Houston Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer

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Houston Federal Criminal Defense Attorney

I understand how intimidating it can be to be charged or even just investigated for a federal crime. Government reach and resources are formidable, but the right attorney can ensure the most optimal resolution for your situation. A Houston federal criminal defense lawyer is a critical asset to protecting your rights and crafting a strong defense.
houston federal criminal defense lawyer

At The Law Offices of Richard Kuniansky, I understand the complexities of federal crimes from both sides of the process. After seven years as a federal prosecutor, I’ve developed a deep understanding of the approach and techniques that federal prosecutors will take when approaching a case. For more than 30 years since then, I’ve used that experience to aggressively defend my clients, regularly securing them lesser charges, reduced sentences, dismissal of charges, and acquittals.

How Federal Crimes Differ From State Crimes

While there are a number of similarities in how crimes are handled at both the state level and the federal level, there are also some key differences as well. One of the important differences is that the jurisdiction of the federal government extends much further than the state government. This means that crimes extending across state lines are much more likely to see federal involvement.

It also means the charges and penalties can be more significant as a state can typically only take into consideration what has occurred within its jurisdiction, whereas the federal government can prosecute based on the entire operation.

Can You Be Charged by the State and the Federal Government?

Depending on the type of crime and the local jurisdiction, some crimes may be prosecuted by both federal and state authorities. The laws and statutes between the two may be similar, but there are often differences in how each agency will approach a case and how severe the charges might be.

This, along with the state and federal governments being separate jurisdictions, means someone may be charged with the same or similar crime in both jurisdictions without it being a violation of the Fifth Amendment, which protects against double jeopardy, or being charged twice for the same criminal activity.

The different laws at the state and federal levels also have vastly different sentencing regimes. If imprisonment is ordered after a conviction, that will occur in state facilities for a state conviction and in federal facilities for a federal conviction.

Lastly, a major difference between the two is who is involved in the investigation and prosecution process. For state crimes, local and state law enforcement will primarily handle the investigations, while district and state attorneys will handle the prosecution.  At the federal level, several federal agencies may be involved, and the resources are far more extensive.

Many of the so-called “three-letter agencies” focus on specific aspects of federal law and investigate those areas in particular. Institutions like the SEC, DEA, IRS, and others are in place to ensure that specific sets of laws and regulations are followed. The FBI may also be involved as well. Once a crime is charged, federal courts will handle trials that are prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys.

Kinds of Federal Crimes

Federal crimes can take many different forms. In many cases, this could mean there is some overlap with state law, but in cases where the investigation of crime requires more extensive resources, federal agencies like the FBI, DEA, ATF or SEC will handle the case and charge it under federal law.

This is often the case when the criminal activity affects parties or is executed across state lines. This is, in part, why so many federal criminal charges involve financial and other white collar crimes.

Some of the more commonly charged federal crimes include:

  • Fraud – Fraud can be committed in a number of different ways but generally involves seeking financial gain by using false or misleading information that makes the transactions appear to be legitimate on the surface level. Some common forms of fraud include bank fraud, healthcare fraud, tax fraud, wire fraud, insurance fraud, and others.
  • Tax Evasion – There are a number of different ways that someone may try to avoid paying taxes, usually by making their income seem smaller than it actually is or by making it appear as if there are more deductions than they legitimately have.
  • Money Laundering – Money laundering is the process of trying to conceal the source of funds. It’s often done through complex financial transactions and passing the money through several institutions. This is usually done with funds that came from illegal activity like the drug trade, fraud, or some other illegal means, which means it is often paired with related charges.
  • Identity Theft – The use of stolen personal information, such as someone’s Social Security number, to access accounts, financial information, and other sensitive data could be identity theft.
  • Embezzlement – When someone with control over a company’s assets and finances misuses those assets, often for personal financial gain, it is embezzlement.
  • Insider Trading – Stock trading is considered by the law to be something that should be done only on the basis of publicly available information. So, if someone uses their position within a company or some other access to make trades based on non-public, material information, it could be considered insider trading.
  • Corruption and Bribery – When something of value is either received, offered, or solicited for the sake of gaining an advantage or influencing a decision to be made, the party or parties involved could be guilty of bribery or corruption.
  • Forgery – When a document or signature is falsified, usually for some kind of financial gain, but possibly otherwise, it may be an act of forgery. In most cases, this will involve something like a check, contract, financial documents, or some legal instrument.
  • RICO Violations – RICO is the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Violations of this involve criminal activity that is undertaken in an organized fashion.

Legal Penalties for a Federal Crime Conviction

There are a variety of different penalties that could result from a violation of a federal law. In some cases, a plea deal might involve a set of penalties that are negotiated between the defendant’s lawyer and the prosecution.

In other situations, though, either a guilty plea or conviction at a trial, the judge will consider a variety of factors when making a decision. Some factors that are most impactful on a penalty decision are sentencing guidelines, whether or not it is someone’s first conviction or if they are a repeat offender, the impact and harm done by the crime, the reasons the crime was committed, and anything else the judge considers relevant.

For most crimes, there will be a range of sentences that the court can hand down, but in some cases, certain factors can result in enhanced penalties that require the court to issue a tougher sentence.

Penalties may include:

  • Prison sentences can vary wildly depending on the crime. For more minor first-time offenses, the sentence could be a matter of a few months or in some cases probation. However, there are some crimes for which the sentencing guidelines call for multiple decades in prison.
  • The size of the fine will depend on the situation, but they can sometimes be very costly. This tends to be particularly the case if the crime is a financial one that involves a significant amount of money.
  • Restitution is mandatory in federal court and the defendant is required to make the victims whole.
  • Asset Forfeiture. If assets were acquired using funds that were gained from illegal activities, they may be forfeited to the government.
  • In some cases of less serious crimes by first-time offenders, it’s possible that the court may choose to award probation in the place of some or even all of the prison time that a sentence may normally have.
  • Community Service. In some cases involving more minor convictions, community service may act as a substitute for some imprisonment.

Extralegal Impact of a Federal Crime Conviction

Beyond the legal penalties involved, there are other ways that a criminal conviction could have a significant impact on someone’s life. Once someone is convicted of a crime, they have a criminal record that will be visible on background checks. This can lead to a number of different issues that can damage several critical aspects of a person’s life.

Some of the areas and opportunities that are impacted include:

  • Most employers will run a background check on any candidates that they are considering hiring, and a criminal background could detrimentally impact someone’s opportunity to get hired. It can be particularly difficult to get jobs that are related in any way to the conviction. For instance, someone who has been convicted of some kind of fraud or identity theft may find it difficult to get a job where finances and other sensitive information are involved.
  • Professional licenses can often be an important part of someone’s career as well. However, a criminal record can sometimes be disqualifying. This means losing a license that someone already has or not being able to qualify for one that they may be interested in pursuing.
  • Much like employers, colleges and other educational institutions may run a background check and choose not to accept someone who has a criminal background.
  • For many financial institutions, there are concerns that someone with a criminal background could become a repeat offender and then be less likely to repay what has been lent. This means it can be very difficult to get something like a mortgage, car loan, credit, or other type of loan with a criminal background. Those who are able to take on some kind of debt will likely have a higher interest rate.
  • Ability to Rent an Apartment. Many apartment complexes will not lease to a convicted felon.
  • Social Life. A criminal background can have a detrimental impact on a person’s social life. People may choose to treat someone differently if they learn that you’ve been convicted of a crime. A conviction could even potentially impact existing friendships and family relationships as well.

What a Houston Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Do

There’s so much on the line when facing criminal federal charges that it’s imperative that you have a thorough defense that considers every option for avoiding the harshest of penalties. A criminal defense lawyer, as can be found with The Law Offices of Richard Kuniansky, is often critical to ensuring that you have a sufficient defense made on your behalf.

Federal Cases Require a Thorough Investigation

While the agents and prosecution will have conducted their own investigation, oftentimes for years, I won’t simply rely on their findings. I will also look for my own evidence that may be used against their claims. I will consider all of the documentation, facts, and witness accounts that may be helpful to your defense.

Planning a Federal Criminal Defense

As your lawyer, I’m responsible for ensuring that you have a strong defense made on your behalf, and I take that job seriously. I understand that your future is on the line, and I’ll do my utmost to get the best outcome for your situation.

What makes for the strongest defense will depend on the specifics of your case. In some cases, it may make sense to argue you never did what is claimed. However, in many federal crime cases, given the resources of the institutions that investigate and prosecute these crimes, they are likely to have a significant amount of evidence on their side. This often can make arguing innocence a risky proposition.

There are still other possible ways of defending against charges besides arguing that you never committed whatever act you are accused of. One way that may be effective is to actually admit that you did what you were accused of but that it wasn’t criminal because of other factors. In White Collar cases, there is almost always a built in defense: I did the act or acts they say I did, but I had no intent to defraud.

Also, someone accused of fraud may be able to argue that while they may have done something that appears fraudulent, such as trading stock in a manner that may seem like insider trading, it wasn’t actually a crime because of some other factor, such as information having been public or having some other reason for making the trade.

Federal Pre-Trial Processes

Before a trial begins, the prosecution may offer the option of a plea deal. If the evidence aligns in a way where it seems you have a strong defense and the deal offered is not significantly less than the penalties that a guilty verdict could bring, then you probably want to reject the plea deal.

Federal prosecutors are thoroughly vetted and are some of the finest prosecutors out there. That’s why if a plea deal seems like a wise option, it’s critical that you have an experienced federal criminal defense attorney negotiating on your behalf.

However, if the possibility of a conviction is high and carries much more significant penalties than a potential plea deal, then you may want to consider a plea deal. If that’s the case, then I can help negotiate the most favorable deal that the prosecution will accept.

The process of executing your defense begins before the trial starts. While federal cases share some similarities to state cases, there are some differences that make working with an attorney who understands the complexities of federal crimes so important. There are hearings and opportunities to file motions that can begin the process of laying the groundwork for your defense. There are occasionally situations where I may be able to file motions to get the case dismissed.

There may also be the opportunity to seek the dismissal of key evidence with sufficient grounds. Occasionally, the dismissal of a key piece of evidence may even lead to the prosecution withdrawing the charges. Even if the pre-trial process is not enough to get charges dismissed or withdrawn, it can lead to a strong position to negotiate a plea deal.

Representation at a Federal Trial

If a case does end up going to court, your lawyer is responsible for representing you through this process. There are, again, some important differences between state and federal trial procedures that make it critical that you have the right lawyer representing you. With more than 40 years of experience in federal courtrooms, both as a prosecutor and criminal defense lawyer, I have a deep understanding of what it takes to put forth a strong case in a federal courtroom.

I am among the less than 1% of lawyers who have been board-certified in criminal defense law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Count on strong defense with decades of experience when you work with The Law Offices of Richard Kuniansky.

What You Should Do If You’re Arrested for a Federal Crime

An arrest for a federal crime could be performed by a number of different organizations. Most agencies have weapons-carrying agents with the ability to perform arrests. However, in most cases, it will likely be the FBI in charge of the arrest. It’s possible that you won’t receive any warning, although it may be given in some cases. Often an awareness of an investigation may give you some idea an arrest is coming.

The process of getting arrested and how you react to the situation can often have an impact on your case. The officers or agents involved in the process will often be on high alert for anything that they might be able to use against you. It can be easy to take a bad situation and make it worse by not handling it well. With that in mind, there are a few things that can be helpful to remember if you find yourself being arrested for a federal crime.

  • Remain Calm. The first thing that it is imperative that you do when being arrested is remain calm. It’s certainly understandable to feel frustrated, upset, and a whole range of other emotions if you’re being arrested. However, it is important that you don’t act out of those emotions. If you act on emotion, you could very easily do something that may result in additional charges or say something later used against you.
  • Exercise Your Right to Remain Silent. One of the strongest ways you can protect yourself through the investigation and arrest process is by exercising your right to remain silent. Agents and investigators will have a sharp ear for anything that could be used against you, but by exercising your right to remain silent, you can avoid that issue.
  • Contact a Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer. The last thing to remember is to get a hold of a lawyer as soon as you possibly can. It’s the job of a lawyer to ensure that your rights aren’t trampled and ignored by those involved in the arrest. It’s also the job of a lawyer to see that you don’t mistakenly voluntarily give up those rights as well.

What’s important to remember is that just because you are being arrested does not guarantee a conviction. You will be given an opportunity to defend against the accusations, but during your arrest is not that time.

The sooner that you get a hold of a lawyer, the sooner that they can begin the process of investigating your case and providing the most detailed defense.

This can be especially important when it comes to finding quality evidence to defend you with. The more time that passes before your lawyers’ investigation can begin, the more evidence has the potential to be lost, misplaced, thrown out, or otherwise unavailable. Federal crimes are often particularly complex, so you want to be sure your lawyer can take advantage of the time available to them.

A Houston Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Provide the Help You Need

Being charged with a federal crime can be intimidating. The weight of the federal government and institutions like the FBI, IRS, DEA, ATF, SEC or DOJ investigating and prosecuting the crimes can feel overwhelming. It’s important to remember, though, that these organizations are subject to the same Constitution that protects your rights. You will be given the opportunity to have a defense made on your behalf, and they will need to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt before you can face any penalties.

You want to be sure that you are working with an experienced Houston federal criminal defense attorney who understands how to take full advantage of the opportunities for defense available to you. At The Law Offices of Richard Kuniansky, I bring a depth of knowledge and experience that can help me put together a formidable defense for clients.

If you’ve been charged with a federal crime and want to understand how you can benefit from hiring the Law Offices of Richard Kuniansky to represent you and defend you, contact us today.



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