Maryland Federal Criminal Attorney
Most criminal cases in Maryland are heard in the state circuit courts located in one of Maryland’s eight judicial circuits. However, some crimes fall under the jurisdiction of the United States government and are prosecuted in federal court. Only certain attorneys are admitted to practice in federal court, so it is important to seek a consultation with a Maryland federal criminal lawyer if you are facing these charges.
Many Maryland state criminal offenses are also a violation of federal law, but US Attorneys in most cases only prosecute a select number of crimes that fall under federal jurisdiction. For example, crimes that occur on federal property; involve federal funds, interstate or international transportation and/or wire transmission; or impact national security are typically prosecuted in federal court. Depending on the facts of your case, your Maryland federal criminal lawyer may even choose to dispute the federal jurisdiction of the case.
Federal Criminal Cases
White collar crimes are also prosecuted in federal court. White collar is a term that is typically used to describe crimes that are traditionally committed by those who wear suits to work, hence the term “white collar.” A Maryland federal criminal lawyer may have experience handling white collar cases. Examples of white collar crimes often prosecuted in federal court include:
Other crimes commonly prosecuted as federal offenses include the distribution of child pornography, perjury, gun manufacturing, money laundering, narcotics trafficking, and other offenses.
US Attorneys and other Department of Justice prosecutors, present evidence gathered by highly specialized government law enforcement agents and they typically prosecute federal court cases aggressively. It is one thing for someone to open their front door to find the Maryland State Police standing there, but it is quite another to answer the door to the FBI, the DEA, ATF, or the IRS.
If someone is being investigated by a federal law enforcement agency in Maryland, or if they suspect they may be under investigation, it is important to contact a Maryland federal attorney as early as possible to protect their rights during the investigation.
Someone’s attorney can also help to build a defense in the event formal criminal charges are brought against them in the form of an indictment. An indictment occurs when a grand jury who has heard evidence concerning certain crimes votes and agrees that there is enough evidence to formally charge someone with a crime.
Frequently Prosecuted Crimes
Some of the most frequently prosecuted federal offenses are white collar crimes including fraud, embezzlement, and perjury.The United States Code includes numerous statutes defining, prohibiting, and punishing white collar crimes. Title 18, Chapter 31 of the U.S. Code has 29 separate statutes pertaining to various types of theft or embezzlement.
These statutes involve theft or embezzlement of public funds, property, or records; theft by a bank examiner or embezzlement from a bank or financial institution; theft, bribery, or embezzlement involving agencies receiving federal funds; theft or embezzlement from an employee benefit or health care plan; and many other acts involving the misappropriation of federal funds.
In general, federal embezzlement is punishable by a maximum of one year in prison, if the value of the property does not exceed $1,000. If the property value is greater than $1,000; embezzlement is punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison. See 18 U.S.C. Section 641 et. seq. Some types of embezzlement, however, have extremely harsh penalties for those convicted, including:
- Embezzlement from an employee welfare benefit plan or pension plan is punishable by five years in prison.
- Embezzlement, bribery, or theft of $5,000 or more from any organization receiving at least $10,000 in federal funds is punishable by 10 years in prison.
- Theft or embezzlement by a bank officer carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.
Being entrusted with federal money or a federal contract is a great responsibility. Inaccurate record keeping, acting under the direction of an unethical supervisor, and even an act of desperation in the face of financial difficulty can cause one to commit acts that lead to a federal criminal investigation. A seasoned federal criminal lawyer in Maryland is prepared to fight for their client to make sure they get the justice that they deserve.
Federal Sex Crimes
Rape, sexual assault, and child molestation are typically charged as state crimes. With the proliferation of the Internet, however, if such a crime involves multiple states or has occurred overseas, the offense may be prosecuted in federal court.
Federal Child Pornography Charges
Child pornography, for example, is commonly prosecuted in federal court when someone in Maryland allegedly distributes or receives sexually explicit images of a minor to or from someone in another state or from abroad. This can occur through file sharing on the Internet or even directly sending child pornography through email or instant messaging, all of which are forms of interstate/international wire communications. Federal child pornography laws are codified in 18 U.S. Code, Chapter 110, entitled “Sexual Exploitation and Other Abuse of Children.”
These laws prohibit the solicitation, manufacture, production, distribution, and possession of child pornography. They also mandate a legal requirement for adults to report child abuse, and they authorize several agencies to investigate and prosecute the sexual exploitation of children.
The FBI’s Innocent Images National Initiative, Homeland Security Investigation’s (HSI) Child Exploitation and Operation Predator, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), and various local Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task forces are responsible for investigating and eradicating interstate child sexual exploitation and such offenses committed overseas by US citizens and permanent residents.
In Maryland, the age of consent to sex is 16, but under federal law, child pornography involves sexually explicit images of anyone under the age of 18. Thus, under federal law no one may entice a minor under the age of 18 to engage in commercial sex acts, including prostitution, exotic dancing, or pornography.
Other Internet-Related Federal Sex Crimes
The federal government also investigates and prosecutes other Internet-related sex crimes—such as the online solicitation of a minor, which occurs when an adult has sexually explicit chats with a minor in another state. If the internet-based conversation leads to travel across state lines for the purpose of engaging in sex with a minor, the adult may be charged with several federal sex crimes including:
- Transportation of a minor with the intent to engage in illegal sexual activity, which can result in penalties of 10 years of incarceration to life in prison
- Travel with intent to engage in sex with minors, which can result in a maximum prison sentence of 30 years
- Travel by a US citizen or permanent residents to overseas countries for the purpose of engaging in sexual acts with a minor is commonly referred to as ”sex tourism”, which can result in a maximum prison sentence of 30 years incarceration
Federal law prohibits US citizens and permanent residents from traveling to a foreign country to engage in child prostitution or any sex act that would be illegal if it occurred on United States, even if the act is legal in the destination country.
Representation in Federal Court
While state offenses are generally handled by Maryland Circuit Courts, federal crimes are prosecuted in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, located in Baltimore and Greenbelt. Federal appeals take place in the United States Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, located in Richmond, Virginia.
Approximately 97 percent of federal criminal cases are resolved by plea bargaining. Only about 3 percent are resolved through a jury trial. However, this does not mean that all is lost if someone is charged with a federal offense. It simply solidifies the need for a competent, experienced Maryland federal criminal lawyer who is equipped to handle the challenges of a federal criminal case.
The US government, its attorneys, and its agencies are not infallible. Aggressive and effective defense strategies can sometimes illustrate the flaws in the government’s prosecution and sometimes this can provide a winning outcome for federal defendants. An experienced and seasoned Maryland federal criminal defense attorney can help someone mount the best possible defense for their particular case.
2016 White Collar Defense Diversity Scholarship Winner
We are pleased to announce Dina Sarver as the 2016 White Collar Defense Diversity Scholarship winner. A first-year law student at the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University College of Law, Dina has dedicated her time and energy to exemplifying the value of continued education and overcoming adversity. Learn more about Dina Sarver.
Information on award and application details for the 2017 White Collar Defense Diversity Scholarship will be released soon.