Federal Criminal Defense Attorney

Frequently Asked Questions: Federal Criminal Defense

At the Portland, Oregon, law firm of Kohlmetz, Steen & Hanrahan, P.C., our attorneys handle both federal and state cases. We know that many clients are uncertain about the differences, so we provide some information here. However, this is no substitute for an in-depth conversation about your legal issues. We invite you to call our law firm for a free initial consultation to learn more.

What is the difference between a state crime and a federal crime?

There are two types of criminal law in the United States. Laws passed by the U.S. Congress are federal laws, and those passed by the Oregon Legislature are our state laws. An individual facing criminal charges can be charged under the applicable state or federal law, or a matter may be eligible to be tried under either – and potentially even both! State offenses are prosecuted in the county in which the criminal acts are alleged to have occurred. Federal prosecutions in Oregon cover the entire state (referred to as the District of Oregon). Federal courthouses are located in Portland, Eugene, Medford and Pendleton. Most prosecutions are handled in the Portland office.

Why would I be charged with a federal crime?

Federal criminal jurisdiction can arise from either an express or implied constitutional grant of power. It can also arise when a crime is alleged to have occurred on federal land or involved federal property. For instance, the federal government's criminal jurisdiction over drug and weapons offenses is said to arise from the federal government's constitutional authority to regulate interstate commerce.

Federal crimes are usually investigated and prosecuted by U.S. government agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and others. In short, major drug crimes, serious weapons crimes and federal white collar crimes are more likely to be charged in federal court and prosecuted by the U.S. attorney for the region. However, on occasion, attorneys from the Department of Justice may also be involved, depending on the circumstances.

Why do I need a federal criminal attorney?

Lawyers who appear in federal court must be licensed to appear in that court. Even if that were not the case, the federal rules of criminal procedure are quite different from those that apply in Oregon criminal proceedings. Moreover, substantive aspects of federal criminal law and the rules of evidence differ from those under Oregon law. An attorney without federal court experience would not be able to provide as effective a defense.

I am under investigation by a federal agency, but I haven't done anything. Do I really need a lawyer?

Yes. In fact, if you don't know why you are being investigated, the need for a lawyer is even greater. Sometimes federal agency civil investigations can evolve into criminal ones. Moreover, increasingly this past decade federal agencies have been given wider latitude in utilizing secret investigative techniques such as wire or phone taps, subpoenaing bank, power, and phone records, and employing sophisticated electronic surveillance techniques in order to investigate potential criminal targets without notice to the accused. Our attorneys can attempt to find out why a federal agency is taking an interest in you, and can take steps to help protect your rights. The earlier an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer is involved the better.

Call a Federal Criminal Lawyer

Our Portland law firm is committed to providing the highest-quality defense at reasonable rates. Our attorneys are dedicated to protecting our clients' rights throughout the legal process. We offer a free initial consultation. Call our federal criminal defense attorneys toll free at 1-888-311-2016 or send us an e-mail.