Not All Attorneys are Qualified
Federal Criminal Defense is a very specialized area of the law where few attorneys practice and even fewer are qualified to participate as appointed counsel. For example, while there are more than 1,200 attorneys who practice criminal defense in Bexar County courts, less than 10% of those attorneys are admitted to the Criminal Justice Appointment (CJA) A+ panel of the Western District of Texas. Mike Morris has been admitted to practice on the CJA A+ panel of the Western District of Texas for more than ten years.
Of all criminal charges one can encounter, Federal charges carry some of the most severe penalties and consequences. Every year, the United States Sentencing Commission (http://www.ussc.gov) establishes the base offense level and criminal history category for each Federal Offense. An attorney that has too little experience in the Federal system may have insufficient knowledge of the Sentencing Guidelines to ensure that a fair sentence is being offered and fight for your rights before the Court.
Federal Judges have a reputation for strictly following the Sentencing Guidelines and delivering substantial sentences. In the Western District of Texas, 80% of sentences handed down are within the range set by the Sentencing Guidelines. It is critical that your attorney know how to compute your sentence and anticipate what variables may change that computation.
Also, keep in mind that the Federal system has abolished Parole, so the idea of serving part of sentence and then applying for parole should have no part in making up your mind whether to proceed to trial or accept a plea bargain. The federal agency responsible for overseeing federal inmates is the Bureau of Prisons (www.bop.gov). It is the BOP that determines where an inmate is housed and projects a date of release for that inmate’s sentence.
The average sentence for the 4,713 drug cases handled by the Fifth Circuit in 2009 was 69.2 months of imprisonment. Are you being promised something less at the beginning of the case? Keep in mind that some attorneys will assure you of great results just to get you to hire them, but then they cannot deliver. Know what is reasonable and what is outside the realm of possible before you choose an attorney.
In 2009, approximately 6% of federal defendants in the Fifth Circuit received Probation with no imprisonment. Probation is a rare item in the Federal system, so you need an attorney that understands what cases can and cannot be eligible for probation. Our goal is to obtain a sentence of Probation whenever it is possible and to recognize when that goal is futile. We do not promise Probation as an enticement to get you “in the door” and then apologize when that is not the result.
Trial v. Plea Bargain
Of the 8, 505 cases handled by the Western District of Texas in 2009, 8,408 of those cases entered plea bargains and 97 proceeded to trial. In other words, 98.9% of the defendants chose a plea bargain rather than face the much stiffer penalties that could accompany a conviction by a jury or judge.
Isn’t it critical then, that your attorney know the possible sentences, options, and alternatives available so that you can have the whole picture before you? At the end of the day, it is your decision whether or not to proceed to trial, so you had better be well-advised of the consequences of your choices.
In our opinion, the most critical first step in the federal criminal system is ensuring our clients are released on bond. Unlike the state system, most federal defendants do not have to come up with costly bond amounts to secure their freedom pending trial. However, there are a great number of federal crimes that presume that the defendant should be detained (locked up) prior to trial. It is up to the federal defense attorney to know how to argue against that presumption and secure an immediate release for the client as a top priority.
In addition, remember that the FBI, DEA, Secret Service and other federal law enforcement agencies have unlimited resources to prosecute, investigate, and develop their case. You need an advocate who is familiar with the system to counteract the behemoth of the Federal Government and protect your rights. We have an investigative team available to ensure that you have access to the same evidence, the same witnesses, the same expert knowledge that the Government will utilize to work toward a conviction.
But what if you find out you are under investigation or questioning by a federal law enforcement agent? That is the very best time to hire a criminal defense attorney. If the investigation can be resolved early on, criminal charges can sometimes be reduced or avoided all together. This leads to the best results available for a defendant or suspect, since the facts are still being determined and our clients can choose what role to play in that development, if any.
But what does it Cost?
Experienced, qualified federal defense attorneys generally charge more to defend a federal client than a comparable state criminal case. Of course, every case varies in the circumstances, evidence, resources, and complexity involved, so the legal fee varies considerably. However, every federal case is demanding and your freedom is incredibly important. Thus our legal fees start at $7995.
There are no hidden fees with our firm. Based on the case strategy and preparation, you may choose to hire an expert, conduct investigation, or bring in a consultant for your case, but we will be with you every step of the way and advise you what is optional and what is necessary to present your facts in the best light. You remain in control of what you spend for these additional services, however, not us.
We can work with you to finance the legal fees and expenses necessary to mount a vigorous defense of your liberty. Some of the usual sources for these fees include gifts or loans from family, employers, credit cards or home equity. We are available when the unfortunate occurs, so call us at 830-626-8779.