Illionois defense attorney,  Illinois criminal defense lawyer,If you have been charged with a federal crime such as healthcare fraud or money laundering, you will need to understand how the Federal Sentencing Guidelines work. These guidelines are just that – they are guidelines to help judges decide on appropriate sentences. They are not hard and fast rules.

The Federal Sentencing Guidelines are released in a publication every year. Although judges are not required to follow these guidelines, they are required to at least consider them. If a federal judge decides to deviate from these guidelines, they must provide a clear and full explanation of their reason for doing so. Below is a brief explanation of how these guidelines work.

What Are the Federal Sentencing Guidelines?

Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, individuals convicted of a federal crime are assigned to one of 43 offense levels. The level they are assigned will depend on the severity of the crime. Offenses considered to be on a higher level have more serious consequences. For example, money laundering may have an offense level of 20, while first-degree murder will have an offense level of 43.

The guidelines also require defendants to be categorized into one of six groups, based on their past criminal history. Individuals that have longer criminal histories will also receive longer sentences than first offenders. The sentences take into consideration this category, as well as the offense level of the crime committed.

There are certain factors that can increase or decrease a sentence. For example, if a defendant played a very minor role in the crime, judges can decrease their offense level by four. If on the other hand, a defendant attempted to obstruct justice so as not to be found guilty of the crime, the offense level can increase by two.

When Defendants Accept Responsibility

When a defendant wishes to accept responsibility for the crime and they plead guilty, this can also have an effect on their sentencing. When a judge understands that a defendant is remorseful, and accepts responsibility, the judge can decrease the offense level by two. Judges will also take other factors into consideration, such as if the defendant has paid restitution to the victim of the crime.

In cases when an offense level is 16 or higher, the prosecution can enter a motion detailing the fact that an early guilty plea saved the prosecution and the court valuable resources. When this is the case, a judge may decrease the offense level by one.

Charged with a Federal Crime? Contact an Illinois Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer

Although the basics of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines are above, they are much more complex than that. Aggravating or mitigating factors are sometimes involved in sentencing, and other factors also often come into play. The best case scenario for those accused of a federal crime though is to never get to sentencing and have their charges dropped, or a final judgment issued in their favor. A skilled Chicago criminal defense lawyer can help obtain this positive outcome. If you have been charged with a federal crime, contact the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel today at 312-270-0999. We will build you a strong defense that can have your charges reduced or dropped altogether. We also offer free consultations so we can review your case at no charge to you. Call now or fill out our online form to schedule yours.


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Illionois defense attorney, Illinois federal crimes lawyer, Illinois criminal defense lawyerUnder the Fourth Amendment, investigators must have a search warrant in order to search your home. When a judge gives them this warrant, you have no choice but to allow them into your home to search within the provisions of the warrant. The things that you do and do not do during a search can have a significant impact on your case. The very first thing you should do is get a lawyer. A federal criminal attorney will ensure your rights are upheld and help you prepare for anything that might come next.

What a Search Warrant Means

Many people do not know what a search warrant means. Does it mean an arrest will follow? What are the investigators looking for?

If investigators are searching your home, they likely suspect you, or someone in your home, of a federal crime. If they needed information on someone else, they usually issue a subpoena to get the information from you.

During a search, investigators can take anything they find that is listed in the search warrant as evidence. You typically will not be told when you will get it back. However, the government is supposed to return your belongings as soon as they are deemed no longer necessary for the case.

Sometimes, this means you will not get the items back until the case is over. When it comes to electronics such as computers and cell phones, sometimes the prosecutor will copy the hard drives and then return them to you.

What Will Happen Next

After investigators search a home, people often imagine the worst and think they will be arrested soon after. This is not usually the case. Federal crimes have long statute of limitations, meaning that prosecutors have a long time to charge you. They will use as much of this time as possible in order to build a strong case against you.

To protect yourself as much as possible, it is advised you do not speak to the federal investigators while they are conducting the search. Even if they ask you direct questions about any potential crime or your activities, it is best to direct them to your attorney. The more you say during a search, the more that can be used against you in the future.

It is also important to not speak to anyone about the case. Federal investigators are known for having people wear wiretaps in order to get those they suspect of a crime to implicate themselves. The only person you should speak to about the case is an attorney.

Call the Illinois Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer that Can Help

If you have been served with a search warrant, or you think you might be under federal investigation, it is important you do not face it alone. A skilled Chicago federal criminal defense lawyer will ensure your rights are upheld and help you throughout the entire process. At the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel, we know how to build a solid defense against federal criminal charges and help you retain your freedom. Call us today at 312-270-0999 for your free consultation so we can begin reviewing your case.


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Illionois defense attorney, Illinois federal crimes lawyer, Illinois criminal defense lawyerRecently, singer R. Kelly appeared once again in federal court. This time it was to set a trial date for the 11 sexual abuse charges he is facing. R. Kelly continues to deny all charges against him. The fact that this high-profile case is in federal court has some confused. Are sex charges a state crime? When do they become a federal crime?

Federal Court vs. State Court

Like other crimes, when a person is charged with a sex crime, they are arrested and the case is tried in the jurisdiction where the crime occurred.

Certain sex crimes are considered both state and federal crimes. The federal courts may hear the case at first, and then move it into the state courts. Likewise, a case may begin in state court and then advance to federal court if it is serious enough, or if new evidence is presented that makes the case appropriate for federal court.

Additionally, sex crimes can be tried in both federal and state courts at the same time. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, this does not constitute double jeopardy.

When Cases are Moved to Federal Court

Federal courts have dockets that are extremely full. As such, they do not hear every case they are presented. Federal courts will usually take on cases that cross state lines, such as sex trafficking, or that include the use of the Internet to commit the crime. Also, the federal courts will typically hear a sex crime case if it involves a child or minor.

Federal sex crimes are covered under Title 18 of the United States Code. Sex crimes typically heard in federal court include those that:

  • Exploit children
  • Involve child pornography, including possession and distribution
  • Involve online solicitation of a child, particularly if the solicitation involves crossing state lines
  • Involve aggravated sexual abuse or aggravated rape
  • Involve transporting children or other individuals across state lines or to other countries for the purpose of engaging them in criminal sexual activity

The fact that R. Kelly’s case involves minors is likely why it is being heard in federal court.

Differences in Procedure

A sex crime heard in federal court is much more complex than those heard in state courts. This is due to the fact that federal courts typically deal with much more serious crimes that are much broader in scope. Also, multiple federal law enforcement agencies are involved in a federal crime, including the FBI and the DEA. This means investigations are more complicated and take much more time than those investigated by state officials only.

Federal prosecutors also typically only take on cases they are fairly certain they will win. As such, cases heard in federal court require the strongest defense possible, and an attorney who is familiar with the federal court system.

Facing Sex Charges? Call an Illinois Federal Criminal Defense Attorney

Facing federal charges of a sex crime is frightening. However, you do not need to go through it alone. At the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel, our dedicated Chicago federal criminal defense attorney is passionate about advocating for the rights of those accused. Attorney Garfinkel will build you a strong defense to give you the best chance of escaping federal charges and retaining your freedom. Call us today at 312-270-0999 or fill out our online form for your free consultation.


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war-crimesEarlier this year, President Donald Trump announced that he was considering granting pardons to a handful of individuals accused of war crimes. While he has since stepped back from the plan to pardon, it had many questioning what constitutes a war crime in the United States? Are war crimes punished internationally?

War Crimes and the International Criminal Court

It is true that there is an International Criminal Court that prosecutes war crimes. However, here in the United States, those accused of committing a war crime are prosecuted domestically. That means that defendants are tried and, if convicted, sentenced in the American federal court system.

The federal courts have adopted the Geneva Conventions. This means that although the trial will take place in America, it will follow international law.

What Are War Crimes?

War is awful, and many unimaginable acts occur during battle. The Geneva Conventions though, recognize that war does not grant anyone serving the right to act in any manner they choose. There is also a global understanding that many times innocent people are caught in the middle, but they still deserve protection from the atrocities of war. The law also recognizes that just because one may be considered an enemy in war, that enemy still has the right to be treated correctly.

War crimes are covered under the federal War Crimes Act. According to the Act, a war crime is defined as a “grave breach” from Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention. The Act continues to define a grave breach as any act committed against a person that involves intentional killing, torture, and inhuman treatment. Intentionally causing a person to sustain severe suffering or serious injury to their body or health are considered war crimes, as are biological experiments.

The Statute of Limitations on War Crimes

Someone that has been to war for America and committed a war crime can be prosecuted for it regardless of whether the crime happened in the United States or in a foreign country. Just as there is a statute of limitations on other crimes in the country, certain war crimes also have a limited timeframe in which someone can face charges. However, not all do.

If a war crime involved taking the life of another human being, there is no statute of limitations. That means a person can be charged for that murder at any time. All other war crimes typically have a statute of limitations of five years.

Been Charged with a Federal Crime? Call an Illinois Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer

Although few American citizens will be charged with a war crime, many are charged with a federal crime every day. If you have been charged with any federal crime, contact our dedicated Chicago federal criminal defense lawyer today. At the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel, we have the necessary knowledge about the federal courts, the procedural rules they require, and how to build you a solid defense that will help you retain your freedom. Call us today at 312-270-0999 for your free consultation so we can begin discussing your case.


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