While trying to stop a situation from getting overly complicated, all of us at one time or another have said something like “let’s not make a federal case out of it.” When it comes to criminal practice, “making a federal case of it” can have extremely significant consequences for both the client and the attorney. Some lawyers who rarely practice in federal court are shocked at the differences between state and federal practice.
One of the main reasons that some cases are pursued in federal court is because of the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. This part of the Constitution allows federal prosecutors to take a case when the law says that the crime was “in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce.” The question of whether some activity is “in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce” is very complicated, and requires an attorney who is well-versed in handling such constitutional issues.
Other crimes are prosecuted in the federal court system not because of the Commerce Clause, but instead because the case involves some other federal connection. For example, a crime against a federal official is generally prosecuted in federal court. Many crimes that take place on property owned or leased by the federal government end up in the federal court system. When someone allegedly defrauds a federal program or gets federal money, such cases often end up in a federal court.
Although there are many crimes that can be brought to the federal courts, only a handful of cases are taken up by federal prosecutors, who are commonly called Assistant United States Attorneys or AUSAs. An AUSA usually will only bring a case to federal court if it is a large investigation, involves federal actors or property, or is otherwise a high-profile matter. As a result, cases in federal court are generally larger, more complex, and involve far more evidence than a similar case handled in the state court system.
Federal prosecutions are very different from state cases. Many accomplished defense attorneys are simply not equipped to handle the defense of a federal criminal case. The rules are quite different between state and federal court, especially the horribly complicated Federal Sentencing Guidelines.
The lawyers at Kish & Lietz are specialists in federal criminal defense, both at the trial level and on appeal. We have handled virtually every type of federal criminal case, from the smallest theft or drug possession, up to large multi-national fraud, drug cases, and even high-profile death penalty prosecutions. We have represented thousands of clients in federal court. We respect the seriousness of such charges, but we do not shy away from them. If you would like to talk to attorneys who handle federal crimes, feel free to call (404) 588-3991, or contact us online.
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