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b2ap3_thumbnail_chicago-federal-crimes-attorney.jpgFederal criminal offenses are generally considered to be more severe than state-level offenses. The penalties for federal crimes are often severe, involving years or even decades in prison. If you have received a subpoena from a grand jury, you may understandably feel confused and panicked. You may be unsure of what this means and how you should respond.

If you have received a grand jury subpoena, it means that the federal government believes that you have information related to a federal criminal case. It is very important to understand your rights and obligations in this situation. It is even more important to retain a skilled federal criminal defense lawyer who can advocate on your behalf and give you the personalized legal guidance you need.

Types of Grand Jury Subpoenas

Grand jury subpoenas are legal tools used by the government to gather evidence during the investigation or prosecution of a crime.

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Chicago high-profile criminal case lawyerGetting arrested is embarrassing enough if only one or two people know about it. When the news of your arrest ends up in the local paper - or worse - you will have to start taking important precautions to protect yourself and your family. Depending on the nature of the crime you are charged with, and whether there was any significant local impact, you may face serious backlash that will impact every aspect of your life. You may also feel pressure to speak up publicly in your own defense, but this is rarely a good idea. The first thing you need to do is find a lawyer who is experienced at managing media attention during a high-profile case

What Should I Do if I See My Case in the News?

You might be feeling a strong desire to try to publicly clear your name or explain yourself. This almost never improves the situation, and it is very likely to do the opposite. Always follow your attorney’s specific advice, but some general advice can include: 

  • Do not post - Tweeting, posting a video, or even making a Facebook post to your friends about what happened (or did not happen) should be avoided unless your lawyer tells you otherwise. Your post is very likely to get picked up by the media that initially reported on your case. 
  • Be patient - Unless you are a major celebrity or all over the major news networks, the odds that the media is going to keep covering your story are low. It is more likely that after the initial story is reported, there will be little follow-up. The public has a short attention span, so your case is likely to “blow over.” 
  • Maintain a low profile - Try not to draw attention to yourself for the time being. If you do anything the media is likely to find “interesting,” it will only encourage them to keep covering your case. 
  • No comment - Avoid talking directly to the media. If something needs to be said, let your lawyer say it for you. It is easy for the press to twist your words or use dramatic sound bites to try to make you look guilty even if you are not. 
  • Be safe - If you are facing significant backlash from your community to the point that you feel unsafe, take precautions. If there are angry people gathering by your home, consider staying elsewhere until the situation calms down. Consider getting a door alarm or security cameras.

One of the most important things you can do is to contact a lawyer, sooner rather than later. There are other steps an experienced attorney can take to help protect you. 

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Posted by on in Criminal Defense

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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b2ap3_thumbnail_shutterstock_1481921432.jpgIs it a federal crime to open someone else’s mail? The short answer is “yes.” Opening or destroying mail that is addressed to someone else is a crime called “Obstruction of Correspondence.” It is a serious felony that could lead to prison time. It is remarkably easy to find yourself charged with this crime, even if you didn’t mean to do anything wrong. Maybe you got curious and opened a letter addressed to your roommate, or a letter meant for your neighbor landed in your mailbox and you ripped it open without looking. The good news is that an experienced federal crime attorney can help you, and depending on the circumstances, possibly even have your charges dismissed. If you find yourself charged with any federal mail crime, you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible. 

What if I Opened Someone’s Mail by Accident? 

If it was an accident, that does not fit the definition of Obstruction of Correspondence. Intent is an important element that the prosecution has to prove in order to get a conviction. It doesn’t count as a crime if you reasonably thought the mail you opened belonged to you. This commonly happens when mail arrives addressed to a previous tenant or someone else who no longer lives in your residence, like a former roommate. Sometimes mail is addressed incorrectly- perhaps the sender wrote the wrong apartment number on an envelope and your neighbor’s mail is delivered to you in error. In any case, you still need a qualified defense attorney to help you prove your lack of intent if you’ve been charged. 

What Should I Do if I Receive Mail Addressed to Another Person? 

It is a federal crime to destroy mail that isn’t yours. While it may be tempting to simply toss an envelope addressed to a previous tenant or someone else in the trash, do not do this. Absolutely do not open it. Even if your intentions are good, or you know the person the mail is addressed to, opening and reading another person’s mail is a felony. You have two legal options- either deliver the mail unopened to the correct addressee yourself or write something like “addressee does not live here” on the envelope and put it in your outgoing mail. Destroying it could carry serious penalties, including up to five years imprisonment or large fines. 

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