During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, our commitment to giving you a safe and reliable place to receive legal services and advice is even more important to us.

Articles Posted in Federal Crimes

In criminal law, mistake of fact and mistake of law are both defenses that can be used to exonerate criminal charges if deemed reasonable. To be convicted of relevant criminal charges the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the criminal defendant acted with criminal intent rather than as an honest mistake.

What is a mistake of fact and how can it be used as a defense?

Mistake of fact is commonly referred to as a mistaken belief or understanding of an individual that has led them to commit an illegal act unknowingly. To use mistake of fact as a defense, the defendant must disprove specific intent and/or disprove elements of the crime as material to the investigation.

If you have watched any crime show, you are probably familiar with polygraph exams. However, they are nearly never used in court cases, especially in Florida. Florida law is clear that a polygraph is never admissible in court because it has not been shown to pass scientific standards to be proven reliable. The State can possess a polygraph you have given in your case, but it cannot and will not be used against you at trial or hearing.

The Supreme Court commented that there is no reliable scientific evidence about the accuracy of polygraph exams. However, the Supreme Court has not forbidden it.

Did you know a polygraph exam can be used against you by law enforcement during interrogation? Even if you “passed” the polygraph, law enforcement can lie and say that you failed and you might as well confess or tell them the “truth”. Although this is dishonest and deceiving, it is allowed under Florida case law. In the end, the best thing to do is not take a polygraph. If you fail it, law enforcement can confront you about your lies; if you pass it, law enforcement may say you lied anyway. Some think that taking a polygraph is a way to convince law enforcement that you are innocent, but police often use it as a way to get a confession.

Lying, or willingly making false statements to a United States federal agent, is a federal crime. Under Section 1001 of title 18 of the United States Code (18 USC Section 10001), an individual or group can be criminalized for knowingly falsifying, concealing, and/or covering up pertinent information with a trick or scheme intended to derail any investigation. All false statements, spoken and written, that are or are not made under oath are subject to similar penalties.

It is stated in the United States Code that those found in violation of 18 USC Section 1001 can receive a maximum sentence of up to five years in prison for tax evasion and lying with intent to derail any investigation, and eight years if any false statements are linked to acts to terror, human trafficking, and certain sexual offenses. However, in order to successfully convict an individual or group of committing such crimes and being in violation of 18 USC Section 1001, United States government officials must prove three things:

  • That any false statement(s), written or spoken, by the defendant is/was “material” to the investigation. A “material” false statement is one that “has the natural tendency to influence or is capable of influencing” a federal agent receiving the information. A “material” false statement does not have to be believed by the federal agent receiving the information but if the false statement(s) made was intended to prevent locating, charging, and convicting  any suspects, it is considered a crime.  

The court system is divided into two types, federal and state. Both systems have different cases assigned to them accordingly. The state court is mainly responsible for clarifying state law while federal courts have a wider variety of cases to handle. Many do not know what it takes or how a case goes from state to federal court, so we will take a quick look at how cases get to federal court.

The Levels

The federal system continues to evolve as the years go by and from its initial acknowledgment in Article III of the Constitution, which allowed the Supreme Court to create different court levels below as they felt necessary. Therefore, we now have three levels in the federal court system:

The Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act is a federal law enacted on March 29, 2020. It is designed to provide emergency financial assistance to millions of Americans who are suffering financially from the COVID-19 pandemic. Part of the CARES Act is the authorization of up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and other expenses through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). In April 2020, Congress authorized over $300 billion in additional funding, and in December 2020, another $284 billion. Now that the pandemic feels a bit more handled and businesses are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, the government is now making a sweep of people who abused PPP loans. Several people are being accused and charged with fraud for claiming businesses and payroll expenses that do not exist. A recent notable case is Jeremie Saintvil, a Florida man who allegedly obtained more than $1.5 million in PPP loans from credit unions and banks. This includes committing identity theft against eight elderly individuals. Before leaving office, U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan of the Southern District of Florida coined South Florida “the fraud capital of the world” and she may have a point. Over the past year, 38 criminal cases with $75 million in fraudulent COVID-19 relief claims have been filed. This is the highest number of any region in the country. A few things that fall under the umbrella of PPP fraud are:

  • Spending PPP funds for unapproved purposes
  • PPP loans from multiple lenders

Perhaps the country’s founding fathers did not mean to create a constitution that can be as polarizing as it is and yet, that is the case for a few of the amendments. One that always seems to get feathers riled up on either side of the aisle is the second amendment. It clearly states “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” However, this is not the case if you are a felon. It is illegal in Florida for convicted felons to possess firearms, unless the convicted felon has had his/her civil rights restored and firearm authority restored by the state’s Clemency Board or the gun qualifies as an antique firearm under Florida statute 790.001(1). However, a deciding factor in the severity of the punishment is if the firearm was actually possessed or constructively possessed. Actual possession of a firearm means the firearm was in the person’s hand or on them, in a container in the hand or on the person, or is so close that it is under the control of the person. Constructive possession means the firearm is placed somewhere the person has control over. Possession of a gun by a felon is considered a second-degree felony. Actual possession brings a three-year minimum mandatory sentence with it and the judge can impose a combination of up to 15 years in prison, up to 15 years of probation, or up to $10,000 in fines. Constructive possession of a firearm does not have a minimum mandatory sentence however a judge can still impose a combination of those three listed penalties. 

The consequences of a conviction, especially a felony, can have a wide range of negative effects on your life. Therefore, you need to contact a defense attorney immediately. Michael B. Cohen can help you fight a gun charge by thoroughly investigating your case.

One of the most frightening things to go through is being convicted of a federal crime, but even scarier is not picking the right post-conviction attorney to help you navigate through your case and fight for the best outcome.

When Googling post-conviction attorneys, you will get more than 58 million search results, making it very difficult to determine who is the right fit for your case, however, there are certain characteristics you should be looking for in your attorney to help you narrow the list down.

Appeal Experience

There are countless benefits to immigrants who marry a U.S. citizen. For that reason, it is no surprise that many seek to marry a citizen for the sole purpose of obtaining them. However, due to the potential for abuse of these special benefits, authorities apply a high level of scrutiny to immigrants and U.S. citizens who wish to marry. 

The three types of marriage frauds are:

  • A marriage where one or both of the parties know the marriage is a fraud.

Grand juries are embedded into our constitution. Their purpose is to determine whether there is probable cause to believe that a federal felony was committed. A grand jury consists of 16-23 citizens from the community. If 12 of those jurors find there is probable cause, it is signed by the prosecutor which then becomes an indictment: a formal charge the government must prove at trial. 

However, there can be several reasons why you may have received a grand jury subpoena:

  • Target:

Being charged with a federal crime can be a scary thought, however, many don’t know that within three days of your arrest, you have the right to appear before a judge, or also known as, a federal detention hearing. A federal detention hearing allows you to let the judge know that you are no danger to the general public or a flight risk and they can choose to release you until your trial date.

Preparing for Detention Hearing

Before your federal detention hearing, a pre-trial services officer will conduct a full review of any of the details about you. For example, this can include your education, occupation, financial stability, how many family members you have, etc.

Contact Information