Federal Practice Areas
Federal Criminal Defense in Dallas / Ft. Worth, Houston Throughout the State of Texas
Our Federal Practice Areas
- Criminal Conspiracy 18 U.S.C. §371 – A criminal conspiracy is an agreement to commit a federal criminal offense coupled with an overt act in furtherance of the agreement. Talking about committing a crime is not enough – one of the conspirators must have taken some action towards committing a crime. The maximum punishment for engaging in a conspiracy is 5 years in the federal penitentiary.Most federal indictments will include a conspiracy charge if the facts support it. Alleging a conspiracy permits the prosecutor to offer evidence that might not otherwise be admissible, permits the jury to convict one conspirator for the foreseeable actions of another, and permits the judge to take more conduct into consideration when assessing a sentence.
- Aiding and Abetting 18 U.S.C. §2 – A person can be charged, convicted and punished if he either commits the crime himself, or if he aids or abets another in the commission of an offense. To be convicted under an aiding and abetting theory, the jury must find that the person knowingly associated himself with a criminal venture and sought by his actions to make it successful. There is not a separate punishment for aiding and abetting, the punishment would be the same as if the person had committed the entire offense himself.Like conspiracies, most federal indictments will include aiding and abetting language in order to broaden the scope of conduct for which the person might be held criminally responsible.
- Mail Fraud 18 U.S.C. §1341 – Mail Fraud prohibits the knowing use of the mails in furtherance of a scheme to defraud. The punishment is a maximum of 20 years in the federal penitentiary.This is one of the older federal crimes, but is an extremely flexible and powerful weapon in the federal prosecutor’s arsenal. Contrary to popular belief, it is not necessary that the U.S. mails have been used – the use of private commercial carriers such as FedEx and UPS is also included. It is also not necessary that the item mailed contained false information – as long as it furthers the scheme to defraud. Finally, it is not necessary that the item mailed actually crossed a state or international border – mailing something from Dallas to Houston would suffice if the mail carrier has an effect on interstate commerce.
- Wire Fraud 18 U.S.C. §1343 – Wire Fraud is very similar to Mail Fraud, except it requires a wire transmission of some sort in furtherance of the scheme to defraud. The punishment is a maximum of 20 years in the federal penitentiary.A wire transmission can include a wire transfer, phone call, fax, text message, e-mail, or virtually any other form of electronic communication. Like Mail Fraud, the phone call or e-mail does not need to contain false information – as long as it furthers the fraud scheme. And also like Mail Fraud, the wire transmission need not cross state lines – a phone call from Austin to San Antonio is sufficient because the phone company affects interstate commerce.
- Bank Fraud 18 U.S.C. §1344 – Bank Fraud criminalizes schemes to defraud “financial institutions,” as that term is defined by federal law. A conviction under this statute carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 30 years.The definition of “financial institution” includes banks, savings and loans, credit unions, and any other entity whose deposits are insured by the federal government. A common example of this offense is making false statements on a loan application.
- Health Care Fraud 18 U.S.C. §1347 – One of the newer fraud statutes, Health Care Fraud prohibits schemes to defraud “health care benefits programs,” as that term is defined by federal law. This offense is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Longer prison terms can result if death or serious bodily injury results from the offense.”Health care benefit program” is defined broadly to include any plan, entity or individual that provides any medical benefit, item or service and that affects interstate commerce.
- Conspiracy to Commit Fraud 18 U.S.C. §1349 – This is a separate conspiracy statute that applies to Mail Fraud, Wire Fraud, Bank Fraud and Heath Care Fraud. The punishment for a violation is the same as the underlying offense that was the object of the conspiracy.Unlike the general conspiracy statute set forth in Section 371, this statute does not require proof of an overt act – entering into an agreement to commit fraud is sufficient to convict.
- False Statements 18 U.S.C. §1001 – This statute makes it an offense to knowingly make a false verbal or written statement to, or concealing information from, any department of the Executive, Legislative or Judicial branch of the federal government. It carries a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment.This statute is sometimes referred to as the “Lying to the FBI” law, however would also apply to such matters as lying under oath at a Congressional hearing, or submitting a false affidavit to a federal court.There are several other statutes criminalizing false statements made in connection with various other matters, for example, income tax returns (26 U.S.C. §7206) and health care claims (18 U.S.C. §1035).
- Identity Theft 18 U.S.C. §§1028, 1029 – In general terms, these statutes prohibit the unlawful production, possession and transfer of identification documents, such as a driver’s licenses, authentication features, such as the hologram on a credit card, and access devices, such as PIN numbers. Depending on the circumstances of the offense, an offense under these statutes can carry a maximum term in prison of 1 to 30 years.
- Tax Evasion 26 U.S.C. §7201 – This statute makes it an offense to willfully attempt to evade any tax imposed under the Internal Revenue Code. The maximum punishment is 5 years imprisonment.Only “willful” attempts to evade taxes are covered by this statute. “Willful” has been defined by the federal courts as a voluntary and intentional violation of a known legal duty. It is important to bear in mind the difference between tax evasion, which is illegal, and tax avoidance, which is perfectly legal. An example of tax evasion would be failing to declare certain income; and example of tax avoidance would be making a contribution to a 401(k) account before the end of the year to reduce your tax liability for that year.
- Public Corruption 18 U.S.C. §1951 – This statute criminalizes robbery and extortion that affects interstate commerce. It carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years.Known as the Hobbs Act, this statute was originally passed as a tool against organized crime. However, it has become one of the most commonly used laws to prosecute public corruption at the state and local level. This is possible because the statute defines “extortion” to include the obtaining of property “under color of official right,” in other words, while acting as a public official.
- Civil Rights 18 U.S.C. §242 – This statute prohibits persons, acting under “color of law,” from depriving others of their constitutional rights. It carries a sentence of one year in prison. However, if bodily injury results or a deadly weapon is used the maximum punishment is 10 years in prison; and if death results, the offender can be sentenced to life in prison, or to death.The phrase “color of law” means that the person was acting under his authority as a public servant. This statute is most often used to prosecute police officers who use excessive force against minorities.
- Computer Crimes 18 U.S.C. §1030 – This section criminalizes the unauthorized access to computers, and depending on the circumstances of the offense, can carry a maximum punishment of 1 year to life in prison.An example of this offense is a bank employee who accesses the bank’s computer system without authorization in order to misappropriate customer funds or commit identity theft.
- Sex Offenses 18 U.S.C. §§1466A, 2423 – Section 1466A prohibits the production or possession of child pornography. The maximum punishment for this offense ranges from 10 to 40 years. In addition, convictions under this statute often carry mandatory minimum prison sentences of 5 to 15 years.Section 2423, also known as the Mann Act, makes it an offense to travel in interstate commerce in order to engage in illicit sexual conduct. It carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 30 years. Violators of this law are often referred to as “travelers” who cross state lines in order to engage in sexual relations with minors. Many of these cases result from sting operations by law enforcement in which officers pose online as minors.
- Immigration 8 U.S.C. §§1324, 1325, 1326 – These are the most commonly charged criminal immigration offenses.Section 1324 makes it a crime to knowingly bring an alien into the United States, or to transport or harbor an alien within the United States. This is the statute used to prosecute alien smugglers and carries a maximum sentence of 5 years to life in prison.Section 1325 is a misdemeanor offense that prohibits the illegal entry of aliens into the United States. It carries a maximum sentence of 6 months in jail – however if the person has a prior 1325 conviction, the offense becomes a felony punishable by up to 2 years in prison.
Section 1326, often referred to as Illegal Re-Entry, makes it an offense to enter or be found in the United States without permission after having been denied entry, deported or removed. Depending on the alien’s criminal history, this statute carries a maximum sentence of 2 to 20 years in the federal penitentiary.
- Firearms 18 U.S.C. §§922, 924 – These are the primary federal firearms statutes. They criminalize a variety of acts with respect to firearms, including the possession of firearms or ammunition by certain classes of persons, and the possession of certain types of illegal weapons and ammunition. The maximum punishments, depending on the actual offense committed, range from 1 year to life in prison.The most commonly charged offense under this statute is Felon in Possession of a Firearm under Section 922(g). However this section also prohibits several other classes of persons from possessing firearms or ammunition, including illegal aliens, persons under certain types of domestic restraining orders, and persons convicted of misdemeanors involving domestic violence.Another important provision of these statutes is the mandatory consecutive sentence set forth in Section 924(c) for using a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence or a drug trafficking crime. Depending on whether the firearm was possessed, brandished or discharged, this section adds an extra 5 to 10 years to any prison term assessed for the underlying offense.
- Money Laundering 18 U.S.C. §§1956, 1957 – Section 1956 is the primary federal Money Laundering statute. It carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years, and prohibits financial transactions involving the proceeds of certain specified unlawful activities when done with the intent to promote or conceal the criminal activity. There is no minimum dollar amount for a 1956 offense. In addition, Section 1956 contains a conspiracy provision in subsection (g) covering both 1956 and 1957 – which does not require that an overt act be committed in furtherance of the agreement to launder money.An example of a 1956 violation would be transferring the proceeds of a Mail Fraud offense from one bank account to the account of an unrelated business so that the funds would be commingled and the nature of the funds concealed.Section 1957, sometimes referred to as the “spending statute,” prohibits monetary transactions greater than $10,000 involving proceeds of certain specified unlawful activities. It carries a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison.
Unlike Section 1956, this section does not require any intent to promote or conceal the underlying criminal activity. An example of a 1957 violation would be using the proceeds of a narcotics transaction to purchase a new vehicle.
- Narcotics 21 U.S.C. §§841, 846 – These are the primary federal narcotics statutes. Section 841 prohibits the manufacture or distribution, or the possession with intent to distribute, controlled substances – including marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin. The punishment is based on the type and quantity of the controlled substance involved – and ranges from 1 year to life in prison. Depending on the circumstances, these offense can also carry substantial mandatory minimum prison sentences of 5 years to life in prison.Section 846 is a separate conspiracy provision involving federal narcotics offenses. It carries the same punishment as the underlying offense, and does not require the commission of an overt act in furtherance of the narcotics offense.
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