Federal crimes can relate to anything from wire fraud to child pornography to drugs and firearms charges. If you are charged in Federal Court, are the target of, or are being investigated by, a Federal Agency (i.e., DEA, FBI, ICE, IRS or the ATF), it is imperative that you hire an experienced Federal criminal defense attorney to represent you.
The Federal Criminal Court System vs. The State Criminal Court System
The Federal Criminal Court System is much different than the State Criminal Court System: One of the main differences involves probation and those who administer it. In a state court setting, the probation officer does not necessarily have any say as to the type of sentence an individual receives; whereas, in the Federal setting, a U.S. probation officer is involved in not only monitoring the individual, but also in providing the judge with a primary recommendation prior to sentencing. This is accomplished with a Pre-Sentence Investigative Report: These reports can be lengthy, consisting of hundreds of pages.
The Creation of the Pre-Sentence Investigative Report
To create this report, the U.S. probation officer meets with the individual, the individual’s attorney and the U.S. attorneys. He or she also reviews any discoveries associated with the case as well as the individual’s mental health and physical history. Once all of this information is collected, the officer reviews the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines to determine which facts should lead to reductions or enhancements in the individual’s sentence. These Pre-Sentencing Investigative Reports usually hold a lot of weight with the judge.
Federal criminal defense lawyer Ben Stechschulte reviews his client’s reports to ensure they are accurate: Should any discrepancies be found; he can take this up with the U.S. probation officer(s) who created the report. If the issue cannot be resolved by working with the officers, attorney Stechschulte can file an objection with the court stating that the officers have misapplied the law.
The Safety Valve Law
One law that is frequently misapplied by U.S. probation officers is the Safety Valve (Credit) Law: A Safety Valve Credit is a two-level reduction that can reduce an individual’s sentence by 12- to 24-months. Individuals who are charged with certain federal crimes (i.e., possession/distribution of synthetic marijuana, cocaine, pills, meth, etc.) may be eligible to reduce their sentences via The Safety Valve Law.
To be eligible for a Safety Valve Credit:
- the individual cannot have any priors;
- no one sustained injuries during the offense; and
- a firearm must not have been used while the crime was being committed.
Whereas, a Federal probation officer may be familiar with the Safety Valve Law, these individuals are not attorneys. Therefore, a probation officer may misapply the Safety Valve Law, which can lead to a significantly longer sentence. Furthermore, individuals who work for the U.S. Marshal’s Office, U.S. Probation Office or the Federal Bureau of Prisons are not interested in offering leniency. Therefore, in the event of subjectivity, these individuals will almost always choose the longer sentence.
As an experienced, board certified Federal criminal defense attorney, an expert in criminal trial law and a former prosecuting attorney, Ben Stechschulte knows how to take advantage of the current laws to attain optimal results for his clients.