Federal Criminal Defense

Maine Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer

Defending a federal criminal case is very different than defending a charge brought by  a state district attorney.   Federal criminal cases are prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Offices in each district within a particular state and are heard in the United States District Court.   The United States Attorney’s Office in Maine has offices in Portland and Bangor Maine where the United States District Courts are also located.  These cases require specialized knowledge of and experience with federal criminal statutes and federal criminal procedure.  The majority of federal crimes are contained in Title 18 of the United States Code, www.law.Cornell.edu/uscode/text/18,  and the rules are in the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. www.federalrulesofcriminalprocdedure.org.  Equally critical to defending federal criminal cases is experience with the United States Sentencing Guidelines which have controlled sentencing in federal criminal cases since 1987.  See, www.ussc.gov/guidelines.

Attorney Richard S. Berne began his law career as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn, NY Long Island, NY  and Staten Island, NY) and thereafter in the Northern District of California (San Francisco, CA).  Over his four years of service he prosecuted all types of federal criminal cases including fraud cases, drug cases, bank robbery and tax cases.  As a result Mr. Berne became an expert in the elements of federal crimes, in federal criminal procedure and in federal sentencing jurisprudence.

Upon completion of his government service he practiced federal criminal defense with a nationally known criminal defense firm in New York City for eleven years.   In 1992  Mr. Berne opened the Law Office of Richard S. Berne in Portland, Maine and over the past 25 years has defended all types of criminal prosecutions in Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.  His decades of experience with the issues relevant to federal criminal defense distinguish him from most criminal defense lawyers in Maine particularly with respect to the United States Sentencing Guidelines.  The guidelines became effective in 1987 and radically changed how sentences are imposed in federal court.   Prior to their enactment federal judges had unfettered discretion in sentencing similar to state judges in Maine.  Now federal judges must impose the sentence required by the sentencing guidelines unless he or she finds specific grounds to vary from the recommended guideline sentence.  In addition, unlike in most state prosecutions, plea bargains which stipulate an agreed upon sentence are ordinarily not permitted in federal court.  Thus a defense lawyer and federal prosecutor cannot bind a federal judge by agreeing to specific sentence in a plea agreement.

The procedure by a particular defendant’s sentence is calculated under the federal sentencing guidelines is very complex. Simply stated, the sentence is based on the seriousness of the defendant’s criminal conduct and his or her criminal history.  There are specific guidelines for each type of federal crime from which a defendant’s offense level is calculated.  Thus  the offense level required by the guideline applicable to drug cases is based on the quantity of drugs involved.  A defendant’s criminal history score is based on the seriousness of his or her prior criminal convictions. The actual sentencing range derived from these two factors is contained in the guideline sentencing table.  See, www.ussc.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/guidelines.

As the result of a series of recent United States Supreme Court cases the sentencing guideline range applicable to a defendant’s case is no longer mandatory.  In other words, a federal  judge may now impose a sentence that is below or above the guideline range based on such factors as the defendant’s personal background, family responsibilities, serious illness or other mitigating circumstances.  Attorney Richard S. Berne has been successful in obtaining sentences below the guideline sentencing range in virtually every federal criminal case he has handled since the guidelines became advisory rather than mandatory under federal law in 2005.

This explanation is merely a broad outline of the aspects of federal criminal defense that require specialized knowledge and experience.  If you are under investigation for or charged with a federal crime it is crucial that you speak with an experienced attorney as soon as possible.  To learn more about how the Law Office of Richard S. Berne can help you call 207-871-7770 to request a free consultation.