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Harrison & Hart takes the tough cases.

No matter the case, we’re dedicated to finding the best possible outcome. While we can’t guarantee a particular result, we’ll fight for you at every turn and with our experience, we’ve likely handled a case like yours.

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New Federal Sentencing Guidelines: Can You Get a Sentence Reduction?

In August 2023, the U.S. Sentencing Commission made significant changes to the federal sentencing guidelines that could result in shorter prison sentences for thousands of individuals. If you have a loved one who is currently incarcerated or awaiting sentencing, it’s crucial to understand these revisions and how they might impact their case.

If you believe your loved one may qualify for a sentence reduction under the updated guidelines, seek legal assistance from an experienced criminal defense attorney at Harrison & Hart. We can review your loved one’s case, determine their eligibility, and guide you through the process of applying for a reduced sentence.

Understand the Key Changes

The most notable update relates to how a defendant’s criminal history is factored into their sentence. Previously, individuals with no prior criminal records (known as “zero-point offenders”) were treated the same as those with criminal histories when calculating their sentencing range.

However, under the new federal guidelines, zero-point offenders whose offenses did not involve aggravating factors like violence or firearms will have their offense levels reduced by two levels. This change could potentially reduce sentences by months or even years for some offenders.

When Will the Changes Take Effect?

The new amendments went into effect on November 1, 2023, for those awaiting sentencing. For individuals already incarcerated, the changes applied retroactively starting on February 1, 2024. The three-month delay was intended to allow those released early to receive necessary reentry programs and transitional services, promoting their successful reintegration into society and enhancing public safety.

Who Can Seek a Reduced Sentence?

The amendments aim to increase fairness and reduce overly harsh sentences, particularly for non-violent, first-time offenders. Those convicted of lower-level drug offenses or white-collar crimes are among those who could benefit the most from these changes.

However, not everyone will qualify for a sentence reduction. To be eligible, defendants must meet specific criteria, including:

  • Having no prior criminal history points
  • Not having committed offenses involving terrorism, hate crimes, sex offenses, civil rights violations, or continuing criminal enterprises
  • Not having caused death, serious injury, or substantial financial hardship in connection with the offense
  • Not having possessed or used firearms or other dangerous weapons during the offense

If your loved one meets these qualifications, they may be eligible for a reduced sentence under the new guidelines.

How Will These Changes Help?

The updates to the federal sentencing guidelines don’t just impact future cases – they also provide a path for thousands of currently incarcerated individuals to potentially get their sentences reduced retroactively.

However, implementing retroactive sentence reductions is a major undertaking. The U.S. Sentencing Commission recognized that the courts and prison system would need adequate time to review petitions and prepare for the safe release and reentry of those receiving reduced sentences.

That’s why they built in a 3-month delay, setting the effective date for retroactive application as February 1, 2024. This will allow all parties involved – judges, lawyers, prison officials, and more – to get ready for the changes.

How Many People Will Be Affected?

So how many people might benefit from getting their sentences reduced retroactively? According to the Commission’s estimates from July 2023:

  • 11,495 currently incarcerated individuals could have their sentencing range lowered under the “status points” provisions, resulting in an average 11.7% reduction in their sentence lengths.
  • 7,272 currently incarcerated individuals are expected to be eligible for reduced sentencing ranges as “zero-point offenders” with no prior criminal histories. For them, the average sentence reduction could be a substantial 17.6%.

These numbers represent thousands of people, many of them likely non-violent offenders, who may get a second chance thanks to the revised guidelines promoting more proportional sentencing.

The Commission carefully analyzed this issue from all angles before voting to apply the changes retroactively. They reviewed data, heard testimony from experts and stakeholders across the legal system, and ultimately concluded that reducing excessive sentences would increase fairness while maintaining public safety.

Get Help from a Criminal Defense Attorney with Harrison & Hart Today

At Harrison & Hart LLC, our team of dedicated attorneys is well-versed in the intricacies of the federal sentencing guidelines and committed to fighting for the rights of our clients and their families. We understand the profound impact these changes can have on your loved one’s future, and we’re here to help you navigate this opportunity.

Contact us today at (505) 295-3261 for a free consultation and let us explore the possibilities of a reduced sentence for your loved one under the new federal sentencing guidelines.

What Is a Federal Grand Jury?

You’ve probably heard about the important role of the grand jury in major news stories or legal dramas. But what exactly is a grand jury, and what do they do in federal cases? You may be surprised to learn that grand juries are one of two types of juries that operate at the federal level, each serving unique functions.

Learn more about the grand jury’s purpose, powers, proceedings, and its role in the federal justice system.

When Is a Case Brought Before a Federal Grand Jury?

The right to grand jury indictment is constitutionally required in federal felony cases. Felonies that can be charged at the federal level include white collar crimes, drug trafficking, fraud, or violent crimes.

Who Serves on a Federal Grand Jury?

A federal grand jury is composed of 16 to 23 jurors drawn from the district where the federal court is held. Jurors typically serve around 18 months, but can serve up to 24 months if a judge grants an extension. As with any jury, the selection process aims to produce a group that represents a fair cross-section of the community.

How Does a Federal Grand Jury Work?

The primary function of a federal grand jury is to investigate potential federal offenses and determine whether there is enough evidence to bring formal charges, known as an indictment, against a suspect. Unlike petit juries, which decide the guilt or innocence of a defendant during a trial, grand juries do not determine guilt. Instead, they decide whether there is probable cause to proceed with a prosecution. Grand juries do not meet every day and will hear multiple cases during their term of service.

Broad Powers

A federal grand jury holds expansive authority due to its constitutional role in the justice system. It can initiate investigations without probable cause or suspicion of a crime based on information from any source, including the grand jurors’ own knowledge. This autonomy allows the grand jury to conduct thorough investigations and operate free of the constraints typically required in criminal investigations.

Secrecy Rules

Grand jury proceedings are secret. The only people allowed in the room are the jurors, the prosecutors presenting the case, the court reporter, and witnesses when they testify. This confidentiality is intended to protect the reputation of the accused if they aren’t indicted, protect the jurors, and encourage witnesses to speak freely.

There are some exceptions to the secrecy rules of a federal grand jury. For example, basic demographic juror information isn’t confidential, and disclosure of some information can be authorized to assist foreign investigations. Courts can also authorize disclosures for national security or public interest reasons.

The accused may have limited access to grand jury materials for their defense. Some transcripts may eventually become public records; however, these exceptions are carefully considered to balance competing interests.

Federal Grand Jury Process

The Administrative Office of the United States Courts provides a Grand Juror Handbook with helpful information outlining what to expect in the grand jury process. Federal grand jury proceedings usually follow these steps:

Evidence Presentation and Witness Questioning

The prosecutor, representing the government, presents evidence and calls witnesses to testify before the grand jury. Jurors are active participants in building the case, not passive receivers of information. The jury can request to hear from additional witnesses and or ask for more evidence.

Grand jury witnesses are usually subpoenaed to appear, and a witness’s attorney cannot be present in the room when they testify. Failing to comply with a subpoena is grounds for holding a witness in contempt.

Deliberation and Voting

After hearing all the evidence, the grand jury deliberates in secret. The prosecutor is barred from these deliberations. This independent deliberation highlights the unique role of the grand jury.

For an indictment to be issued, a majority of jurors must agree there is probable cause. In the federal system, at least 12 jurors must vote in favor of an indictment.

Possible Outcomes

If the grand jury finds sufficient evidence and determines the accused should be put on trial, it issues an indictment against the defendant. The indictment is then sealed until the defendant is arrested or appears voluntarily before the court.

If there’s insufficient evidence, the grand jury can decide not to indict. The prosecutor can still pursue charges through a different process depending on the case. They can resubmit the charges if new evidence emerges.

Facing Federal Charges? Call Harrison & Hart, LLC Today

If you are the target of a federal grand jury investigation or learn you’ve been subpoenaed to testify, it’s crucial to understand your rights and work with an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Even though an attorney cannot be present if you testify, a lawyer can help you prepare for what’s to come and fight to protect your rights.  Our legal team at Harrison & Hart, LLC will hear your questions and concerns and provide honest advice and guidance based on our years of practice.

Call (505) 295-3261 or contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.

What Charges Could You Face for PPP Fraud?

The COVID-19 pandemic brought a lot of uncertainty with it. Businesses shut down and employers sought relief. The federal government provided an avenue for relief with the Paycheck Protection Program. With $800 billion set aside, the PPP loans were intended to be low-interest, forgivable loans to help businesses keep employees paid through closures and to avoid layoffs.

In its first year, more than $2.2 billion in loans were approved in New Mexico, covering 270,000 jobs. The program ended in 2021, but the federal government is working to uncover fraudulent loans. Officials within the Small Business Administration, who oversaw the loans, suspect that at least 70,000 loans were fraudulent.

Anyone suspected of fraud faces federal charges which carry hefty penalties, including fines and federal prison sentences. Learn more about potential criminal charges and how to defend yourself if you’re accused.

What Kinds of Fraud are Associated with PPP Loans?

Fraud defines the act of misrepresenting facts to deceive someone else for personal gain. You could be accused of fraud for lying in a contract or giving statements with false information.

If you’ve been accused of fraud on your PPP loan, you might have been accused of one of the following:

  • Application fraud: you’re accused of providing false information on your loan application. You might have lied about the number of employees, your company’s revenue, or salaries. Companies convicted of application fraud have been found to list some employees as independent contractors to meet the “fewer than 500” employee limit.
  • Fraudulent use: you’re accused of misusing the funds provided with the loan. They were intended to pay your expenses — rent, payroll, insurance, or utilities. People convicted of misusing frauds used them for personal expenses or buying luxury items. Basically, using funds for anything that wasn’t a legitimate business expense could qualify as fraudulent use.
  • Fraudulent loan forgiveness certification: you’re accused of presenting false information during the loan certification process. When you’re seeking loan forgiveness, you have to prove you needed the loan because of the pandemic. You also have to show you used the funds as intended. You have to show you were only given one loan.
  • Fraudulent loan stacking: you’re accused of going to more than one lender, which is prohibited by the PPP program. Some applicants for the loans falsely applied using stolen identifications.

Criminal Charges Associated with PPP Fraud

PPP fraud is a serious allegation, one that carries severe consequences. If you’re accused of committing PPP fraud, you could be charged with federal felonies. If convicted, you’ll face fines, time in federal prison, or be forced to pay back the funds you received in your loan.

Federal charges for PPP fraud include:

  • Making a false statement (18 U.S. Code § 1001): This charge happens if you omit, misrepresent, or use a fraudulent document while applying for or certifying your loan. It means you made your statement knowingly and willfully intended to deceive a government agent. If convicted, you could be sentenced to five years of prison.
  • Conspiracy to Commit (18 U.S. Code § 371): You can be charged for conspiracy if you and at least one other person or company work together to defraud the US government when applying or certifying your PPP loan. If convicted, you face a maximum of 30 years and up to $1 million in fines. This charge can be added to others.
  • Bank fraud (18 U.S. Code § 1344): These types of charges happen if you seek to obtain funds through false information or deception. If you apply for a loan with false information or forged documents, you might be accused of bank fraud. If convicted, you could go to prison for a maximum of 30 years and face fines of up to $1 million.
  • Wire fraud (18 U.S. Code § 1343): If you used electronic communication means to commit PPP fraud, you could be charged with wire fraud. You could have sent e-mails for your application, lied during phone calls, or used other methods to discuss or commit fraud. If you’re convicted of wire fraud, you could face up to 20 years in a federal prison and fines up to $250,000.
  • Aggravated Identity Theft (18 U.S. Code § 1028A): When someone knowingly uses another person’s identity to commit PPP fraud, they could be accused of felony identity theft. If convicted, they could be sentenced to two years in prison on top of any other felony sentences.

Besides criminal convictions, you could be forced to pay back your loan in full. Hiring a lawyer to help establish a defense is your best bet to avoid significant penalties.

Defenses Against PPP Fraud Accusations

Just because you’ve been accused of committing PPP fraud, you are considered innocent until proven guilty. There are arguments you can make against the allegations against you, including:

  • Lack of intent: PPP loans are complicated. There are several regulations for you to follow. If you can prove that you did not intend to break the law or defraud the government, you could see your charges dropped or reduced.
  • Insufficient evidence: Like other criminal investigations, the federal government will need to build a case against you. They must prove to a judge or jury that you committed fraud beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecution does not find enough evidence to show you committed fraud or if you can introduce doubt to their arguments, you could get your charges dismissed or dropped.

When you’re facing federal felony charges, a conviction could do more than inconvenience you. It could totally disrupt your life. You’re facing fines on top of paying back your loan, and possible decades of prison time. It’s critical that you find an attorney who is ready to help you defend yourself.

Why Should I Hire a Lawyer?

PPP fraud charges can seriously affect your life. A criminal defense lawyer with experience fighting federal cases could make all the difference in your case. You should find an Albuquerque defense lawyer ready to fight for you.

Your attorney can guide you through the legal nuances to dispute your PPP fraud charges. They’ll be able to investigate the charges, find the evidence you need to get your charges reduced or dropped.

Start Your Fraud Charges Defense Today

PPP fraud charges are serious allegations of wrongdoing, and you could be facing an upheaval of significant proportions. If you’ve been accused of trying to defraud the government, turn to a reliable New Mexico criminal defense attorney. The team at Harrison & Hart, LLC, are prepared to hear your story and get started on your defense.

We will work to protect your rights and clear your name. Call (505) 295-3261 or contact us online.

You Have Received A Federal Target Letter, Now What?

Have you recently received a federal target letter? If so, you may initially feel intimidated, overwhelmed, and unsure of your next steps.

Although a federal target letter is not something you need to be overly concerned about, it is essential to understand what this letter means and what the court system expects of you.

What is a Federal Target Letter?

A federal target letter is a formal notice from the United States government that you are being called to testify before a federal grand jury. This could be because the prosecutor believes you have information or knowledge of the criminal activity or participated in a criminal event.

Once you receive a federal target letter, you must get a criminal defense attorney. The target letter should describe the alleged crimes the prosecutor is investigating.

After receiving a target letter, it is crucial that you not attempt to hide or destroy any evidence that could be related to the criminal offenses in question. Remember, you can avoid self-incrimination by remaining silent or refusing to answer questions during the grand jury proceedings.

Why Do Prosecutors Send Target Letters?

Prosecutors send target letters to notify witnesses or other parties involved in criminal activity that they will be called to testify in a grand jury. It allows you to retain a criminal defense lawyer or secure a public defender.

This is also a chance to start cooperating with prosecutors and work on obtaining a plea agreement to avoid trial altogether. If you receive the federal target letter, chances are, you will be subpoenaed to testify if there is a trial.

Does a Target Letter Mean Indictment?

Prosecutors send target letters to anyone who is the subject of, involved in, or the target of a grand jury investigation. The target of the investigation is someone the prosecutor believes is linked to a criminal offense.

Alternatively, suppose you are considered the subject of a target letter. In that case, it means that the prosecutor believes you might have information that could be used to aid in the government’s federal investigation.

A target letter does not necessarily mean you will be indicted for a criminal offense. However, if you are the target of the letter, you will likely be charged with a federal crime. Since a target letter can potentially avoid a trial, your federal criminal defense attorney can help you explore your options and work on obtaining a plea agreement, re-classifying you as a subject instead of a witness, or dismissing the case altogether.

What Types of Crimes Warrant Target Letters?

Nearly any type of federal criminal offense could warrant a target letter. However, since the federal government focuses significantly on white-collar crimes, these are some of the most prevalent cases target letter subjects wind up involved in.

White-collar crimes are non-violent offenses, but that does not mean that no victims have suffered considerably. Examples of white-collar crimes could include:

  • Embezzlement
  • Bribery
  • Insider trading
  • Wage theft
  • Fraud
  • Ponzi schemes
  • Falsification of financial records

The federal government also focuses on any type of criminal activity designed to conceal fraud or interfere with government regulatory agencies, such as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

What Should You Do if You Receive a Target Letter?

Immediately after receiving a target letter, if you do not yet have a criminal defense attorney working for you, now is the time to hire one to advocate for your interests. You should be prepared to comply with the requests within your target letter.

Often, the target letter will simply request you testify before a grand jury. In others, you may be invited to attend a meeting with the prosecutor handling a specific criminal case. Do not reach out to the prosecutor’s office without having a criminal defense lawyer on your side.

Otherwise, you could be putting yourself at risk. Remember, anything you say and do could be misinterpreted, misconstrued, or used against you if prosecutors believe it will help their criminal investigation. Make sure you have an experienced federal criminal defense attorney on your side who understands the intricacies of federal target letters and how to resolve them most efficiently.

Get Help From a Criminal Defense Attorney Today

When you receive a federal target letter, your criminal defense lawyer will be responsible for contacting the prosecutor overseeing the case to determine what is expected of you. Your lawyer will help you determine why you received a federal target letter and the steps you need to take to resolve the case entirely or avoid indictment.

Reach out to an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney at Harrison & Hart, LLC to learn more. You can reach us through our confidential contact form or by phone at (505) 295-3261 to get started on your case as soon as today.

A Complete Guide to RICO Charges

When criminal organizations or enterprises commit certain offenses, they can face charges under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). RICO charges can carry some of the most severe consequences of all criminal charges.

Suppose you face allegations under the RICO Act. In that case, you must understand the extent of the charges you are facing, your potential penalties, and which defenses are most likely to produce a favorable outcome. With that in mind, check out this complete guide to RICO charges.

What is a RICO Charge?

RICO charges reduce the number of crimes committed by criminal enterprises and organizations. Generally, for a RICO charge to apply, the prosecutor must prove that there has been a pattern of illegal activity, including at least two RICO crimes over the last ten years.

The crimes do not need to be two separate offenses but rather two individual criminal acts. An example may be two instances of embezzlement, bribery, and extortion.

Common Types of RICO Charges

Several types of crimes could be charged under the RICO Act. Examples of such offenses include the following:

Generally, RICO charges will apply when prosecutors believe a pattern of criminal offenses connects with the mafia, a criminal organization, or an enterprise. Criminal organizations and enterprises will include two or more individuals who work together to commit specific criminal offenses.

Those involved do not necessarily need to have an existing relationship. As long as they are connected to the enterprise or organization, they can still face charges under the RICO Act.

What Are the Penalties for RICO Charges?

The consequences you face if convicted of a RICO offense vary depending on the criminal offense you are charged with, your cooperation with law enforcement, your criminal record, and other factors.

However, RICO charges often carry more severe penalties than misdemeanor or felony charges. Generally, you can expect to spend up to 20 years in prison and pay fines as high as $25,000. However, if the offense in question has a maximum sentence of more than 20 years, additional penalties may apply, including life imprisonment.

You Could Face Federal Penalties

The RICO Act applies to state and federal laws, so you can expect to be prosecuted federally if you are charged with a RICO offense. This means you could face time in a federal prison, which could take you further away from your family and friends.

Additional Consequences for RICO Charges

Additionally, you can expect your assets and property to be seized, fines to be imposed, restitution to be ordered, community service hours to be set, and your professional reputation to be destroyed.

How to Defend Against Racketeering Charges

You must take action to clear your name when you have been charged with racketeering or another type of RICO offense. In some instances, the prosecutor may be willing to allow you to enter a plea agreement if you agree to further aid them in their investigation.

Other times, your attorney must carefully scrutinize the details of your case to determine how to approach your defense. Suppose your constitutional rights were violated because law enforcement did not read your Miranda rights, conducted an illegal search, or violated other procedural rules and regulations. In that case, the charges against you could be dismissed altogether.

Other potential defenses that could be used to help clear your name of the RICO charges against you include:

  • Lack of sufficient evidence
  • Lack of intent to commit a crime
  • Mistaken identity
  • You are not a part of a criminal organization or enterprise
  • There is no pattern of criminal activities

Famous RICO Cases

RICO crimes involve individuals who participate in criminal organizations and enterprises. For this reason, there are certain types of RICO cases that have become widely known. For example, you may have heard in the headlines about murder-for-hire plots, weapons trafficking, human trafficking, or the transportation of stolen goods.

However, many other types of RICO charges can also grab the public’s attention. Most notably, cases of extortion and bribery of public officials are often considered RICO violations. This can include making bribes to judges, law enforcement officials, elected officials, and other trusted parties.

If you are facing RICO charges, the last thing you want is for your case to make headlines. The more scrutiny on your case, the more difficult it will be to get it heard by a group of impartial jurors.

Contact a Racketeering Lawyer for Help Today

If you have been accused of committing a RICO offense, you must retain an experienced criminal defender if you hope to clear your name of the charges against you.

Find out what’s next for your defense when you reach out to a reputable RICO attorney at Harrison & Hart for a confidential case review. You can reach us through our secure contact form or by calling (505) 295-3261 to start working on your defense as soon as today.

What Is a Drug Conspiracy Charge?

Drug conspiracy includes an array of drug-related activities. Federal charges result in decades in prison, significant fines, and other severe penalties. You should avoid these charges at all costs.

Types of Drug Conspiracy Charges

Federal drug conspiracy is a crime that may or may not actually involve handling drugs. The government must simply prove that:

  1. There was an agreement between two or more people to break a federal drug law
  2. You knew about the conspiracy and knowingly joined it

You don’t need to have completed the criminal offense to be convicted of drug conspiracy. You must have had intent to commit the crime.

Manufacturing a Controlled Substance 

One of the most common federal drug conspiracy offenses involves manufacturing a controlled substance. This may include growing, processing, extracting, or producing illegal drugs.

Distributing a Controlled Substance 

Planning (or conspiring) to deliver illegal drugs to another person may be considered distributing a controlled substance. You don’t have to exchange money to get convicted of drug conspiracy under the distribution of a controlled substance. Any distribution qualifies under this law, including fake prescriptions, online drug pharmacies, and delivering illegal drugs to another person.

Possessing a Controlled Substance with the Intent to Distribute It

Simple drug possession involves having it on your person or within your control. However, the government may try to prove that you conspired to distribute the drugs or sell them. You may be charged with conspiracy to distribute drugs if you also possess baggies, scales, or other evidence of drug sales.

Importation of a Controlled Substance

Conspiracy to import illegal drugs may involve bringing a controlled substance into the United States from another country — this may take place by plane, boat, or roadway. The larger the operation, the more likely you will get the maximum penalties.

Consequences of Drug Conspiracy Charges

The penalties for federal drug conspiracy convictions depend on the amount and type of drug involved in the crime.

Marijuana

  • No alleged amount – up to 40 years in federal prison
  • 100 kg or more – between five and 40 years in federal prison
  • 1,000 kg or more – between 10 and 40 years in federal prison

Heroin

  • 100 kg or more – between five and 40 years in federal prison
  • 1 kg or more – between 10 and 40 years in federal prison

Cocaine and Crack Cocaine

  • 500 g or more of cocaine or 28 g or more of crack – between five and 40 years in federal prison
  • 5 kg or more of cocaine or 280 g or more of crack – between 10 and 40 years in federal prison

Methamphetamine

  • Less than 5 g – up to 20 years in federal prison
  • 5 g or more – between five and 40 years in federal prison
  • 50 g or more – 10 years up to life in prison

Opioids and GHB (including ketamine and fentanyl)

  • Up to 20 years in federal prison
  • Enhanced penalties involving death or serious injury to another person
  • Enhanced penalties for any prior felony drug convictions

Possible Defenses to Drug Conspiracy Charges

Many of the defenses against drug conspiracy charges are similar to those that can be used in other criminal cases. Those include:

  • Illegal search or seizure
  • Lack of valid search warrant
  • Law enforcement exceeded search warrant
  • Law enforcement failed to read your Miranda rights
  • You were denied legal counsel after a request
  • Law enforcement entrapped you in a conspiracy situation

However, some unique defense tactics can be used with conspiracy charges. For example, conspiracy is a “specific intent” crime. That means you must have had actual knowledge and intent to commit the crime. It is not required that you committed the crime. However, you must have purposefully conspired to commit the crime.

Also, if you withdrew from the conspiracy before the crime occurred, you can use this to your benefit. This would be an especially strong defense if you worked with law enforcement against the conspiracy.

Contact a Drug Conspiracy Lawyer Right Away

If the government charges you with federal drug conspiracy, they have likely already conducted an investigation and have significant evidence against you. You must hire a drug crime lawyer immediately to get someone on your side to protect your rights. You need an independent investigation and practical assistance from your counsel.

Call Harrison & Hart, LLC today at (505) 295-3261 or contact us online to schedule a case consultation.

How Long Is a Federal Sentence for Money Laundering?

Money laundering is a federal white-collar crime that can result in significant penalties, including decades in prison. The Money Laundering Control Act of 1986 establishes details of this crime and consequences that defendants may face for violating the law. Under federal law, you could face up to 20 years in prison and hefty fines.

What Is Money Laundering?

Money laundering occurs when an individual disguises the source, amount, or destination of money obtained by illegal means. This often happens through bank transfers and interactions with legitimate businesses. Funds are usually obtained through embezzlement, fraud, drug trafficking, or other unlawful activities.

Money laundering is often associated with other crimes, such as racketeering, tax evasion, credit card fraud, cryptocurrency crimes, and white-collar crimes that may be added or lesser included charges.

Domestic Money Laundering

Domestic money laundering is often associated with false organizational operations. An individual may form a business and transfer money between domestic bank accounts. The more money is transferred, the harder it is to track. To avoid money laundering charges, it’s important to carefully track every penny in personal and business accounts.

International Money Laundering

Many money laundering activities take place between domestic and international bank accounts. International bank accounts are more difficult to track. This makes it easier for an individual to hide the source, amount, and destination of money. International money laundering may result in criminal charges in more than one country.

Undercover “Sting” Laundering Operations

If the government suspects money laundering is occurring, they may set up an undercover “sting” operation. A sting operation creates a situation where an individual may take part in money laundering where they would not otherwise. Sting operations are often considered “entrapment,” where the police persuade an individual into illegal activity.

Federal Sentencing for Money Laundering

There is no mandatory minimum sentence for federal money laundering charges. However, the penalties can be severe. The government views money laundering very harshly.

A money laundering conviction could result in up to 20 years in federal prison. Additionally, you will likely face a fine of up to $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the laundering, whichever is greater.

Money laundering convictions are often combined with other charges, such as racketeering. By combining the offenses, you may face even stricter penalties.

Sentencing Factors

Although the maximum penalty for money laundering is significant, it is unlikely that a person will receive the harshest consequences unless aggravating factors are present. If you are a first-time offender, your criminal defense lawyer can present mitigating factors to lessen your sentence.

Some mitigating factors that may make your sentence less harsh include:

  • This is your first criminal offense
  • You can quickly pay all fines and restitution
  • You opt for alternative punishments like community service
  • You weren’t aware of the circumstances surrounding the crime
  • You didn’t know the source of the money
  • Extent you worked with or assisted law enforcement
  • Lack of knowledge of specific facts
  • Whether you take a plea bargain or go to trial

Aggravating factors can also make your sentence worse, up to the maximum length of time in prison. Those aggravating factors include:

  • Extent to which you were involved in the crime
  • Knowledge of what took place
  • Involvement of other individuals in the crime
  • Length of time the activities occurred

Defending Against Money Laundering Charges

Your money laundering defense attorney can attack the allegations against you in many ways. Some common defenses and strategies used include:

  • There was no underlying criminal conduct
  • You did not have the requisite intent to commit the crime
  • You did not know that the money was from an illegal source
  • There was an illegal search and seizure
  • You were not read Miranda rights
  • You were not provided with legal counsel when requested

Any illegally obtained evidence, including your own statements, may be excluded from the case. If the judge grants a motion to exclude evidence, the prosecution may not have enough information to sustain charges against you, and your case may be dismissed.

A Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help

Money laundering charges result in severe penalties that seriously affect your private and professional life. You need to work with a white-collar crime lawyer who can protect your legal rights and reputation.

Call Harrison & Hart, LLC today at (505) 295-3261 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.

How to Hire a Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you or a loved one has been federally indicted (charged with a federal crime), you need to quickly hire an attorney you can trust. Whatever you do, don’t talk to the feds without your federal criminal defense lawyer present. You can make some considerations to ensure you get the right person on your side.

Tips for Hiring the Right Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer

No one wants to hire an attorney. However, working with the right federal criminal defense lawyer can help you avoid the worst parts of the entire situation.

Ask About Their Experience

You should ask all potential lawyers about their experience with cases like yours. If you face federal embezzlement charges, you will want a federal lawyer familiar with white-collar crimes.

Some attorneys focus on murders or sex crimes. You need someone who has specifically worked with the laws that will be used to target you.

You also need someone who knows federal law inside and out. Some attorneys primarily practice in state courts and aren’t as knowledgeable about federal laws, court processes, and penalties.

Discuss Fees

All attorneys charge fees, but some take money in different methods or for various types of services. You need to clearly understand the costs of your legal services and how you will be charged.

Most federal criminal defense attorneys request an up-front deposit called a retainer. They will generally charge an hourly rate and pull from the retainer until it is exhausted or to a certain level. Then, you will be expected to replenish that retainer.
You should also clearly understand what you will be charged for. For example, you may have to pay for court costs, but you may also have to pay for copying and postal expenses. Your attorney’s office should give you a list of standard costs they apply to your account in addition to legal fees for the attorney’s time.

Above all, the most important thing for you to know is your attorney’s hourly rate or flat fee. If your attorney charges you by the hour, keep in mind that means money for every email and text message. A flat fee is less common for criminal defense attorneys, and you may not get as many services with a flat fee.

Gauge Their Communication Skills

You should ask your attorney how they communicate with clients, including how often and who will return calls. Some lawyers use a lot of “legalese,” or confusing legal language, that takes time to understand. You want to work with someone who uses plain language and calls you back quickly.

When you discuss your case with your attorney, you should get an idea of their ability to speak and write persuasively. They must use available evidence to persuade the court or jury to rule in your favor. You can do this by asking about your best arguments and what information supports those claims.

Arrange a Consultation

Your attorney should address these questions and any other concerns during a consultation. When you initially call a law firm, you will likely speak with an administrative professional. However, your consultation should be with an actual federal criminal defense attorney.

During your consultation, you can ask about the outlook for your case. A good lawyer will be honest and truthfully tell you the chances you have of receiving a positive outcome. If things don’t look great, your attorney can at least tell you some alternatives to the harshest penalties and how they can help you avoid the worst-case scenario.

Learn More from a Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer

Before you decide which federal criminal defense lawyer you want to hire, ask them enough questions that you are comfortable with their representation. You must trust them with personal information, some of which may be incriminating. Be honest with your potential lawyer and know that everything you share with them is privileged.

The federal criminal defense attorneys at Harrison & Hart, LLC have helped countless people facing federal indictments. We develop strategic defenses that help our clients get the best outcome possible in their cases. Call us today at (505) 295-3261 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.

The Right Firm For Your Case

We’re ready to help you get your life back on track.

From our office in Albuquerque, Harrison & Hart, LLC serves clients throughout New Mexico. We are focused on getting you the best outcome possible in the harshest of situations.

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