Federal Charges Prosecuted in Houston, TX
A federal crime is a criminal act that is illegal according to federal law and prosecuted in federal court. It is essential for individuals charged with federal crimes to get experienced lawyers who are knowledgeable about the federal procedures and federal laws. Find out more about how federal crimes are prosecuted in the United States District Courts for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division which serves the following counties: Harris County, Montgomery County, Fort Bend, County, Austin County, Fayette County, Madison County, Colorado County, Brazos County, and Grimes County, TX.
Federal prosecutors in the Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas aggressively prosecute federal crimes. The sentencing guidelines provide for harsh penalties. With the help of a competent Texas federal charge defense attorney, defendants may be able to avoid long periods of incarceration and monetary penalties. Act quickly to preserve all avenues of attacking the federal charges.
Houston Federal Charges Defense Lawyer
If you are charged with a federal crime, it is vital to have a good Texas federal charges defense attorney. Matt Horak is a local Houston attorney handling federal charges in Harris and Montgomery counties. Horak Law can help you avoid the heavy penalties that occur with a federal crime conviction. In addition to incarceration and hefty fines, a defendant can also have his assets seized and bank account frozen. The federal government is required to give notice before taking any property so a Houston federal charges defense attorney can respond to the government notice in order to save your property and personal assets from the US government.
Most federal crimes involve drug charges, white collar crimes and violent crimes. The federal government has set up several agencies to investigate and prosecute individuals who commit crimes that can be prosecuted in federal court. The main federal agencies that investigate crimes include:
- Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
- Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)
- Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)
Federal Charges Information Center
- How does a federal trial begin?
- What is an indictment and what happens after a person is indicted?
- How does a federal trial end?
- What is the Federal Bureau of Investigation?
- What is the Drug Enforcement Agency?
- What is the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives
- What are some examples of RICO charges?
How does a federal trial begin?
There are several steps for a federal case. It is important to seek competent legal counsel who will provide strategies for defending your particular federal charge. Below is an outline for the beginning of a typical federal case:
- Complaint/Arrest Warrant
The complaint is the first step the US prosecutors use to initiate a case. The complaint outlines the allegations of the federal charge and must include probable cause for arrest. The arrest warrant typically includes the information from the complaint and a command from the judge that allows law enforcement to arrest the accused individual.
- Initial Appearance
The purpose of the initial appearance is for the judge to make sure there is enough evidence to detain the individual. The judge must inform the individual of his basic rights. At this time the individual can hire a lawyer or get one appointed for him. Bond is also set at the initial appearance. Generally an initial appearance happens as soon as possible in order to protect your rights.
- Detention Hearing
The detention hearing must be held within 3 days of arrest. Here the judge determines the defendant’s flight risk or if the defendant is a danger to the community. Depending on the judge’s finding the defendant may be released pending trial.
- Preliminary Hearing
The preliminary hearing occurs within 10 days of arrest for a Complaint. At this time the Assistant US Attorney can offer evidence to establish probable cause such as testimony and the defense attorney can also provide evidence on the behalf of the defendant. If the judge finds enough probable cause the case is taken to the grand jury for further review.
- Grand Jury
The grand jury makes the final decision to prosecute a federal criminal case. A federal grand jury is made up of 23 randomly selected citizens from the judicial district. The citizens serve on the grand jury for a few days each month for approximately one year. After their service ends, a new grand jury is selected by the U.S. District court.
What is an indictment and what happens after a person is indicted?
It is possible for the Assistant U.S. Attorneys to file an Indictment instead of filing a complaint. In order to get an indictment, the Assistant U.S. attorneys must go to the grand jury first to establish probable cause. If the grand jury establishes probable cause it issues an indictment against the individual called a True Bill. If the grand jury does not establish probable cause it returns a No Bill.
Within 10 days from the time an Indictment has been filed and arrest has been made, the arraignment takes place. During the arraignment, the defendant is read the charges against him and advised of his rights. The defendant can enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. A trial date is set and a schedule for motions hearings is also selected.
How does a federal trial end?
- Plea Agreement
If a defendant pleads not guilty the case is set for trial unless a plea agreement is reached between the U.S. Assitant Attorney and the defense attorney. The defendant must change their plea to guilty in order to get a plea agreement. After the plea agreement the trial does not occur and the defendant goes straight to sentencing.
At trial the U.S. Assistant Attorney has the burden of proving the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. A jury of citizens selected from random must unanimously decide the verdict or outcome of the case. If the defendant is found not guilty, he is released. If he is convicted he moves onto the sentencing process.
After the jury finds the defendant guilty, the U.S. Probation Office collects information about the defendant and compiles it into a Pre-Sentence Investigation Report. This report has mitigating and aggravating factors in it along with recommendations for sentence to the U.S. District Court Judge.
About 8 weeks after the conviction, the U.S. District Court Judge imposes sentence. The sentence might be incarceration in a federal prison, probation, or monetary fines.
The final stage is the appeal. The defendant can appeal the guilty verdict and the type of sentence imposed. He must file a Notice of Appeal within 10 days from the sentencing. If the defendant entered into a plea deal he might waive or give up his right to appeal.
Most federal trials include the listed steps on this page. Depending on the facts and evidence in the case and the legal strategies employed by the federal prosecutors and the defendant’s defense lawyers, all the steps might occur or only a few may take place. It is important to talk to your defense lawyer about his strategy for your case.
What is the Federal Bureau of Investigation?
The FBI is a federal criminal investigation agency that serves as an intelligence agency for the US Department of Justice. The FBI has a wide jurisdiction over federal crimes and is the main leader on a number of federal investigations into crimes. Examples of crimes under FBI jurisdiction include:
- Cyber Crime
- Murder / Homicide
- Mail Fraud
- Bank Fraud
Several of these crimes can be prosecuted under state laws as well. It is important to get a Houston Federal Defense Lawyer to see if these federal charges can be brought back to state court where the penalties are not as severe.
What is the Drug Enforcement Agency?
The DEA is a federal law enforcement agency specializing in felony drug crimes. Most notably, the DEA targets drug smuggling domestically in the United States and abroad in other countries. Examples of federal drug charges that would fall under the DEA’s jurisdiction include:
- Drug Trafficking/Delivery/Importation
- Drug Manufacturing
- Possession of a Controlled Substance
These drug charges generally reach the federal level due to the amount of drugs involved or the drugs crossed state or national borders or some organized crime element is involved. It is vital to talk to a Texas Federal Defense Lawyer who can determine if these federal charges can get dismissed or reduced. If more than one person is involved with a federal drug crime, it is possible to create plea deals and bargains. It is highly advisable to get competent legal assistance if you are charged with any felony drug crime.
What is the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives?
The ATF is a federal law enforcement agency that investigates and tries to prevent federal crimes that involve weapons and drug trafficking. The ATF focuses on crimes that involve the unlawful use, manufacture or possession of weapons and explosives. Arson and bombings also fall under the ATF’s investigative jurisdiction. The ATF also regulates tobacco and alcohol by licensing the sale and possession of these products. Federal crimes that fall under the ATF’s jurisdiction will generally include the following:
- Violent Crimes
- Unlawful Possession of a Weapon
- Unlawful Import of Export of Weapons
- Unlawful firearms trafficking
- Fraudulent Permits used to obtain a Weapon
The ATF regulates gun licensure along with the sale and purchase of weapons. If you are a Texas resident, it is essential that you contact a Houston Federal Defense Attorney to deal with any federal weapons charges.
What are some examples of RICO charges?
Simply stated, a RICO charge stems from a person using a business to launder money generated by illegal activity such as racketeering. A common example is mafia activity where the mafia sets up a business like a butcher shop, but in the back room there is an illegal gambling and bookie operation underway. The money made from the gambling can be put on the balance sheet of the butcher shop to make it look like it came from a legitimate source. Another example of a RICO charge is a bank involved with money laundering. Again the main idea is to make money earned from illegal sources appear to come from legitimate sources.
It is commonly believed that only major corporations and mafia criminals have RICO charges brought against them, but the statute is very broad and includes mail fraud and wire fraud which includes small businesses and individuals. For example, a small business owner could mail advertisements to potential customers in the mail. One person buys the product and finds it is defective. The dissatisfied customer could claim that the small business owner fraudulently misrepresented the product and a RICO charge could stem from this incident. It is important for you to obtain competent legal assistance if you are charged with a RICO violation. Only a lawyer familiar with defending federal charges can assist you in protecting your rights.
Drug Enforcement Agency – Official government DEA website.1433 West Loop S #600
Houston, TX 77027-9506
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives – Official government ATF website.15355 Vantage Parkway West, Suite 200
Houston, Texas 77032 USA
Voice (281) 372-2900
Fax (281) 372-2919
Federal Bureau of Investigation – Official government FBI website.1 Justice Park Drive
Houston, TX 77092.
Phone: (713) 693-5000
Fax: (713) 936-8900
US District Court – This link directs you to the courts for the United States District Courts for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division serves the following counties Harris County, Montgomery County, Fort Bend, County, Austin County, Fayette County, Madison County, Colorado County, Brazos County, and Grimes County, TX.Houston Federal Couthouse 515 Rusk Street
Houston, TX 77002
Federal Criminal Defense Attorney in Houston, TX
If you are charged with a felony crime it is essential that you have a quality criminal defense attorney in Houston. Matt Horak is skilled at representing clients throughout all phases of a federal trial, from answering simple questions to fighting for the accused in federal court.
If you are facing a federal prosecution in Harris County, Montgomery County, Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, Galveston County, Liberty County, or Waller County, contact an experienced attorney regarding federal charges or a federal investigation. Call Horak Law at (713) 225-8000.