Federal Crimes

Los Angeles Federal Criminal Attorney


Cases end up in the federal court system – as opposed to the state or local court system – when a federal prosecutor brings charges accusing a person of breaking a federal law. A federal case usually begins with the filing of a criminal complaint or with an arrest warrant. Prior to an arrest or charges, however, federal criminal cases often involve an extensive investigation. The federal government has many resources to gather substantial evidence against potential defendants and many different agencies may be involved including the DEA, FBI, IRS, and more.

After charges are filed, a federal defendant will appear at an initial court hearing, during which a judge will decide whether to release the defendant from custody. The judge will also read the charges to the defendant. The judge may also place a bail on the case at the initial appearance hearing. It is essential to have legal representation by an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible during the legal process.

Federal Grand Jury

Following the initial appearance hearing, a formal charge is filed by way of an indictment or an information. The grand jury determines whether or not there is probable cause to believe that a federal crime was committed and in the federal system, grand jury proceedings are secret. At an arraignment, the defendant will be asked to plead guilty or not guilty to the criminal charges. After pretrial motions are filed – and assuming no plea deal is reached with the prosecutor – the case may proceed to trial, followed by a sentencing hearing.

The federal criminal process can be confusing and it is critical to have an attorney on your side who understands how to navigate the federal court system. There are many opportunities for a skilled defense lawyer to protect your rights and work to obtain the most favorable outcome possible in your case. Whether you decide to plead guilty or fight against your charges at trial, you should always seek help from our highly experienced federal defense law firm.

Federal Sentencing Guidelines

Sentencing is a vital part of the federal criminal justice process. Federal Sentencing Guidelines outline a uniform policy of sentencing which is followed for individuals convicted of felonies and serious misdemeanors in the United States Federal Court System. The Federal Sentencing Guidelines determine sentences based primarily upon the following two factors:

  • The conduct associated with the federal offense
  • The defendant’s prior criminal history

A sentencing table is used to recommend the sentence range. For example, based upon the above-referenced factors, the Guidelines may recommend a sentence of 84 to 105 months of incarceration in a particular case. Departures from the Sentencing Guidelines are permitted under some circumstances.

You should always have a skilled criminal defense attorney representing you during sentencing if you have been convicted of a federal crime. An attorney will ensure that the sentence you receive is fair and in line with the guidelines and can present evidence to the judge to support a lesser sentence whenever possible.


Well it is definitely not to talk to law enforcement.  You need education quick on how the system works and the only way to acquire that information is to sit down face to face with a seasoned federal criminal attorney that is familiar with the jurisdiction your case is pending.  In other words, someone that has traveled down the road you are about to embark on and been successful!  Make sure you go into that meeting with a list of questions, so you feel like you have a handle on things when you leave.

In the Central District in Los Angeles there are two courthouses that handle the bulk of federal cases that are filed.  One is located on Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles and the other is located on Temple Street (The Roybal Building).  Unless a particular criminal attorney has handled cases in these courts on a regular basis, you probably want to look elsewhere.  The federal criminal system is a different beast than the state court system in Los Angeles.  Without proper knowledge and preparation, the client will suffer unless they have one of the top federal criminal attorneys in Los Angeles.


Most people do not realize that bail in a federal case is different than in a state case.  In a state case, in almost every circumstance, the judge must set some sort of a bail.  In a federal case the judge has the option of simply detaining a particular individual that they deem a flight risk or danger to the community. If the person is detained, they are unable to be released until the case is over or their sentence is served.

Also, bail bondsmen are rarely used or necessary in a federal setting.  The only time I see a bail bondsman used is in order to assist in quickly posting a property bond on behalf of a client. This is where someone’s property is used to secure the appearance of the person in court.  If the person does not show up, the property in question can be forfeited to the government or sold to pay the bond.  In some cases, there are signature bonds that are appropriate, where either the defendant or someone close to the defendant promises to pay a sum of money to the government if the defendant does not show up to court.  Again, an experience federal criminal defense attorney is best suited to deal with the bail issue in a federal case.


Just like state cases, federal defendants are entitled to a jury trial infront of jurors of their peers. The prosecution must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt and most of the same standards and procedures are the same as in a state prosecution. However, the prosecutors or Assistant United States Attorneys work for the federal government and are usually more sophisticated and prepared than the state prosecutors. The bottom line is that your attorney must be well versed in federal motion practice and what it takes to win a jury trial. Most of these cases are based in common sense. If the prosecutors do not have the evidence to convict you, then your attorney must have the ability to take their case apart like a surgeon. If there is sufficient proof that you are guilty then it is time for your attorney to negotiate a favorable disposition in your case.


in a federal criminal case, the judge has control over what the sentence will ultimately be. Case law has come out that gave federal judges the final say on what a defendant’s sentence will be. When the prosecutor and defense attorney negotiate a deal, the defendant is typically admitting a charge that puts them in a certain sentencing range. A federal judge must consider the guideline range and other important factors before sentencing a defendant. However, once this evaluation is complete, the judge has the power to sentence the defendant to whatever sentence they deem appropriate.

Some judges typically always sentence within the appropriate guideline range, while others ignore the guideline range and focus more on a particular defendant or the crime that they committed. This is why it is so important to find an attorney that is familiar with the sentencing guideline and how to make effective arguments that consistently achieve the best results. It is important to provide the sentencing judge with the good things about your client and their life in order to show the judge that your client is a person worth giving a break. Set up a free face to face consultation to discuss your case, your positive traits and how to most effectively present you to the judge.

At the Hedding Law Firm, our Attorneys are experienced and confident in handling criminal cases in both state and federal court. If you are being charged with a crime in federal court, it is very important to retain the services of an experienced lawyer that is knowledgeable on all federal laws and courtroom procedures.

We know how the system works and we know how to work the system. That being said, your best interest is our top priority.

How it Works in Federal Court

The initial step is an investigation that is conducted by federal agencies and law enforcement. The results of the investigation are submitted to the Federal prosecutor’s office where a further investigation takes place. Then comes the indictment which is when you are officially charged.

Most federal crimes are defined under Title 18 or Title 21 (drug crimes) and include crimes such as: bank fraud, check fraud, conspiracy, consumer fraud, counterfeiting, credit card fraud, extortion, making false financial statements, forgery, healthcare fraud, insurance fraud, identity theft, mediciad/medicare fraud, mortage fraud.

Federal crimes are generally tried in front of a U.S. District judge and jury. We step in as the defense attorney to aggressively fight your case on your behalf.

As to sentencing, the Federal Judge is required to consider the Federal sentencing Guidelines and any mitigating factors.


The quick and easy answer to this is you can hire your own attorney to advise you related to your specific situation and this way you will not say or do anything that puts you in jeopardy.

The grand jury process in a federal case is held in secret, is controlled by the government and is completely slanted against the targets it intends to prosecute. The old saying goes, “that a grand jury would indict a ham sandwich.” The reason for this, is because defense attorneys are not permitted to be part of the process. Hence, all of the evidence that is presented to the grand jury is done so by the prosecutor. Of course the prosecutor is not going to place any evidence in the process that actually shows the person being evaluated is innocent. If you are the target of anything having to do with the grand jury and you are concerned that you my be the target of a criminal prosecution, move quick and get a seasoned federal criminal defense attorney on your side!


Over the course of the past 25 years, this question comes up all the time as I discuss federal criminal cases with my clients. If a person is the target of a federal criminal investigation, then that means that law enforcement agents (ICE, DEA, the FBI etc.) believe that particular person has committed a crime and they are actively seeking evidence against them to build a case, indict them and prosecute them to the full extent of the law.

If the subject person is a witness then the government believes that they have information related to a criminal offense and likely want to talk to them about what they know and use them to prosecute the person or persons responsible for the criminal behavior. However, if during the investigation, the government determines that the witness was somehow involved with a crime, then that person’s status can change to that of a target. This is why it is always wise to consult legal counsel if there is any doubt about your status.

Last, the subject of a criminal investigation is someone the prosecutors want to talk to regarding a crime. They may not be sure whether that particular person is a target, a witness or otherwise. Again, the best practice if you are being pursued by any federal agents is to consult with an attorney that has experience in dealing with federal criminal matters. Just any attorney will not do. This is a very specialized field of practice with very real potential consequences.

Contact a Los Angeles Federal Criminal Lawyer

Federal court proceedings can drag out for many years and you need experienced legal representation on your side every step of the way. An experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney can advocate for you in court and may be able to help you obtain a reduced charge or criminal sentence.

To schedule a free consultation with an attorney, call the Hedding Law firm today at 866-986-2092 or contact us online.

Related: How the federal government prosecutes criminal cases