If you or a family member is charged with a federal offense, you need to immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. This should be done as early in the federal investigation as possible. A criminal attorney may meet with the Assistant U.S. Attorney and federal agents to discuss the investigation prior to charges being filed. Your attorney can learn important facts about your particular investigation.
When a person learns that he is the focus of a federal investigation prior to an arrest or the filing of criminal charges, he can retain a defense attorney to convince the federal attorneys and agents that case has no merit. Additionally, the defense attorney can have an opportunity to limit a client criminal exposure and resolve the criminal matter before the case is indicted by a federal grand jury. Resolving a case before indictment can result in favorable plea agreements and avoid the astronomical expenses, time and inconveniences that go along with an indictment and federal trial.
What Exactly is a Federal Plea Agreement in New Jersey?
A plea agreement occurs when the United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey and your defense attorney reach an agreement on your behalf conditioned on your guilty plea to criminal charges. A plea agreement can provide for the dismissal of charges against you and can ensure that additional and more serious charges are not brought against you. Once you and your attorney accept and sign the terms of the plea agreement, you must appear in federal court and make an application to plead guilty before the judge.
What are the Federal Sentencing Guidelines?
Federal statutes provide for statutory maximum prison sentences and statutory maximum fines. Some offenses carry a mandatory minimum sentence. A federal sentence is based upon the federal sentencing guidelines. The offense level for a federal crime is based upon the seriousness of the offense charged. Every federal offense has a base offense level. Your attorney can negotiate specific offense characteristics in the offense charged and decrease the base offense level for the plea agreement. This can reduce your exposure for the guidelines sentencing range. Adjustments can also be included in the plea agreement. Downward adjustments can lower your offense level and reduce your sentence exposure. Acceptance of responsibility in a plea agreement can lead to a 3-level reduction.
The sentencing guidelines also account for your criminal history. Your criminal history category is determined based upon your criminal record. The sentencing range for an offense level increases based upon your criminal history category. Therefore, someone with no record (Category I) will receive a lesser sentence than someone with a serious record (Category VI) for the same offense level in federal court.
What else can your Attorney Negotiate in a Plea Agreement?
There are many other collateral consequences and statutory penalties for federal offenses. Your defense attorney must advise you about:
- Restitution: Your attorney needs to negotiate restitution because you will be responsible to make full restitution for any losses resulting from your role in a criminal offense.
- Forfeiture: As part of your acceptance of responsibility, you may be required to forfeit all property derived from your offense and be subject to a money judgement.
- Immigration Consequences: You must be advised that if you are not a citizen of the United States, a guilty plea to a federal offense will likely subject you to immigration or removal proceedings.
- Appeal Rights and Post-Sentencing Rights: Many plea agreements contain waivers to certain appeal rights. This is particularly important because the sentencing guidelines are not binding on the court. They are advisory to the Judge. Your attorney must advise you what happens if the Judge sentences you above or below the offense level in your plea agreement.
- Civil Penalties: Plea agreements are limited to the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey and do not bind other federal, state, or local authorities.
Federal Criminal Charge Representation in the District of NJ
Howard P. Lesnik, Esq., is a board-certified criminal trial attorney by the Supreme Court of New Jersey and is an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Mr. Lesnik’s provides highly personalized attention and representation. Mr. Lesnik accepts federal matters and implements a legal strategy designed to achieve a successfully result for every client. Mr. Lesnik’s preparation, investigation, research, legal strategy, negotiation and extensive trial skills ensures the success for his clients.
Contact My Office Immediately
Retaining an experienced federal criminal defense attorney from the beginning of your case can make all the difference. If you are a family member were arrested, investigated or questioned for a federal offense, contact me immediately so that I can review your federal charges from the very beginning. I can review your case and advise you as to all possible defenses to make sure that you are properly represented on your federal criminal charges. Please contact me now by email, by phoning 908.264.7701, or by completing the form to the right to schedule your complimentary 30-minute strategy session.