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Federal Criminal Defense

Defending Your Rights in Federal Court

Being charged with a crime in federal court can be an intimidating experience. If you are facing a federal criminal charge, you do not have to do it alone.

Criminal Justice
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Most people who end up in the criminal justice system do so at the state level, but there is a separate class of federal crimes that require a federal criminal defense lawyer. In some cases, a case that begins at the state or local level may end up in federal court. Other times, a defendant is the target of a federal criminal investigation from the outset.

An experienced Galveston federal criminal defense attorney can provide you with valuable representation and advocacy in federal court. Federal crimes often carry much harsher penalties than their state-level counterparts, particularly with respect to drug offenses. So, if you are facing an arrest or indictment on federal charges, you need to take the matter seriously.

The Differences Between Federal and State Crimes

The State of Texas has a broad “police power” to define and punish crimes as it sees fit. This is why most criminal charges end up in state court. Federal crimes, in contrast, are restricted to offenses that fall within a specific power granted to the federal government by the United States Constitution.

Actually, the Constitution only expressly defines three federal crimes: treason, piracy on the high seas, and counterfeiting. However, Congress may define and punish other crimes that fall within another grant of legislative power. Here are just a few examples:

  • Congress has the right to regulate criminal activities that may occur in federal buildings or on federal lands, such as national parks.
  • Congress has the right to regulate customs and may punish people who try to import goods–or even persons–into the country illegally.
  • Similarly, Congress has the exclusive right to regulate immigration, so any criminal offenses associated with being an undocumented person may end up in federal court.
  • Congress has the broad power to regulate “interstate commerce,” which means any crime that crosses state lines or involves the use of interstate networks, including the highway system, the Postal Service, or the Internet, can be prosecuted at the federal level.

Aside from the different types of offenses involved, there are also a number of key differences in how federal criminal cases are prosecuted. In Texas, prosecutors and judges are elected by the people to serve fixed terms. In the federal system, the President hires and fires federal prosecutors–known as United States Attorneys–and appoints federal judges with the consent of the Senate. Additionally, while state crimes are typically investigated by local police or sheriff’s departments, federal investigations often fall under the jurisdiction of the FBI, DEA, or another federal agency.

As noted above, federal crimes often typically carry harsher penalties for a conviction that similar state-level offenses. It is actually quite a bit more involved than that. While the Texas Penal Code provides fairly clear guidance as to the range of criminal sentences, in the federal system judges rely on a complex set of “sentencing guidelines” when determining an individual defendant’s sentence. Having an experienced federal criminal defense attorney during this process can often make a significant difference in the final sentencing.

One final thing to note: It is possible to be charged in both federal and state court for the same underlying criminal act. While not a common occurrence, such “double” prosecutions do not technically violate the Constitution. It is unconstitutional to place a person in “jeopardy” twice for the same crime. But the Courts have long held that the State of Texas and the federal government are “separate sovereigns” for purposes of this double-jeopardy rule.

What Are Some Common Federal Crimes?

Many federal crimes are non-violent in nature. That is, they are considered “white collar” crimes involving some type of fraud or counterfeiting. Here are just a few examples:

  • Credit card fraud
  • Bank fraud
  • Wire fraud
  • Business fraud and embezzlement
  • Telemarketing fraud
  • Money laundering
  • Mail fraud
  • Insurance fraud, including Medicare and Medicaid fraud
  • Social Security fraud
  • Mortgage fraud
  • Tax fraud
  • Bribery

There are also federal crimes that involve participation in a larger criminal enterprise, such as racketeering, drug trafficking, computer crimes (hacking), and human trafficking or smuggling.

Federal Weapons Crimes

One category of federal crime that warrants special mention is weapons charges. In Texas, we pride ourselves on the right to keep and bear arms. But this right is still subject to certain federal criminal prohibitions. Notably, it is a federal crime to possess a weapon or firearm under the following circumstances:

  • You have been convicted of a crime punishable by a prison term of more than one year (i.e., a felony) or are currently under indictment for such a crime.
  • You have been convicted of a misdemeanor crime involving some form of domestic violence (also known as “family violence” in Texas.)
  • You are an active fugitive from justice.
  • You are considered an “unlawful” drug addict or drug user.
  • You have been committed to a mental institution.
  • You are a non-citizen residing in the United States without documentation or under a non-immigrant visa.
  • You have been dishonorably discharged from any branch of the U.S. armed forces.
  • You are currently subject to a court-issued restraining order.

Keep in mind, federal weapons charges do not necessarily require proof you have used a firearm. These crimes normally involve buying, selling, or transporting firearms across state lines. In some cases, even selling a weapon to a person not allowed to have them can lead to criminal charges against the seller. Federal law also punishes the discharge of weapons in certain situations, such as within a school zone. If you are charged with any of these crimes you need to retain a qualified federal criminal defense lawyer.

Speak with a Galveston Federal Crimes Defense Attorney Today

A federal criminal charge can brand you a felon for life. That is why the best thing you can do when facing such allegations is to work with an experienced Galveston federal criminal defense lawyer. Attorney Mark Diaz and his team are committed to providing aggressive representation for all of our clients, no matter what they are charged with. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation so we can sit down and learn more about your case, and how we can best help you.

Federal Criminal Defense

Defended countless clients accused of federal crimes. As an experienced federal litigator, I know how to assemble an effective defense for high profile crimes.

Drug Possession

Because drug possession is a serious crime that can result in life-changing penalties, it is absolutely imperative to work with a Texas criminal defense lawyer who understands the law in this area.

White Collar Crimes

Because these types of cases are often subject to both state and federal prosecution, it is important to work with a lawyer who is comfortable defending a case at any level.

DWI Charges

A DWI Charge Can Put Your Life on Hold. A single arrest can seriously jeopardize your job, your freedom, and your reputation. If you have been arrested for drunk driving, you can’t afford to delay your defense.

Assault and Battery

Assault charge punishments can be severe. An effective defense strategy can result in reduced charges that carry less devastating consequences.

Sexual Assault

Because the penalties for sexual assault are so personally, financially, and emotionally damaging, your lawyer must be prepared to aggressively defend you from arrest to trial.


You need an experienced homicide defense lawyer on your side. I am prepared to stand solidly in your corner, as I have for countless others in your shoes.

Drug Manufacturing

Drug manufacturing charges can be extremely harsh. Without a highly trained defense lawyer on your side, you risk forfeiting your rights.

Burglary, Robbery & Theft

From our very first meeting, I will thoroughly review the details of your case, including any suspicion of police misconduct.

Domestic Violence

A first-time conviction can result in a $4,000 fine or up to 12 months in jail. You need a criminal defense attorney experienced in contesting charges brought by the state.

Drug Trafficking

Individuals who deliver or import drugs across the Texas border face serious consequences under both state and federal law.


When you are faced with the intimidating and complex issues surrounding the possibility of deportation, it is essential to have qualified and experienced legal representation.

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