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Articles Posted in Federal Crimes

Most do not go about their life thinking that they may be under watch and investigation by law enforcement. However, it can happen. If you or someone you know is involved in white collar criminal activity, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) may be collecting evidence on you.

Investigations like this are never launched without much thought. By the time you even remotely suspect that you may be the subject of an investigation, law enforcement may have already obtained a great deal of evidence and has already looked into other potential suspects. So what are some signs that you are being looked into?

A coworker tells you that they have been interviewed and that your name was brought up.

There is a saying that goes, “You don’t always get it right the first time.” That can be said for trials. Being charged as guilty does not mean it is your last opportunity to see justice served. A defendant can file an appeal and if that is not successful, post-conviction relief is an option. You may get a reduced sentence, a new trial or even a vacated sentence and your freedom.

The federal court will only accept the petition if all other avenues of post-conviction relief have been exhausted at the state level. Under federal law, there is a deadline on when you can file. The statute of limitations is a year from the day you received the court judgement.

An attorney may raise issues such as an illegal search, jury bias and tampering or even not being fully advised of the rights you were waiving when you entered a guilty plea.The issue could have occurred at any phase of the criminal proceeding against you, including during the investigation, arrest, pre-trial, plea hearing, trial or sentencing.

Child endangerment charges are taken very seriously in Florida. From long prison sentences to losing custody of your children, these crimes can affect you negatively in several different ways. Unfortunately, it is possible to be wrongly accused of these crimes. This may occur during divorces or custody battles. The complaints may take months and even years to investigate. That is why it is best to seek legal counsel as soon as possible to make sure you know your rights and options.

Some examples of child endangerment are:

Having your children in the car while driving under the influence

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.

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