology grows and evolves, the rate of related charges the rate of charges continues to grow with it, and more crimes are identified as offenses against computer systems and users. Another form of cybercrime in Florida is violations against intellectual property, which often target organizations and companies in an attempt to obtain sensitive information such as trade secrets.
Criminal Violations of Intellectual Property
Legally protected intellectual property consists of everything from your favorite singer's songs to trade secrets, such as the recipe for a particular product. Intellectual property also includes data, software, and computer programs, to name a few.
Under Florida Statute Section 815.04, a crime carried out against intellectual property involves stealing, damaging, destroying, disabling, or unlawfully disseminating intellectual property. Knowingly and intentionally introducing an infectious virus to a computer system, intentionally introducing some form of debilitating malware, and hacking a corporation’s trade secrets are all crimes against intellectual property. Offenders of this crime generally seek to attack companies, corporations, or organizations by engaging in DDoS attacks made against online providers, as well as movie piracy.
Offenses Carried Out Against Computer Systems and Users
Crimes categorized as offenses carried out against computer systems and users have evolved to include a number of different electronic devices as well as those that use them. The term does not include calculators that are not programmable and that are not capable of being used in conjunction with external files. Because of this, not only are smartphones and similar electronic devices incorporated under the law, but it also applies to WiFi-connected devices, baby monitors, smart TVs, and printers.
The most common types of cybercrimes carried out against computer operators and systems is ransomware. This refers to the hijacking of software or computer systems which disables a computer and blocks access thereto, causing the victim to pay the attacker. This sort of crime is often committed against both individuals and corporations.
Phishing is also a common type of cybercrime designed to cause users of computers to divulge to offenders their personal or private information. Specifically, phishing occurs where an email or website appears to be legitimate, however, they are created with the intent to obtain people's passwords in addition to other personally identifiable information such as credit card and social security numbers.
To prove cybercrime in Florida, a prosecutor must establish that the accused knowingly and with malicious intent acted to disable or harm a computer user and/or system.
Punishing those Convicted of Cybercrimes in Florida
Both state and federal governments take cybercrimes very seriously. Under federal law, the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducts investigations of cybercrime and imposes strict punishment to those that are convicted of this offense. The scope and nature of the offense, as well as the damage that was caused, impact the charges that are sought as well as the level of punishment.
For instance, a ransomware attack carried out against a local government that causes a disruption of public services is often prosecuted as a more serious crime and second-degree felony. However, by obtaining data from the exact same computer in a way that does not disrupt public services, a person will likely be charged with a third-degree felony, presuming that there are no mitigating factors.
Committing a Counterintelligence Crime in Florida
As defined by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, counterintelligence crimes are defined as sharing sensitive information with foreign intelligence services or taking part in such an activity. Such information may include advanced technologies or files about public health, finances, the U.S. economy, or various sectors of technology.
As an example, here is a look at charges for acts of federal espionage in U.S. Code Title 18-Chapter 37:
- Chapter 37-Section 792: Individuals who harbor fugitives (who have committed or are preparing to commits acts of espionage) will face a fine or no more than 10 years of imprisonment.
- Chapter 37-Section 793: Individuals who gather information to be used harmfully against the United States and/or to the advantage of a foreign body, nation, or country, will be fined or face no more than 10 years in jail (if this individual forfeits). Culprits will be forced to hand over the information to federal agents.
Committing a Violation of Civil Rights in Florida
The FBI defines a “violation of civil rights” as any perceived threat (verbal and/or physical) to the safety and well-being of people on the basis of skin color, race, religion, gender, sexuality, or additional rights/freedoms of U.S. citizens. On that note, the U.S. House of Representatives outlines punishment for civil rights offenders through Title 18 Chapter 13 under the U.S. Code:
- Chapter 13-Section 241: If two or more people attempt to physically injure or threaten a person living in the U.S. state, territory, commonwealth, possession, or district in an attempt to violate civil rights, these individuals may be fined or sentenced to an unlimited time in prison. In some cases, the death penalty is an option.
- Chapter 13-Section 249: Any individual who attacks a person (due to the victim’s religion, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, or additional civil rights) and causes harm by means of blunt force or a dangerous weapon will be fined and/or face up to 10 years or life in prison.
Committing an Act of Extortion in Florida
Ultimately, the FBI recognizes white-collar crimes as a serious of violations that take place in the business or corporate sectors of America. Common crimes include the illegal sharing of private information (extortion) and falsifying information (fraud). Kickbacks are also included under the umbrella of white-collar crimes. Here is an example of the U.S. Code covering extortion under Title 18 Chapter 41:
- Chapter 41-Section 873: Anyone who demands money by means of threats of informing will be fined and/or spend no more than 1 year in prison.
- Chapter 41-Section 874: Anyone who forces another employee in a specific line of business or corporate work to hand over earnings that the victim has rightfully earned under employment contract will face a fine and/or imprisonment for no longer than 5 years.
- Chapter 41-Section 876: Anyone who sends mail communications that threatens the well-being of victims, potential kidnapping, or bodily harm shall be fined and/or receive a prison sentence anywhere from 5 to 10 (and even 20) years.
Committing Crimes against Children in Florida
Overall, the category of “crimes against children” focuses on a wide variety of crimes towards individuals below the age of 18. Such violations may include child pornography, child abuse, sexual exploitation, selling children, or buying children. Here is a closer look at some serious child-related crimes and related punishments through the U.S. Code, Title 18, Chapter 110:
- Chapter 110-Section 2251: Anyone (including parents and guardians) who attempts to persuade, entice, encourage, force, or coerce any child into an act of sexual activity will be fined in accordance with the violation and/or will be imprisoned for no longer than 15 years. People who take part in child pornography will be sent to prison for no more than 20 years. Multiple offenders will be sent to prison no less than 35 years (or life).
- Chapter 110-Section 2251A: Any parent or guardian who sells children or attempts to sell their children for the purpose of sexual use or child pornography will be fined and/or sent to jail for no less than 30 years.
Also, please note that people who fail to report incidences of child abuse will be fined and/or sent to jail for no longer than 1 year, in accordance with Chapter 110-Section 2258.
Robbing or Burglarizing Property in Florida
Ultimately, the FBI recognizes robbery and burglary as an act of organized crime, a violation that was planned by a network of individuals in a constituted criminal hierarchy. As indicated by the U.S. Code, Title 18, Chapter 103, individuals who rob or burglarize property in an effort of organized crime will face the following charges:
- Chapter 103-Section 2112: Individuals who attempt to steal the private property of citizens of the United States will face a prison sentence of no longer than 15 years.
- Chapter 103-Section 2113: Individuals who attempt to use violent and/or intimidating tactics in an effort to obtain property protected by a bank will face a fine and/or be imprisoned for no longer than 20 years. If the conspirators attempt to steal more than $1,000 of bank money, these individuals will be fined and/or imprisoned for no more than 10 years. If the criminals killed people in the process, they will potentially face a life sentence.
- Chapter 103-Section 2119: Individuals who intend to inflict bodily harm to or kill a citizen of the United States in an attempt to steal his or her vehicle will be fined and/or face jail time for no longer than 15 years. Criminals who inflict bodily harm on the victim will be sentenced to jail time of 25 years. In the event of murder, the sentence may be increased to the death penalty.
Being a Member of a Criminal Gang in Florida
By means of task forces like the Safe Streets Task Force and the National Gang Intelligence Center, the FBI enforces safety on the streets and works hard to combat criminal gangs in our country. Utilizing information from the NGIC, the FBI collects federal, state, and local data regarding gang activity including racketeering and organized crimes (like robbery). Here is a closer look at the punishments for taking part in gang activity, as highlighted in U.S. Code Title 18 Chapter 26, Section 521:
- Individuals who take part in an act of juvenile delinquency or commits a controlled substance felony through membership of a criminal street gang will potentially face prison time of no more than 10 years. In the event of a singular controlled substance crime, the prison time will be reduced to no more than 5 years.
Committing an Act of Homicide in Florida
Under the category of violent crimes, the U.S. Code Title 18, Chapter 51 defined homicide as any violent acts that result in the unlawful killing of an innocent civilian (or multiple civilians) who are residents of the United States of America. Here is a closer look:
- Chapter 51-Section 1111: Anyone who commits a murder of the 1st degree will face life imprisonment or the death penalty. Anyone who commits a murder of the 2nd degree will face an unlimited amount of time in prison or life.
- Chapter 51-Section 1112: Culprits found guilty of voluntary manslaughter will face a fine and imprisonment of no longer than 15 years. Individuals found guilty of involuntary manslaughter will face a fine and prison time or no more than 8 years.
Keep the following definitions in mind:
- “Murder” refers to an intention to kill a person.
- “Manslaughter” refers to the unlawful killing of a person without any intention of murder.
Federal Criminal Sentencing in Florida
The Federal Criminal Sentencing Guidelines can be complex and challenging to understand. Your federal criminal attorney is knowledgeable and is well-versed and familiar with these guidelines, however. This means that he or she can assist you in determining the level of punishment that may be imposed based on the guidelines. This is critical for you to comprehend, particularly in considering whether a plea bargain is the right course of action to take in your case.
The Federal Sentencing Guidelines
If someone has been convicted of a federal crime, federal courts use what are known as the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. There are circumstances where a deviation from the guidelines may be warranted, however, these occurrences are extremely rare. The guidelines are as follows:
- The seriousness of the offense. Every crime under federal law is divided into levels of offenses. As the severity increases, so does the offense level.
- Base level offense. Each type of crime is assigned a base offense level, which is the starting point for determining the seriousness of a particular offense. For instance, white-collar crimes are most commonly considered a base level 6 or 7 offense.
- However, The crime base level can be decreased or increased based on certain factors. For example, if a crime involved a gun, there is a five-level increase for the offense. However, the base level will be increased if the gun was set off while the crime was being committed.
- Additional adjustments for general factors. There are further adjustments that can be made that apply to any type of offense. For instance, if the offense involved two victims or more, then the judge will likely increase the base level. However, if the offender only played a small role in the commission of the crime, then this could result in a decrease of the base level.
- Personal adjustment factors. The base-level can also be adjusted when there are numerous convictions. The court will use the severest offense to start off with and then adjust from there for the additional convictions.
- Acceptance of responsibility. If a person who is convicted of a crime accepts responsibility for his or her actions, the court may apply a two-point reduction, which is at the judge's discretion.
State vs. Federal Crimes in Florida
Each state in the United States has certain laws that penalize and define prohibited behavior. Engaging in prohibited conduct can result in the imposition of state or federal charges. In general, if a crime occurs within the boundaries of a state, it is tried in a state criminal court. However, if the crime happened in several states or crossed the state line, it is typically tried in a federal court. Cases will also be tried in federal court if the offense violates federal law.
A few examples of state crimes are:
- Drug possession
State crimes in Florida are listed in Title XLVI of the Florida Statutes.
In addition to crimes that cross a state’s line, federal crimes are also offenses that are committed on or against federal property or in violation of federal laws. Several offenses that constitute federal crimes are found in Title 18 of the United States Code.
A few prime examples of federal crimes include:
- Drug offenses
- Tax evasion
- Counterfeiting and forgery
- Organized crime
- Child pornography
- Money laundering
An example of state crimes that become federal offenses is kidnapping and murder should they occur across in more than one state.
Federal Courts vs. State Courts
Only federal crimes are tried in federal court. Every state has federal district courts that hear cases involving the violation of federal law. Federal criminal matters are brought on behalf of the people of the United States by the United States Attorney’s Office.
States often have a number of criminal court systems where cases are brought on behalf of the people of the state by the district of state attorney’s office.
Federal Crimes Frequently Asked Questions
Q: The Federal Government sent me a letter saying they are investigating me, what should I do now?
A: If the government sent you a letter stating that they are targeting you in an investigation, do not ignore it or procrastinate in addressing this issue. View the letter as a way to tackle the problem head-on and start focusing on how to defend yourself strategically. These Federal Investigations can go on for years. Just because you do not hear from the government for some time does not mean that they lost interest in you. Sometimes, resolving the problem can be as simple as having your attorney contact the government with evidence that proves you were not involved in the crime and that they are mistaken. In order to give yourself the best chance of a favorable outcome, speak to an attorney who has experience in this area of the law. So do not try to talk to the prosecutor yourself. You could inadvertently say something that the government will use against you. Speak to our office about our success in getting federal charges dropped for many clients charged with Federal Crimes such as Ponzi schemes, mail fraud, wire fraud, and bid-rigging cases.
Q: Are Federal Charges Different from State Charges?
A: Frequently, alleged criminal actions will violate both state and federal laws. The process and penalties will vary between state and federal law. Federal prosecutors and investigators often have more experience and greater resources to prosecute a case. If you are charged in federal court, you will be up against professionals who will take their time building the case against you.
In some instances, the same crime will result in both state and federal charges. Your attorney can explain whether this will be an issue for you based on the facts of your case and the crimes with which you are charged.
Q: How often does the Government succeed in getting convictions?
A: Federal prosecutors have an extremely high success rate. Nearly all cases result in convictions for one or more of the charges. The Department of Justice obtains a conviction in more than 99 percent of the cases tried in the Middle District of Florida, which includes Tampa, Orlando, Fort Myers, and Jacksonville. The conviction rates are not identical in all districts, but they all have rates of at least 95 percent.
Q: Prosecutors offered a plea bargain, should I take it?
A: The overwhelming majority of charges result in defendants accepting some form of a plea deal. Defendants need to understand that taking a plea bargain may not always be in their best interests. A plea deal that is offered by federal prosecutors will not indicate the length or terms of the sentence but will typically make it impossible to appeal the sentence. An experienced lawyer will be able to give you a better understanding of what you agree to and the likely impact of that agreement on your sentencing, life, and future.
Q: What is a PSR, and how will it impact my case?
A: A presentence investigation report, or “PSR,” is a document that the United States Probation Office creates. This lengthy report gives a summary of the case, the defendant’s criminal background, personal background, medical history, and any other relevant facts of the case. The document also provides a recommendation to the Court for the appropriate sentencing terms. This document is, therefore, critical as it will influence the ultimate sentence, including prison time.
If the client does not believe that the information is accurate and correct, he or she can object. The objections can be addressed prior to the sentencing hearing, or at the very latest, in front of the judge during the course of that hearing. The judge is then tasked with resolving the objections. This process can mean that a client going into a sentencing hearing may face a great deal of uncertainty regarding the outcome of the charges. Sentencing hearings are complex. Defendants need to make sure that they have an attorney who understands this process and can work within it to obtain the best possible outcome.
Q: What rules does the government have to follow when issuing a sentence?
A: The government must follow a series of rules listed in the United States Sentencing Guidelines. The Guidelines are a complicated series of considerations and regulations that the Court will have to take into account when issuing a sentence. While there are numerous considerations, some of the common factors include:
The severity of the crime (including the amount of a drug in possession, the amount of money lost in a fraud case)
- Relevant conduct
- The defendant’s criminal history
- The defendant’s role in the alleged crime
- The defendant’s possible role in aiding the government investigation
- Sentencing enhancements based on the defendant’s past criminal convictions
- Background information on health and family history
Many of the provisions in the Guidelines refer to other statutes or other federal guidelines. As such, the rules are complex and can seem confusing. Consulting with an experienced attorney will help to clarify the Guidelines and give a sense of what to expect.
Q: How is relevant conduct considered in the Guidelines?
A: The Guidelines allow a judge to look at what is referred to as relative conduct. Relevant conduct includes the individual’s behavior as well as that of the other people who were involved in the same alleged criminal undertaking or conspiracy. The judge can also consider conduct that the client did not face charges for or for which he or she was acquitted at trial. Understanding the concept of relevant conduct will help a defendant make the best decisions about their cases.
Q: I was charged with committing a conspiracy, what does this mean?
A: When the government includes conspiracy charges, this means multiple people are believed to have been involved in the undertaking of the same criminal act. A conspiracy consists of two or more individuals agreeing to violate the law. All that the government must prove to convict someone of conspiracy is that at least two people made an agreement to break the law. In most cases, circumstantial evidence is used to prove that a conspiracy existed. Furthermore, the crime does not have to have occurred. The government only must show that the parties entered into a plan, not that they carried that plan out.
Another factor clients find troubling is that if the government proves a conspiracy existed, then each individual involved in the crime can be charged with the actions of every other individual who was found to be a part of the conspiracy. Even if a defendant had no knowledge of the actions a co-conspirator was carrying out, that defendant could face charges for that co-conspirator's actions.
It is essential to understand how conspiracy charges will impact a case. In some circumstances, conspiracy charges will lead to unfair and incredibly harsh sentences.
Understanding Attorney-Client Privileges
When working with an attorney, the law affords defendants with attorney-client privilege, which protects the communication between that attorney and the client. The privilege extends to anyone working at the law firm.
Attorneys are obligated to keep information related to representing their clients confidential. The client may permit the attorney to release or disclose information, but the attorney will have to have consent before releasing any information.
Speaking with Friends and Family
Information shared with friends and families is not considered confidential. It is important not to speak with anyone except your attorney about facts that are relevant to your case. If you call friends or family from jail, the authorities will record that call. Never say anything confidential over the phone. If friends or family members have information about the charges, ask them to speak to your attorney. Your attorney will not be able to share confidential information with that person without your permission, but your attorney should have access to all relevant information so that he or she can develop the best strategy for your defense.
Grounds for Defense in a Federal Crime Case in Florida
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the defendant may suggest that he/she did not willingly commit the crime if he/she can provide viable evidence proving this case. On the other hand, an individual can admit to taking part in a crime after receiving full authority from a member of the government.
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