Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer in Charleston, SC

Federal criminal defense is very different than criminal defense in state courts in SC – the crimes are different, the procedure is different, sentencing is different, and the players are different.

Not every criminal defense lawyer can accept or competently handle a federal criminal case – Charleston federal criminal defense lawyer Grant B. Smaldone is admitted to practice in the federal district court of South Carolina and understands what is at stake when your case has been “picked up by the feds.”

What Types of Cases are Brought in Federal Criminal Court?

Although there is a wide range of criminal offenses that are brought in Charleston’s federal court, some of the more common cases that we see include:

  • Drug crimes and federal drug conspiracies;
  • Firearms offenses;
  • Fraud cases including wire fraud;
  • Securities fraud;
  • Embezzlement and business fraud; and
  • Conspiracy cases.

What are the Penalties in Federal Court?

In Charleston’s federal court, the penalties after a conviction are driven by the sentencing guidelines and will vary depending on your prior record (criminal history), the offense that you are charged with, and the monetary value assigned to any conspiracy you are charged as a part of.

For example, if you are charged in a federal drug conspiracy, your sentence will increase depending on the total weight of the drugs that the government believes are attributable to every person in the conspiracy – even if you never met the person.

For each prior conviction that you have, points are assigned that will increase the potential sentencing range, and there will most likely be mandatory minimum sentences, depending on the crime charged and your criminal history.

In most cases, there will be an acceptable sentencing range, based on the federal sentencing guidelines, that the court must stay within unless the judge states their reason for deviating from the suggested sentence.

Are Federal Criminal Cases More Difficult to Win than State Cases?

Almost always.

The federal system is designed to force defendants into guilty pleas – every defendant is rewarded for cooperation and punished, sometimes severely, for not cooperating or for going to trial.

For example, in drug conspiracy cases, every defendant is encouraged to “debrief” and give information on every person that they have ever dealt drugs with. If they cooperate, they will get a sentence reduction at their sentencing hearing – the amount of time taken off their sentence will depend on how helpful the government says that their cooperation was.

If they tell the DEA or other federal agent only information that the agent already knew, the sentence reduction will be smaller. If they provide new information that is useful in charging additional people, the sentence reduction will be greater. If they testify at another defendant’s trial, they can expect a significant reduction in sentence.

Because of this dynamic, if you go to trial in a drug conspiracy, you can expect to see a long list of federal inmates lining up to testify against you – whether their information is accurate or not. On the other hand, if you intend to cooperate, you need to do so early in your case – when co-defendants provide information before you, you do not get the full credit for your cooperation.

That doesn’t mean that you cannot go to trial in a federal criminal case – it does mean that you need to go to trial with your eyes open and understanding what you and your attorney will be facing. Federal criminal trials can be won in the right case, despite the obstacles that the court and government have put in place.

SC Federal Criminal Defense Attorney in Charleston

If you have been charged in federal court in Charleston, SC, or if you have been contacted by the DEA, FBI, ATF, or an agent from any federal agency, you need to get an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer on your side immediately – before you sit down for an interview with the federal agent.

Call federal defense lawyer Grant B. Smaldone now at (843) 808-2100 or send us a message online to schedule a free consultation.