Illinois Criminal Defense FAQ

What is the difference between federal charges and state charges?

Federal crimes usually involve alleged violations of federal statutes passed by the United States Congress while state crimes are typically violations of state statutes or local laws. A federal crime often relates to some issue of significant national concern or involves possible interstate criminal activity. The federal government often plays a major role in many large drug cases. 

Who investigates and prosecutes federal crimes?

Under 28 U.S. Code § 533, the Attorney General appoints officials to detect and prosecute crimes against the United States. While enforcement largely falls to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), certain cases may involve other agencies depending on the specifics of the case. For example, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) could be involved in the investigation and prevention of federal offenses involving the unlawful use, manufacture, and possession of firearms and explosives; the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) could become involved in a case of drug smuggling or distribution; Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) handles federal immigration laws; the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can tackle violations of federal tax laws, the United States Secret Service (SS) investigates financial crimes and crimes dealing with American currency; the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) investigates government employees and contractors for crimes committed while they are employed by the federal government; and Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) investigates violations of federal laws threatening the national security of the United States.

How do downward departures work?

A United States Attorney will have exclusive jurisdiction to file a Rule 35(b) motion for downward departure of a sentence based upon certain factors in which an alleged offender proves to be helpful to the prosecution. Examples could include an alleged offender providing substantial assistance, the nature of their criminal conduct in the instant case, and the alleged offender’s role in an alleged offense. When a person believes their cooperation warrants a reduction in their sentence, it will be important for that person to be working with an experienced federal criminal defense attorney who can determine the best way to seek a reduction of the sentence.

What is a federal indictment?

The United States Supreme Court has held that the federal government must use grand juries for all federal felony offenses, although federal misdemeanor charges do not require the use of grand juries. A grand jury is comprised of anywhere from 16 to 23 citizens who are presented with evidence and asked to determine whether a case merits charging an individual with a criminal offense. When the federal government formally files charges against a person, it will result in a document called an indictment that notifies the person of the criminal charges. Some cases could begin with a criminal complaint or criminal information instead.

Federal prosecutors file criminal complaints with federal courts and they usually contain facts about cases and statements of support from law enforcement officials, while criminal information is often presented to a magistrate judge to determine whether a crime has been committed. An indictment will usually list the court where the case is pending, may name all of the defendants (unless there is a large conspiracy still being investigated), and provide a case number and counts. When a grand jury votes on criminal charges, all grand jurors must vote in favor of an indictment to earn what is known as a true bill that authorizes the indictment. A single no vote will result in a no bill.

How many courts of appeals are there?

The United States has 13 judicial circuits that each has a court of appeals. Each court of appeals reviews cases decided in United States District Courts within the circuit. The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit is based at the Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago and is composed of 11 appellate judges. It has appellate jurisdiction over the courts in the Central District of Illinois, Northern District of Illinois, Southern District of Illinois, Northern District of Indiana, Southern District of Indiana, Eastern District of Wisconsin, and Western District of Wisconsin.

The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has the fewest judges of any of the courts of appeals with only six (District of Maine, District of Massachusetts, District of New Hampshire, District of Puerto Rico, and District of Rhode Island), but the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is far and away the biggest of the 13 courts of appeals with nine states, two territories, and 29 active judgeships ( District of Alaska, District of Arizona, Central District of California, Eastern District of California, Northern District of California, Southern District of California, District of Hawaii, District of Idaho, District of Montana, District of Nevada, District of Oregon, Eastern District of Washington, Western District of Washington, District of Guam, and District of the Northern Mariana Islands).

How many district courts are there?

There are 94 United States District Courts. Most criminal trials occur within district courts, and it will be a district judge who tries the case while a jury decides the case. A magistrate judge could assist a district judge in preparing a case for trial or conduct a trial in a misdemeanor case. Every state has at least one district court, and four territories have district courts to hear federal cases. District court judges are appointed by the President and confirmed by the United States Senate to serve for life terms. Illinois is divided into Northern, Southern, and Central districts, with the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois being divided into an eastern region and a western region. The eastern division includes Cook County, DuPage County, McHenry County, Grundy County, Kane County, Kendall County, La Salle County, Lake County, and Will  County, with sessions held in Chicago and Wheaton. The western division includes Boone County, Carroll County, De Kalb County, Jo Daviess County, Lee County, Ogle County, Stephenson County, Whiteside County, and Winnebago County.

How do mandatory minimums work in federal cases?

Mandatory minimum sentences are common in drug cases, and the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) has found that mandatory minimum penalties for drug offenses continued to result in long sentences in the federal system with 52.8 percent of offenders facing penalties of 10 years or longer, penalties significantly impacting the size and composition of federal prison populations, offenses carrying drug mandatory minimum penalties being used less often, people receiving mandatory minimums being more serious offenders, and mandatory minimum policies being enacted more broadly than originally anticipated.

USSC also noted that offenders who were convicted of offenses carrying drug mandatory minimums were nearly twice as likely to provide substantial assistance to the government as people not convicted of such offenses. Hispanic offenders represent the largest group of offenders convicted of offenses carrying mandatory minimum penalties but white offenders and Black offenders shared the highest average sentence among offenders convicted of an offense carrying a drug mandatory minimum penalty.

Contact Our Chicago Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys

The Chicago federal criminal attorneys at the Law Offices of Vadim A. Glozman can help if you are facing a criminal charge. Contact our Chicago federal criminal attorneys today for a free consultation.