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b2ap3_thumbnail_shutterstock_665886625-min.jpg“Asset forfeiture” allows the federal government to seize property linked to a crime. This can include both the tools used to commit a crime and the proceeds. Civil forfeiture and criminal forfeiture effectively accomplish the same goals, but criminal forfeiture is contingent on a conviction. As part of sentencing, the court may order the defendant to forfeit certain assets believed to be related to the crime. If you are facing federal charges, you are likely at risk of having your property seized. There are steps an attorney can take to help prevent this, so it is best to get in contact with one as soon as you learn you are being charged. 

What Assets Can Be Seized in Criminal Forfeiture?

The goal behind criminal asset forfeiture is to disrupt criminal operations by confiscating the tools of the trade or by seizing their profits. The other purpose is to discourage crime - if you get caught, you lose your illicit earnings. If you are convicted of a federal crime, the government could take anything that it proves by a preponderance of the evidence represents the proceeds of a crime. 

This includes not just money it believes you earned from the crime, but also anything you have purchased with that money. Anything from your house to your bank account could be forfeited after a conviction. Criminal forfeiture is, however, limited in scope to only include assets related to the crime you are being sentenced for. So if you are being sentenced for bank fraud, criminal forfeiture would not reach money the government suspects you earned as a small-time drug dealer. 

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chicago criminal defense lawyerCrime is increasingly committed over the internet. Especially during the pandemic, more and more white-collar criminals are turning to forms of fraud or theft that can be carried out online. One unfortunate side effect is that it is also increasingly easy to inadvertently stumble into illegal activity on the web, often out of naivete. The FBI has recently stepped up its enforcement of internet crimes, making internet-based prosecutions increasingly common. If you are facing federal prosecution for any internet-based crime, it is important that you take the charges very seriously and immediately get in contact with a criminal defense attorney. 

What Federal Internet Crimes Are Most Common?

Crimes like theft, which used to require an in-person action, can now be done from the comfort of one’s own desk. This has moved the FBI’s battle against crime from the field to the internet. For an unlucky few, this can lead to unreasonable charges for an unintentional online misstep. Some common federal internet crimes are: 

  • Fraud - Bank fraud, mortgage fraud, and credit card fraud are often committed online these days. A lot of financial paperwork is now done via an app or website, increasing opportunities for cybercriminals to be dishonest. 

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Posted by on in Federal Crimes

chicago internet crimes defense lawyerCopyright violations are usually thought of as strictly a civil matter. Most people and businesses expect that if they use a copyrighted work without permission, they are likely to be sued and will probably have to pay the copyright owner civil damages. Copyright violations can be a federal crime, however. These intellectual property thefts are often a type of internet crime in modern times. Some people do not learn that copyright violations can be a criminal offense until they are being arrested for it. If this has happened to you, you will need an aggressive defense attorney to begin building your best defense as soon as possible. 

When is a Copyright Violation a Federal Crime?

It is true that copyright violations are usually handled in civil court. Not every case of intellectual property theft attracts the attention of the government. However, these prosecutions can and do occur. Copyright violations are a type of intellectual property theft. Under federal law, using, copying, or distributing a copyrighted work without the owner’s permission is a crime if it is done on purpose and for financial gain. 

The retail value of the unlawfully copied work must reach $1,000 before misdemeanor charges apply, so there is some leeway for very minor incidents. A felony may be charged if the value exceeds $2,500. Copyright violations that do not elicit any profit and were not intended to elicit any profit fall outside the purview of the statute. Copying or distributing a protected work is not a crime unless it was done for profit. This includes direct financial gain, such as by selling illegal copies of a movie, but it also includes more indirect gain, such as using stolen intellectual property like a computer program to gain a business advantage. Many prosecutions involve virtual intellectual property like video game designs or computer code stolen by competing companies. 

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Posted by on in Fraud

chicago bank fraud lawyerIt is easier than you might think to find yourself facing federal bank fraud charges, even if you did not intend to do anything wrong. The problem with fraud cases is that a prosecutor must prove that you were knowingly trying to defraud a financial institution - when you may have in fact have unknowingly made a mistake on some paperwork. Facing federal charges is a frightening experience. You may be afraid of long prison terms, asset forfeiture, and loss of a career or your reputation in the community. These fears are reasonable. It is important that you are represented by an experienced attorney during any federal criminal proceeding. 

What Are Some Defenses to Bank Fraud? 

To convict you of federal bank fraud, the government will have to show that you knowingly defrauded or attempted to defraud a bank or obtained or tried to obtain assets from a financial institution through fraudulent means. The operative word is “knowingly.” Forgetting to list an old debt on a loan application, or absentmindedly writing your nickname on an official form could be construed as attempts at fraud, despite being inadvertent, if careless, mistakes. 

The most common defenses to federal bank fraud are based around a lack of intent. It is impossible to prove with certainty what was going on inside your head at the time you performed the act that allegedly constituted fraud. However, that is often the issue a bank fraud trial is decided based on. It may take the skill of an experienced attorney to successfully raise intent-based defenses, as there is often little evidence beyond your own statements. 

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Chicago federal criminal defense attorneyThe short answer is yes, but there is much more to the story. Your Illinois medical marijuana card allows you to possess and use a reasonable amount of THC product within the state. It does not give you permission to sell THC products or to transport them across state lines. Marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, and you can still be charged at the federal level even if you are not breaking any Illinois state laws. If you are being charged with federal drug trafficking or another federal drug crime, you will want to find an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as you can. All federal charges are extremely serious, and you could be facing years in prison. 

When Can a Medical Marijuana Patient Be Charged With Trafficking?

If you are just using your medical marijuana yourself, appropriately, you are unlikely to ever be charged even though marijuana is federally illegal. When medical marijuana patients get charged with marijuana crimes, it is almost never related to personal use. Medical marijuana patients generally only get charged at the federal level if they: 

  • Transport across state lines - The federal government rarely prosecutes individual marijuana users who are following the laws of their state, in their state. However, trying to transport marijuana across state lines will attract federal attention. 
  • Carry onto federal land - For frequent users of medical marijuana, it can be easy to forget that you are carrying your THC products when you enter the federal property. Many medical marijuana patients also do not always realize when they are entering federal land - any national forest or park, for example, is federal property. Marijuana is illegal on federal property whether or not you have a medical card. 
  • Re-sell the product - Because medical marijuana patients have easy access to safe, good quality THC products, they are often pressured into re-selling the product. It is very easy for a patient to fall into the trap of selling their medicine to others. This conduct may seem relatively non-serious, but it could result in a federal drug trafficking charge. 

It is important for medical marijuana patients to keep their THC products at home and not to share them with others. The dubious legality of medical marijuana can easily give patients a sort of false confidence that leads them to make a mistake and get arrested. 

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