A Former Federal Public Defender and the First Chair Qualified to Defend Capital Cases by the AZ Supreme Court
When you are facing off against a federal court, you will be facing off against a heavily-resourced and intimidating prosecution. However, you can equip yourself just as readily with an experienced and deeply knowledgeable federal defense attorney. Attorney Robert J. McWhirter formerly served as a federal public defender, so he knows how the federal system works – especially as a defender. He is also the first chair qualified to defend capital cases by the Arizona Supreme Court, so he has been recognized as a powerful and capable defense lawyer. While you may understandably feel daunted by the federal court, Attorney McWhirter will not; he will guide you through the federal criminal justice system and protect your constitutional rights as a defendant in the process.
Crimes Under Federal Jurisdiction
For the most part, criminal charges will be litigated at the state level. After all, crimes like murder, robbery, theft, rape are all guided by state law first. However, if the offense involves the federal or national wellbeing, such as counterfeiting U.S. currency, the crime could be prosecuted in federal instead of state court. In general, the federal government has jurisdiction over the following categories of crimes:
- Those that take place on federal land or involves federal officers (e.g., a murder in a national forest or on a Native American reservation, a theft on a military base, an assault against a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent).
- Those involving fraud, deception, or misrepresentation on the federal government or one of its agencies (e.g., federal tax fraud, Medicaid fraud, or Small Business Administration (SBA) loan fraud).
- Those where the defendant crosses state lines (e.g., a kidnapping that begins in Oregon and crosses into Nevada).
- Those where the criminal conduct crosses state lines (e.g., an Internet fraud scheme involving people in multiple states).
- Immigration and customs violations (e.g., importing child pornography or international human trafficking).
Federal Sentencing Guidelines
Federal penalties are longer and carry harsher mandatory minimums than state penalties for similar crimes. Also, individuals convicted of federal crimes and sentenced to prison will go to federal prison rather than state prison.
Federal judges must refer to the federal sentencing guidelines to consider a defendant’s sentence. The guidelines are based on the seriousness of the crime and the offender's criminal record. The guidelines are advisory and not mandatory, though a judge will have to provide a rationale for ordering harsher or more lenient penalties.
The federal sentencing guidelines assign most federal crimes an offense level between 1 and 43, such that the higher the offense level, the more severe the crime. (For instance, first-degree murder is level 43, while burglary of a residence is level 17). An individual offender is also assigned to 1 of 6 criminal history categories based on the extent and recency of past criminal activity. A judge will evaluate these two assigned to determine the final sentencing range.
For certain crimes, the guidelines may outline "specific offense characteristics” that could impact the level assignment. For example, a level 17 burglary could increase based on the value of the property allegedly stolen; if the loss of property was worth more than $5,000, the crime could rise to level 18, and if the loss was worth more than $1.5 million, it could rise to level 22.
Similarly, the level of a federal crime may also be adjusted (increased or reduced), based on factors like the offender’s role in the offense, multiple counts of the crime, and acceptance of responsibility. Some examples of federal victim-related adjustments are:
- if the crime was motivated by hate, the offense level increases by 3 levels;
- if the offender was a minimal participant in the offense, the offense level decreases by 4 levels;
- if the offender knew that the alleged victim was unusually vulnerable due to age or physical or mental condition, the offense level increases by 2 levels;
- if the offender obstructed justice, the offense level increases by 2 levels;
- if the offender clearly accepts responsibility, the offense level decreases by 2 levels.
- if the offender is convicted on multiple counts, the most serious offense is used as the starting level and may be increased by other counts of the offense.
Contact the Law Offices of Robert J. McWhirter for Legal Representation Immediately
If you are facing federal prosecution, seek experienced representation immediately. Federal crimes are punished more severely than state crimes, and the federal government will likely have more resources for prosecution than you will as an accused individual. However, an experienced federal attorney could make a significant difference in the outcome of your case. Attorney Robert J. McWhirter is a highly experienced federal crimes attorney, having previously served as a federal public defender and being recognized for his expertise on constitutional law. Whether we pursue a defense for mitigated charges or even for dismissed charges, you can rest assured that our firm, led by Attorney McWhirter, will protect your rights as a defendant and guide you through the federal criminal justice system.
Schedule an initial consultation with the Law Offices of Robert J. McWhirter online or at (480) 690-9097 to discuss your federal case in more detail.
- Over 30 Years of Legal Experience
- Personal, One-on-One Attention
- Certified Specialist in Criminal Law
- Former Federal Public Defender
Constitutional Lawyers in the Southwest