San Antonio Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers
We’re Ready to Fight Your Federal Crime Charge
At Eckman Bidwell, PLLC, our San Antonio federal criminal defense attorneys, Aaron E. Eckman and Victoria Eckman, have handled over 400 federal cases. We have defended clients against serious charges, including those involving sex crimes, drug crimes, immigration crimes, gun crimes, and fraud crimes. In addition to extensive experience in federal criminal defense, Aaron served as a law clerk for a U.S. Magistrate Judge for two years, where he gained tremendous insight into federal court proceedings. We understand how to handle a federal case and know how to work towards the best possible result. We bring our talents, skills, and knowledge to San Antonio, Central, and South Texas to pursue optimal outcomes for our clients. Whatever federal charges you are facing, we want to hear your side of the story. By learning about you and your needs, we can develop a strategic and aggressive defense strategy.
On its face, a federal criminal case resembles a state criminal case. There’s an investigation and an arrest followed by court proceedings that may result in a dismissal, a plea of guilty, a trial and a sentencing. However, the federal judicial system differs significantly from the state system and is often more complex. Because of this, if you are being investigated for or have been charged with a federal crime, you must seek out representation from a lawyer familiar with the federal process. They can provide the advice and guidance you need through this overwhelming and challenging time.
How Do Federal Crimes and State Crimes Differ?
Many statutes outlined in the United States Code (federal laws) are similar to those in the Texas Penal Code. For instance, both the federal and state governments prohibit kidnapping. However, federal and state crimes are distinguished by where they occur, what laws they violate, and who they are committed against.
State crimes happen within the state itself and violate laws established by the state’s legislators.
In contrast, federal crimes are those that:
- Violate U.S. laws or the U.S. Constitution;
- Occur on federal property, such as national parks, Post Offices, or Military Bases;
- Cross state lines or involve interstate commerce; or
- Are committed against a federal employee or agent.
Contrary to common belief, federal crimes are not only felonies. Depending on the act and the law broken, they can also be misdemeanors. The most common federal misdemeanor in San Antonio is DWI on federal land because of three military bases. A DWI on Randolph Air Force Base, Lackland, or Ft. Sam will result in federal prosecution.
Whether charged as a felony or misdemeanor, federal crimes carry harsh penalties – in some cases, the punishments are more severe than those imposed by the state for a corresponding offense. Prison sentences can range from not more than 1 year of incarceration to life in federal prison. Additionally, a federal judge can impose a hefty fine anywhere from thousands of dollars to millions of dollars.
Examples of federal crimes include, but are not limited to:
- Federal drug crimes: Title 21 of the United States Code enumerates various types of controlled substances offenses individuals can be charged with. These include drug trafficking (21 U.S.C. § 841), unlawful distribution or dispensing (21 U.S.C. § 842), and simple possession (21 U.S.C. § 844). The penalties vary depending on the law allegedly violated and the type and amount of drug involved. Federal drug crimes consistently carry some of the harshest sentences in the federal system due to the mandatory minimum sentencing scheme. For example, distribution of 50 grams of actual methamphetamine produces a mandatory minimum of ten years confinement with the possibility of up to life imprisonment.
- Immigration law violations: According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, immigration offenses are some of the most common federal crimes. They include, but are not limited to, unlawful reentry (8 U.S.C. § 1326), unlawfully remaining, and alien smuggling (8 U.S.C § 1324).
- Federal Gun Crimes: Under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) a person can be charged with serious firearms offenses such as felon in possession of a firearm, possession of a firearm by an unlawful user of a controlled substance, possession of a firearm by an illegal alien, or possession of a firearm by a person convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence. if convicted of an offense under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g), a person faces up to ten years imprisonment followed by up to 3 years of supervised release and a maximum fine of $250,000.00. See 18 U.S.C. § 924.
- Sex Crimes: Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 2256 defines child pornography as “any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor (someone under 18 years of age).” A person charged with possession of child pornography generally faces a punishment range of up to twenty years. See 18 U.S.C. § 2252(b). The production of child pornography under 18 U.S.C. § 2251(e) has even steeper penalties with a mandatory minimum of 15 years imprisonment not to exceed 30 years.
- Conspiracy: A person may be charged with conspiracy under 18 U.S.C. § 371 if they plan with one or more other people to commit an offense against or defraud the U.S. government and any of the individuals do anything to further the crime. If the planned offense is a felony, the penalties include up to 5 years in prison and/or a fine.
- Tax evasion: A person commits tax evasion (26 U.S.C. § 7201) when they attempt to evade the assessment or payment of their tax obligations. If the individual is found guilty, they can be fined up to $100,000 (up to $500,000 if committed by a corporation) and/or imprisoned for not more than 5 years.
- Bank fraud: Under 18 U.S.C. § 1344, a person can be charged with this offense for using deception to unlawfully take control of property or assets of a federal financial institution. Penalties include up to 30 years of imprisonment and/or up to $1,000,000 in fines.
- Mail and wire fraud: These crimes involve using the U.S. Postal Service or common carrier (mail fraud under 18 U.S.C. § 1341) or electronic communications (wire fraud under 18 U.S.C. § 1343) to further a scheme to defraud. Both are punishable by imprisonment for not more than 20 years and/or a fine.
- Health care fraud: A person violates the federal health care fraud statute (18 U.S.C. § 1347) when they use false pretenses or representations to unlawfully obtain money or other benefits from a health care program. A conviction for the offense can result in a prison sentence of up to 10 years and/or a fine.
- Securities fraud: Section 1348 of Title 18 of the United States Code prohibits a person engaging in a scheme to defraud to unlawfully obtain anything of value by buying or selling commodities or securities. Offenses are penalized by up to 25 years of imprisonment and/or a fine.
- Extortion and threats: Various offenses fall under this category. Examples include threats against President (18 U.S.C. § 871), blackmail (18 U.S.C. § 873), and receiving the proceeds of extortion (18 U.S.C. § 880).
- Kidnapping: Under 18 U.S.C. § 1201, this offense is a federal crime when it involves unlawfully restricting another person’s liberty, holding them for ransom or some type of remuneration, and the alleged victim is transported across state lines or country borders, the act occurred in special aircraft or special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the U.S., or committed against a foreign official or U.S. officer or employee. The punishments include up to life in prison or the death sentence if death resulted.
- Terrorism: Acts of terrorism are defined and penalized under 18 U.S.C. Chapter 113B. Generally, these offenses involve violent acts committed by international or domestic groups to further or prevent certain ideologies. Penalties will vary depending on the alleged conduct.
Our federal criminal defense attorneys in San Antonio are ready to stand up for you, regardless of the alleged crime. We recognize the unique challenges in these cases and thoroughly prepare to defend the accused against the accusations.
How Does a Federal Criminal Case Work?
If you have been accused of committing a federal crime, your case will proceed through the federal judicial system. As with state crimes, the purpose here is to provide you with the opportunity to challenge the allegations.
Various steps are involved in the federal justice process, which may include:
- Investigation: When federal law enforcement officials receive a report of an alleged crime, agents will investigate to determine whether a federal law was violated and who violated it. A federal investigation differs from a state in that authorities from different federal agencies will look into the matter depending on what the alleged offense is. For example, the FBI will investigate terrorism, the DEA will investigate controlled substances offenses, and the IRS will investigate Tax Code violations. Because the different federal agencies investigate different federal crimes, agents specialize in specific areas. In contrast, when a state crime is allegedly committed, one local law enforcement agency (or a few working together) will investigate regardless of the type of offense.
- Arrest and Bond: An accused will be arrested and taken in front of a U.S. Magistrate for an initial appearance at which a preliminary and detention hearing will be scheduled. At the preliminary hearing, the accused will have an opportunity through counsel to question the Government Agent who must establish that there is probable cause to support the charge through testimony. At the detention hearing, counsel will attempt to get a bond and conditions of release under the factors in the Bail Reform Act.
- Arraignment: The defendant will appear for an arraignment after indictment where they will be read the charges against them, informed of their constitutional rights, and enter a plea of of not guilty.
- Plea bargaining: Most federal criminal matters resolve with a guilty plea and some resolve with a plea agreement. A skilled federal defense attorney knows how to utilize the options in Federal Rule 11 to benefit the client. Defense counsel and the Assistant U.S. attorney will negotiate an agreement to have the defendant plead guilty in exchange for dismissal of some charges, a recommendation for a reduced sentence, or an agreement for an exact sentence. About 95% of federal cases are resolved through a plea deal.
- Trial: The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the accused a right to a jury trial. Federal cases that are not resolved through a guilty plea or dismissal are taken to trial. This is where the prosecutor and defense counsel present their evidence. The prosecutor must prove every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury who returns a unanimous verdict of guilty. The defense works tirelessly to contest the evidence and show the jury there is reasonable doubt and the government did not meet its burden.
- Sentencing: If the defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty at jury trial, then the defendant will be sentenced by a United States District Judge. Federal sentencing is a complex process that requires the U.S. District Court judge to consider the federal sentencing guidelines, information from the presentence investigation report, and statements from the prosecutor, defense, and victim to determine the sentence of imprisonment.
- Appeal: The defendant can challenge their conviction or sentence by filing an appeal. Their arguments for remedy must assert that a legal error occurred, affecting the outcome. A defendant has fourteen days after the judgment is issued to file a notice of appeal and start the appeal process. All direct appeals from decisions by federal district courts in Texas will be argued to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans.
Our San Antonio federal criminal defense lawyers can represent you at every stage of your case. Even as early as the investigation, we can provide the advice and guidance you need. We are skilled at negotiating and litigating and can work toward a favorable outcome by arranging an acceptable plea bargain with the prosecutor or fighting your case at trial. Should your case not end favorably, we can help through the appeals process.
Schedule a Free Consultation with Eckman Bidwell, PLLC
Our team takes an analytic and innovative approach to building defenses. We examine the case from all angles and enlist the services of a private investigator if necessary to develop a comprehensive picture of what happened. We are ready to stand by you throughout your case and zealously advocate on your behalf in federal court.
“He is professional and shows compassion. He’s the BEST attorney in midland.”- Tanisha
“My wife was incarcerated without bail no arraignment and was told she had to wait for district court. As soon as we got Aaron on her case he got her a court date and got her out on bond all this in less than 3 weeks.”- Cruz
“On the day of our court she was and absolute lioness. Her work was superior and she knows her job and does it very well.”- Andre H.
1st Degree Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Minor under 14 Case No Billed by Grand Jury
2nd Degree Aggravated Assault with A Deadly Weapon Case Dismissed
2nd Degree Felony Assault Felony Case Dismissed
2nd Degree Felony Robbery Case Dismissed
3rd Degree Felony Theft Case Dismissed
Alien Smuggling Probation
Alien Smuggling Charged Dismissed and Reduced
Assault Bodily Injury (Class A Misdemeanor) Dismissed by the state at jury trial setting
Assault Family Violence Pretrial Diversion
Assault Family Violence (Class A Misdemeanor) Dismissed by State