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Federal Charges

Most criminal charges are the result of arrests by the local police, and are heard in state court. However, some crimes are prosecuted by the federal government. Federal criminal proceedings and federal punishments are not consistently better or worse for defendants, but they are different — different rules, different procedures and a different court.

Philadelphia Federal Defense Lawyer

The criminal defense lawyers at Alva Foster & Moscow, LLC are not only licensed in Philadelphia-area federal courts, they are experienced in and knowledgeable about federal charges and federal procedure. With that knowledge, they can apply their tough, aggressive approach to defending the rights of their clients in the federal court system. While the rules may be different, the principle of zealous advocacy for the client's best interests remains the same.

Call our Philadelphia federal defense lawyers today at (215) 665-1695 to set up a consultation. We serve those facing federal charges throughout Philadelphia and the surrounding area, including Bucks, Montgomery, Delaware, and Chester Counties.

Our attorneys are experienced in fighting cases in federal court, including the federal United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in the James A. Byrne United States Courthouse.

Federal Charges Information Center

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Federal Courts in Philadelphia

The United States works under the system of "federalism." Both the states and the federal government have legislative bodies that pass laws — the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has the General Assembly, and the federal government has the United State Congress. Both have the power to enforce those laws.

While the states have jurisdiction over most criminal matters, the federal government also has criminal laws. In theory, these are supposed to be only for crimes that cross state and international borders, like human trafficking and many fraud charges, or crimes that involve federal systems and assets, like counterfeiting.

However, especially over the past century, the federal government has been encroaching on legal areas traditionally reserved to states — for instance, regulating what substances a person may possess.

In both federal and state criminal cases, the prosecution has to prove all elements of their case beyond a reasonable doubt. The defense must prove nothing, unless the defendant is making an affirmative defense.

However, it is important to have a defense lawyer who can challenge the evidence brought forward and show the jury that there is reasonable doubt. It's also important for the Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer to not only be licensed to practice in federal courts, but also understand the differing rules and procedures in the federal court system.

If convicted in federal court, the defendant could serve time in federal prison. Despite the popular misconception, federal prison is far from a "country club." It is an often dangerous place where people's liberty, privacy and dignity are stripped from them.

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Federal Drug Charges Against Philadelphia Residents

In 1970, Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act, which bans the possession, distribution and manufacturing or cultivation of hundreds of substances, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and many others. The drugs are arranged into "schedules," or lists, with harsher penalties for drugs deemed worse.

While simple possession is illegal under the Controlled Substances Act, federal officials tend to be more interested in bigger charges, like trafficking. Federal trafficking charges carry mandatory minimum sentences and millions of dollars in fines. They can even result in life imprisonment.

While several federal law enforcement agencies may prosecute drug laws, the Drug Enforcement Agency primarily exists to prosecute crimes under the Controlled Substances Act.

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Federal Fraud and Financial Crimes in Pennsylvania

Medicare, Medicaid and the Internal Revenue System are all federal agencies and departments, so any attempt to defraud them is a federal crime. Medicare and Medicaid fraud frequently involve billing for services not provided or that were unnecessary, while tax fraud may involve underreporting income.

Mail fraud and wire fraud include any attempt to obtain money or anything of value via deception that involve the U.S. postal system or telecommunications. Wire fraud covers fraud allegations for eBay and other internet commerce sites.

The extent of the sentences in a fraud case usually depends on the amount prosecutors were able to prove was defrauded. A federal fraud conviction can therefore result in decades in prison.

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The Racketeering Case and Philadelphia Federal Prosecutors

Racketeering, as the term is used in federal law, means organized crime. This includes the Mafia and gangs, as well as corporations accused of engaging in fraudulent claims and even the Catholic Church for sexual abuse allegations.

The federal government typically uses the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) to prosecute the heads of alleged criminal organizations. Under RICO, any member of an organization that has committed one of several crimes, including gambling, money laundering, drug trafficking, bribery, fraud and human trafficking, within 10 years can face federal racketeering charges.

Racketeering charges are often used by prosecutors instead of charging defendants for the actual crimes committed because they are frequently easier to prove. Racketeering charges can result in up to 20 years in prison and a $25,000 fine per count, and any asset used in the criminal organization may be forfeited.

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Other Federal Charges

Other federal charges include:

Federal Weapons Charges:

Certain weapons charges, like illegally possessing a firearm in a federal facility or airport and firearms trafficking, can be federal crimes.


Counterfeiting money and knowingly using counterfeit money is investigated by the Secret Service and is a federal crime.

Federal Sex Crimes:

It is a federal crime to travel across stateliness to engage in sex with a person younger than 12. Sexual assaults and rapes that occur in federal facilities, including federal prison, can be prosecuted by federal officials.

Human Trafficking:

Whether people were intended to work as sex workers or other employment, it is illegal and a federal crime to transport undocumented workers across international borders.

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Alva Foster & Moscow, LLC | Philadelphia Federal Defense Attorney

If you face federal charges, you not only want someone standing for you who is a zealous and passionate advocate, but you also want someone who has spent time in the federal courts and understands the rules and procedures there. The experienced Philly federal defense lawyers at Alva Foster & Moscow, LLC can fight for your rights.

Call us today at (215) 665-1695 to schedule a consultation. We represent those facing federal charges throughout the Philadelphia area, including Bucks, Montgomery, Delaware, and Chester Counties. We are experienced in fighting criminal charges in federal court, including the federal United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in the James A. Byrne United States Courthouse.

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National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers