Federal Crimes

Pennsylvania Federal Crime Defense Attorneys 


federal crimes


When a person is charged with violating a state law, charges are brought in state (county) court. When the United States Attorney’s Office (usually working with the FBI) charges a person with violating a federal crime, the charges are brought in federal court.


Federal criminal defense is starkly different from state criminal defense. Federal authorities bring far few cases than state district attorney’s offices so they are able to devote a larger percentage of their budget to each case. Federal investigations are generally lengthy and run by well-financed federal agencies (such as the FBI, DEA and IRS).


Experienced PA Federal Defense Attorney


The reality is that most state and county criminal defense lawyers have never handled a federal criminal case. If you or a loved on is the target of a federal investigation or has been charged with a federal crime, it is important to hire a lawyer who has handled federal cases and is comfortable going toe-to-toe with federal prosecutors and FBI agents.


I have represented many clients in high-profile federal criminal cases including cases that have resulted in multi-week jury trials. I am proud of the positive results I have achieved on behalf of my federal clients and have worked hard to achieve these results.


I have relationships with experts in various fields — private investigators, toxicologists, forensic psychiatrists, polygraphers and others — whom I have used to help me prepare for and successfully defend cases. To be successful as a lawyer in the federal arena, it is important that federal authorities respect you and know that, if necessary, you are ready willing and able to aggressively defend your client at trial.


Have You Received a Target Letter?


A target letter is the mechanism by which federal prosecutors inform people that they may be the subject of future prosecution. Targets letters are generally issued in non-violent matters (such as white collar cases) to advise a person that they are under investigation and to warn against destroying any evidence.


A target letter does not mean that an indictment is inevitable, but it certainly means that you should engage experienced counsel. There are times that it makes sense to reach out to the prosecutor running the investigation; there are other times where the smart move is to avoid contact. An experienced federal defense attorney can provide you with the proper guidance.


Early Intervention Can Be Key


It is often important to be proactive in dealing with federal prosecutors. Frequently, in a large investigation involving many potential defendants, the first targets to “lawyer up” and get in touch with the prosecutor are in a position to negotiate the best results. This does not mean that it is always appropriate to reach out to the prosecutor. But it DOES mean that anyone facing potential federal charges should immediately hire experienced counsel to fully consider their rights and options.


Guilty Plea Or Trial?


While I have taken many federal cases to trial, I have also successfully negotiated non-trial (guilty plea) resolutions in many cases as well. There are cases where a positive plea deal is that best possible result. In negotiations with federal authorities, it is very important that the prosecution understand that the defense lawyer is willing, ready and able to take a case to trial if necessary.


A prosecutor who does not respect a defense lawyer — or does not believe the defense lawyer is confident taking cases to trial — will be far less likely to make the best possible plea offer. Prosecutors know when defense attorneys are reluctant to try a case. This is why it is important to hire a lawyer who has experience in the world of federal criminal law and has successfully tried many cases in federal courts.


Federal Sentencing Guidelines


The Federal Sentencing Guidelines are non-binding rules that create a framework for federal sentences. The purpose of the guidelines is to promote consistency and predictability in sentencing. The theory is that the guidelines make it more likely that people who are convicted of the same or similar crime in different jurisdictions and/or in front of different judges will receive similar sentences.


The federal sentencing guidelines are extremely complex and difficult to navigate. Indeed, the federal sentencing guideline “handbook” — which is designed to explain the guidelines and make them easier to understand and apply — is approximately 2,000 pages.


For anyone subjected to a federal sentencing, it is important to have an experienced federal law attorney on your side. There are numerous aggravating and mitigating “circumstances” set forth in the guidelines that can result in a higher or lower guideline range. No defendant should simply assume that the proper guidelines will be applied in their case. An aggressive and experienced federal defense attorney can ensure that the lowest possible guidelines are applied.


Skilled Federal Criminal Defense


I have handled many federal criminal cases involving a wide range of charges. I have successfully defended clients in federal court who were charged with the following crimes:


  • Conspiracy Charges. Conspiracy is a broad charge which essentially covers any agreement by two or more persons to commit an illegal offense. Many conspiracy charges involve federal drug charges or RICO (organized crime) offenses.
  • RICO Crimes. RICO is another broad charge that applies to alleged enterprises or “businesses” that are organized to commit criminal acts.
  • Health Care — Medicare/ Medicaid Fraud. These cases usually involve alleged fraudulent billing and/or deception to inappropriately obtain financial reimbursement from the government.
  • Federal Drug Charges. The federal government generally only prosecutes large-scale, interstate drug crimes or those that are alleged to be connected to violent activity.
  • Identity Theft. These crimes often involve alleged internet crimes such as phishing schemes and credit card scams.
  • Hobbs Act Crimes. The Hobbs Act prohibits actual or attempted robbery which affects interstate commerce. The federal government will often charge a Hobbs Act robbery when the perpetrator is alleged to have used a firearm.
  • Bank Robbery. Bank robbery offenses can involve substantial prison sentences.


How a Federal, Pennsylvania Defense Attorney Can Help


Back in the 1990s, I was a prosecutor in the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office in the Major Crimes Unit. Since leaving the DA’s Office in 1999, I have been a criminal defense attorney defending clients in federal and state courts. I am certainly qualified to represent anyone charged with a federal crime.

Pennsylvania Federal Criminal Defense LawyersPA Federal Criminal Attorneys

Are under currently under federal criminal investigation in Pennsylvania? Have you been indicted by a federal grand jury and are facing federal criminal charges regarding a violent crime, white collar crime of a drug crime? What is the best way to find the federal criminal defense lawyer to defend you? While many people feel that choosing an attorney is similar to choosing a doctor. That is, one type of physician to cure whatever ails you. This is not the case, either in medicine or law. The legal world is highly specialized, and if you are facing federal charges of any kind, you need an attorney who is very experienced in the area of law that concerns the alleged crime. After all, federal charges are very serious and you could be looking at many years in federal prison, if convicted. What’s more, a federal case means that you are fighting the US Attorney’s Office and they have tremendous financial resources and experience at their disposal. So, choosing a top attorney for this type of serious case is vital.

I am Pennsylvania Federal Criminal Defense Attorney Erik Petersen and I have many years experience handling federal criminal charges in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Contact my office for a free consultation.

Why a Federal Case Needs A Special Attorney

Federal crimes are very complex both legally and factually. Federal cases can be harder to defend in theory because federal prosecutors have investigative support from various federal agencies, such as the FBI , ATF, DEA, IRA, EPA and others. Also, federal agencies can seek help from state law enforcement who work on prosecuting federal crimes.

Expertise in Federal Criminal Law

Above all, it is very important to hire an attorney who is experienced with federal criminal laws. You do not want however an attorney who is experienced with federal civil litigation, nor do you want an attorney that works mostly defending state criminal charges. And of course you do not want an attorney who has never worked in a federal courthouse.

Federal criminal charges feature high maximum sentences and big financial penalties. Further, federal prosecutors often are highly competitive and aggressive; they really want to win the big case.

Also, unlike states attorneys, federal prosecutors are not usually overloaded with cases. They can afford to spend a great deal of time on one investigation – yours.

Federal judges also expect attorneys for both sides to be well prepared and do not deal well with delays. For each of these reasons, you want to have an attorney who has tremendous knowledge of the federal criminal process.


You want a federal defense attorney with a history of successful results. Of course, at the federal level, what ‘successful’ means can vary. Consider these factors:

  • If you are still under federal investigation and have not been charged, then the best result is where you are not charged.
  • If charges already have been brought against you, but you are innocent or there is a lack of evidence, a good outcome is winning at trial. The best outcome in this case is to convince the prosecution to drop all charges.
  • If you did violate the law and the prosecution can convict you, the best result would be to avoid a long prison term.

As you are talking to potential attorneys to represent you, you should investigate how good their track record is in the above scenarios, depending upon what your personal, best case result would be. Naturally, the result of a prior case does not predict what will happen in yours, but it is reasonable to ask an attorney about his earlier experiences and outcomes in similar cases.

Contact A Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer

Please do not hesitate to contact me, PA Federal Criminal Defense Attorney Erik Petersen for a free case review. I have many years experience handling criminal cases on different sides of the law. My experience handling federal criminal cases ranges from murder to drug crimes to white collar crimes such as fraud & forgery. I will put that experience to work for you. Call my PA federal crime defense law firm immediately.

In addition to handling federal criminal defense cases I also handle peripheral issues associated with federal charges such as medical license defense and professional license defense. Let me use my wealth of experience within the federal criminal justice system to protect your rights, your career and your livelihood.