The Definitive Guide For Those Charged With Federal Crimes In NYC

When the United States Department of Justice charges you with a crime in New York City, you’ve got a long road ahead. The full weight of the federal government’s law enforcement and prosecutorial machine is arrayed against you.

Protecting your freedom and guiding your case to its best possible outcome is going to depend on you doing everything right. A single misstep could send you to federal prison, where you’ll serve a harsh sentence guided by federal mandatory minimums.

We’re experienced federal criminal lawyers who have gone toe to toe with the US Attorney’s office on multiple occasions. We’ve put this guide together to help give you your best chance at seeing your case through to a successful conclusion. It contains everything you need to know about what to expect, how to deal with federal investigators, and how and when you should think about hiring a federal criminal attorney.

What are the most common federal crimes charged in New York City?

Drug trafficking tops the list, with immigration, fraud, and firearm crimes coming in just behind.

It’s important to note that 97.3% of defendants plead guilty once they’re charged with a federal crime. It is all but impossible to land in the lucky 2.7% who don’t without the help of a qualified federal criminal attorney.

But that same attorney can tell you that for some defendants, negotiating a deal is the smartest move. Half of those who plead guilty receive a lighter sentence than allowed for by federal mandatory minimums. Almost 60% of those individuals receive these lighter sentences at government request, usually because they provided law enforcement with substantial assistance which allowed law enforcement to pursue larger targets.

Some also agree to have their cases handled as part of an early disposition program. This is also known as the fast track program. Like any plea bargain structure, the fast track program is designed to save the government time and money by avoiding trials.

Prison is the most common sentence, but in some cases offenders are sent straight to probation, or are given some combination of probation and house arrest.

While 71% of defendants receive sentences of less than 5 years, any conviction will have a significant impact on your life going forward, making it difficult to obtain employment or housing. In many cases, the government also levies fines against defendants.

When should I hire a lawyer?

Anyone who is embroiled in a federal case needs to hire an experienced federal criminal attorney as soon as possible. Ideally, you’d hire your attorney the moment you become certain you’re facing a federal investigation.

You might find out one of three ways. First, you might just notice signs of surveillance or wiretapping. If you know you’ve been up to something which could trigger a federal criminal investigation you should probably trust your instincts.

You might also find out the first time agents knock on your door to “ask a few questions.” The one thing you don’t want to do is let them in, or answer anything without a warrant. Call an attorney immediately, and volunteer nothing. Your attorney will advise you on how to proceed from there.

If they show up with a warrant you do have to allow their search to proceed. But you should use the time to make a call to an attorney before they’ve had time to find anything which could lead to your arrest.

The third way you might learn you’re the target of an investigation is through receipt of a “target letter.” Though this happens most often in white collar cases. If you’re receiving a target letter there is already substantial evidence against you. But it’s not over yet. A target letter isn’t a guarantee of an indictment.


You should be wary if you receive a subject letter too. Though you aren’t the “target” of the investigation, the DOJ thinks your conduct is suspect or unethical, and that you may have information that could lead to the prosecution of a target. But subjects can quickly become targets, so it’s best to get an attorney if you see this letter, too.


Your attorney may convince the DOJ prosecutor to drop the case, to agree to an immunity deal, or to take any number of other actions which could help you avoid indictment. Getting a lawyer involved in the process offers more options and prevents you from making fatal mistakes that could make the prosecution’s case for them.


Where should you look for a federal criminal lawyer?


While you can easily start with Google or any of the lawyer directory sites out there, you should begin primarily by reading the attorney’s reviews. It’s also a good idea to look at the attorney’s background and experience.


Remember, you’re facing everything the DOJ can throw at you. They have unlimited resources. You don’t, but experience counts for a great deal. Hiring an attorney with a deep understanding of the way the system works, both in and out of court, is your best bet.


Next, you’ll need to ask yourself whether you trust this attorney to tell you the truth. It’s not a good idea to hire an attorney who sugarcoats anything. You need to know exactly what your options are, and how to respond to your situation.


Ultimately, the attorney you hire should be someone you’re extremely comfortable with. You will need to be candid with your attorney when he or she asks you questions about your case. You’re trusting this professional with your life and future. Take advantage of the consult time if you have the time and luxury to do so. If you aren’t comfortable with the attorney when you meet, move on until you are.


How can your federal criminal attorney affect your charges?


There are several ways we can help, but much will depend on your case.


In a perfect world, we’d be able to get your charges dropped or dismissed after reviewing the evidence and meeting with the Assistant US Attorney. We might also be able to convince a Grand Jury to determine that there is not enough evidence in your case to proceed.


Negotiating a plea deal or an immunity deal might be the next best step. In some cases we may be able to create a situation where you avoid doing any time for your alleged role in the federal crimes that are under investigation. If that’s unavoidable, we may be able to negotiate a reduced or more palpable sentence. Wearing an ankle bracelet and remaining under house arrest, for example, is usually preferable to going to federal prison.


If that’s not possible or if we think we have a good chance of winning, then you need someone who can and will fight for you in federal court. Who has the experience and track record to undermine the case against you and to guide the jury to a “not guilty” verdict.


Again, the amount of time you give the attorney to respond is extremely important here. More time means more resources to investigate your case, more time to find expert witnesses, and more room to negotiate on your behalf.


And once you’ve hired the attorney, you can breathe easy knowing you have the best answers to give federal investigators: “I will have my attorney contact you immediately,” or “I will not speak without my attorney present.”

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About The Author

Jeffery Greco

Jeffery Greco is an attorney providing legal services covering Criminal Defense and Criminal Defense: White Collar and Criminal Defense: DUI / DWI. Jeffery Greco, who practices law in New York, New York, was selected to Super Lawyers for 2020 - 2023. This peer designation is awarded only to a select number of accomplished attorneys in each state. The Super Lawyers selection process takes into account peer recognition, professional achievement in legal practice, and other cogent factors. Prior to becoming an attorney, he studied at South Texas College of Law Houston. He graduated in 2004. After passing the bar exam, he was admitted to legal practice in 2005.

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