Will You Go to Prison for a Federal Offense?

 Posted on March 23, 2024 in Federal Crimes

IL defense lawyerBeing charged with a federal crime can be frightening. You likely do not know what will come next or if you will be facing prison time. A federal offense is considered more severe than a state offense, carrying harsher penalties.

Being charged with a crime and being convicted of a crime are two different things. Just because you have been charged with a crime does not automatically make you guilty. Getting legal representation immediately is crucial in fighting these charges.

A Chicago federal criminal lawyer can discuss the factors that determine punishment for a federal offense and potential prison time for specific federal charges.

Federal Sentencing Guidelines

The Federal Sentencing Guidelines, developed by the United States Sentencing Commission, examine the severity of a crime and if you have a prior criminal history in determining prison time.

Each crime is evaluated based on the following criteria:

The Seriousness of the Offense

The severity of the crime can be categorized into one of 43 levels, with the most serious offense being the highest level.

Specific Characteristics of the Offense 

Specific aspects of the crime can raise or lower the base level. For instance, if you use a firearm during a robbery, the base level increases by five levels for just displaying the weapon and seven levels for discharging it during the commission of the crime.


Adjustments include factors that apply to any offense, including the following:

  • What part did you play in the crime
  • Preventing law enforcement from gathering evidence or other acts that obstruct justice
  • Victim vulnerability
  • If you receive convictions for multiple offenses
  • If you accepted responsibility for your wrongdoing

Incarceration for Federal Crimes

Money Laundering

18 U.S.C. § 1956 defines money laundering as partaking in a financial transaction with the knowledge that the money was gained through illegal means. Anyone in violation of this statute may be fined up to $500,000 or twice the amount of laundered funds (whichever is greater), sentenced to prison for 20 years, or potentially both.

Money laundering is usually accompanied by other crimes, so your sentence will be based on any felonies associated with the laundering.


If you accessed a government computer without permission to obtain confidential information that threatens national security, this is a federal offense. Colloquially known as “cybercrime,” a conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 1030 could result in up to 10 years in jail if you are a first-time offender and 20 years if you have been convicted for a similar offense. There is a maximum fine of $10,000,000.

If it is unlikely that you will avoid a prison sentence, a Chicago federal criminal lawyer will make all attempts to negotiate a plea bargain with the state prosecutor. This will likely result in a reduced sentence, preventing you from spending extended time in federal prison.

Contact a Chicago, IL, Federal Criminal Lawyer Near You

Federal charges must be dealt with aggressively. Avoiding a conviction is paramount in protecting your civil liberties. If you have been charged with a federal offense, our Chicago, IL, federal criminal lawyer wants to hear from you. Contact Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel LLC, Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney online or by calling 312-629-0669 to schedule your free consultation today. 

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