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Atlanta Federal Criminal Defense Law Blog

What to expect in the event you face crimlnal indictment

When you are facing criminal charges of any kind, whether at the federal or state level, you are supposed to enjoy a presumption of innocence. That's the ideal. In reality, a person can suffer negative consequences of presumed guilt even as the investigation of the alleged crime is underway. That means that the need to protect your best interests may begin long before charges are leveled or you are formally indicted.

Every case is different and no one can guarantee a particular outcome. By engaging experienced counsel early it is possible to take more proactive steps to assure your rights are protected throughout the process. The aim should be to set the stage for the complete dismissal of the charges, mitigation of the effects if conviction occurs, or mounting a successful appeal. 

When police procedures are not followed, tragedy may ensue

Regardless of the organization that an officer represents, there are proper police procedures that must be followed. That is true even in arrests by officers of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, the FBI or other government agencies.

Unfortunately, the recent tragedy in Ferguson, Missouri suggests that the potential for police misconduct should be a national concern. Although the officers in that story were local, we’ve explored a number of instances of police brutality in recent posts. From an unauthorized search and seizure to excessive or deadly use of force, officials must be held accountable.

Atlanta educators face trial over organized corruption charges

Claims under Georgia’s Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act aren’t usually associated with public school educators. Organized criminals, or mobsters as they might be depicted in Hollywood films, might be the more typical defendants. 

Although it may be hard to believe, a group of Atlanta elementary school teachers are facing trial under RICO charges. Specifically, 12 former employees of the Atlanta Public Schools are accused of a cheating scandal on standardized test results. According to one allegation, educators may have scheduled erasure parties, at which they changed students' pencil marks on standardized testing sheets. The superintendent of the city school district was also named as a defendant, but her trial is postponed due to breast cancer. 

Search and seizure defenses should be examined in drug arrests

Undercover narcotics officers may set up sting operations around an alleged drug transaction. That effort often culminates in a search and seizure.

Yet as a criminal defense attorney knows, there are a myriad number of ways that a suspect’s constitutional rights might be violated during a search. In a recent example, a witness to a drug arrest video recorded the incident on his cellphone. The video shows officers approaching a 43-year-old suspect, applying a chokehold from behind, and pulling the man to the ground. Unfortunately, the suspect was also in poor health. Despite protests that he couldn’t breathe while being restrained on the ground, police did not release the man. The suspect died from the incident, and an autopsy confirmed that the police conduct had contributed to his death.

FedEx defends against federal conspiracy charges

When a company engages in interstate commerce, there’s a possibility that federal law could be implicated, as in today’s story.

Specifically, attorneys at the U.S. Department of Justice have brought charges against FedEx for allegedly conspiring with two online pharmacies over a ten-year period to distribute controlled substances. The DOJ attorneys are seeking $820 million from FedEx, which is the amount they claim the cargo shipping company earned from the activity. 

Agency will retroactively apply new federal drug crime policy

One of the frustrations in preparing a strong criminal defense for federal drug charges can be the intersection between state and federal laws. If the latter are invoked, federal mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines may result in much higher penalties.

Some criminal justice advocates have questioned whether those guidelines offer enough flexibility to judges to tailor sentences to individual defendants' circumstances. Other commentators have noted inconsistencies in the guidelines between the incarceration terms recommended for crack versus powder cocaine, with a potentially racially disparate impact. Congress acted in 2010 to reduce that discrepancy, but concerns over the seemingly punitive nature of federal drug sentencing guidelines have remained.

Minus 2 Drug Amendment Retroactive

The Commission voted to make the minus 2 drug amendment retroactive to all persons who have already been sentenced and whose sentence was based upon the drug quantity table (career offenders do not get relief because their sentence was based upon the career offender guideline not the drug quantity table). There are no categorical exclusions for things like gun enhancement, role in the offense, etc. The retroactive amendment, like the minus 2 amendment goes into effect on Nov 1, 2014. People who are currently incarcerated can file for a sentence reduction under 18 USC 3582 and the court can grant the motion after Nov 1, 2014, but no person can be released until Nov 1, 2015.

New rules announced for some federal criminal investigations

Although there can be overlap between state and federal crimes, one notable difference is sentencing. The Federal Sentencing Guidelines may impose more serious penalties than an equivalent offense under Georgia state law.

However, an attorney that focuses on federal crimes knows that it may sometimes be possible to depart from those guidelines, depending on the circumstances. For example, a first-time offender might be better positioned to make a case for mitigating factors.

Can admissions be made on a social media account?

Readers may have heard about prospective employers looking at candidates’ social media sites, but today’s story offers a new twist.

Specifically, a criminal defendant is appealing a conviction that resulted from rap lyrics he posted on his Facebook account. The man received a 44-month sentence under a federal law that makes it a felony to communicate threats about injuring another person.

Alleged repeat felony offense implicates harsher penalties

Although there is a separation of church and state in this country, any individual that commits an unlawful sexual offense can be held accountable. Unfortunately, the media scandal surrounding allegations of a sex crime often overshadow that actual outcome in the criminal trial. Even if not found guilty, an accused may face repercussions in his or her personal and professional life. 

The newsworthiness of child pornography crimes, in particular, is illustrated in the recent arbitration ruling involving a Midwestern Roman Catholic diocese. The religious entity is accused of failing to timely report the alleged sex crimes of a priest. 

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Attorney Shein is a contributing author to each of these publications. learn more.

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