Fort Lauderdale Federal Criminal Defense Attorney
Being charged with a crime in the federal system carries the risk of exorbitant fines, the seizure of assets, and lengthy sentences in federal prison without the possibility of parole. Special care must be taken when going up against the vast resources of the federal government which includes Special Agents of the DEA, ATF, SEC, IRS and FBI, and their teams of lawyers in the Department of Justice. Fort Lauderdale federal criminal defense attorney Deric Zacca is a Florida Bar Board Certified Criminal Trial Lawyer and a former prosecutor who understands the consequences of a conviction in the federal system and will fight to see that you get a fair trial and a strong defense.
The Law Office of Deric Zacca, P.A. represents people throughout Fort Lauderdale charged with all manner of federal offenses, including all of the following:
- Identity Theft – Fraudulently acquiring and using a person’s private identification information for financial gain;
- Healthcare Fraud – The fraudulent completion of healthcare claims for financial gain;
- Mortgage Fraud – Misrepresenting or omitting mortgage loan application information in order to acquire a loan or to acquire a larger loan than would have otherwise been granted;
- Securities Fraud (also termed stock or investment fraud) – To purposefully deceive investors into purchasing or selling stock or commodities by providing false information, which often results in a financial loss;
- Wire Fraud – Committing fraud with the internet or a telephone in order to make a financial gain;
- Mail Fraud – Committing fraud by mail order to make a financial gain; and
- Conspiracy to Commit Fraud – To conspire with one or more other people to commit one of the types of fraud above, in and of itself, is a crime in many cases. However, if the conspiracy to commit fraud or a criminal offense is against the U.S. government, according to 18 U.S. legal code § 371, the punishment can be much more severe: “If two or more persons conspire either to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose, and one or more of such persons do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy, each shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both. If, however, the offense, the commission of which is the object of the conspiracy, is a misdemeanor only, the punishment for such conspiracy shall not exceed the maximum punishment provided for such misdemeanor.”
Prosecutions involving fraud or other white collar offenses are often based on incredibly lengthy and complicated federal statutes and their accompanying regulations. Sometimes violations are so highly technical that legal scholars and lawmakers disagree over whether a certain act or behavior constitutes an offense or not. Federal prosecutors may spend months or years building a case before bringing charges. Deric Zacca is at your side before an arrest is even made. His services involve convincing prosecutors not to bring charges, influencing what charges are brought or negotiating how an arrest is carried out. We mount a strong defense against intimidation or harassment based on vague and ambiguous federal laws.
- Cultivation – Growing plants that are controlled substances, such as marijuana, opium, and hallucinogens;
- Manufacture – Creating an illegal drug through natural extraction or chemical synthesis;
- Possession with Intent to Distribute – Requires that an illegal drug is possessed and that the perpetrator has an intent to sell or distribute;
- Narcotics Trafficking – According to § 2L1.2. (iv), a drug or narcotics trafficking offense is an offense under federal, state, or local law that prohibits the manufacture, import, export, distribution, or dispensing of, or offer to sell a controlled substance (or a counterfeit substance) or the possession of a controlled substance (or a counterfeit substance) with intent to manufacture, import, export, distribute, or dispense” and;
- Conspiracy to Distribute Drugs – Possessing a drug in too large of a quantity for personal use, often accompanied with other evidence such as drug paraphernalia, packaging, records of communicating with buyers, and large sums of money, all of which can be used as evidence of possession with intent to sell and distribute.
The DEA and the federal government pour enormous resources into prosecuting the so-called “war on drugs,” and sometimes either innocent people get caught up in the cross-fire, or the government overreaches by prosecuting individuals for relatively minor offenses. Drug convictions carry severe penalties in terms of fines and prison sentences, and the government’s asset forfeiture program eagerly confiscates all the cash and personal property that it can. Unfortunately, the federal government does not maintain drug courts or diversion programs like Florida does, so even if you are able to get treatment or an alternative to incarceration at the state level, you can still be prosecuted and punished harshly in the federal system. Make sure you get strong, effective representation from the very start for the best possible outcome.
- Unlawful Carrying of a Firearm
- Unlawful Possession of a Firearm
- Unlawful Sale or Purchase of a Firearm
- Possession of a Firearm During a Drug Trafficking Offense or Crime of Violence
In addition to prosecuting crimes related to firearms, federal criminal law can enhance the punishments for possessing a firearm during a drug trafficking offense or crime of violence. For instance, federal law imposes a five-year mandatory minimum sentence if a firearm is merely carried during the commission of a violent crime or drug trafficking. The sentence increases to seven years if the firearm is “brandished” and ten years if it is actually discharged regardless if anyone is actually hurt.
- Smuggling – Knowingly bringing in and/or harboring aliens, often for profit;
- Illegal Reentry – Attempting to enter or entering the U.S. without governmental approval;
- Illegal Reentry After Deportation – Attempting to enter or entering the U.S. after previously being deported, denied entry, excluded, or removed; and
- Visa Fraud – Fraudulently forging, procuring, or using a visa or other documents.
From immigrant smuggling to visa fraud, Deric Zacca, P.A. has the knowledge, skills and experience to provide strong, effective defense for these charges in federal court.
Don’t Talk to Federal Agents without Your Attorney Present
Federal agents may approach you during their investigation to “gather facts” about an alleged crime. You must keep in mind that anything you say to a federal agent can be used against you. A federal statute, 18 USC 1001, makes it a federal crime to knowingly and willfully make a materially false statement to a federal agent regarding any matter under federal jurisdiction. If a federal agent believes that you are knowingly and willingly making a false statement you can be prosecuted under this statute even though you believe the statement to be correct. Punishment under this statute is punishable up to five years. If approached for questioning by federal agents, let them know you won’t answer questions without your attorney present. This is your right, and it is an essential part of keeping you from being convicted for a crime you may have a valid defense against.
Fort Lauderdale Federal Criminal Process
The stages of a federal prosecution are in some ways similar to the process in Florida circuit courts, but very different in other ways. Below is a look at the steps involved in a federal criminal prosecution from beginning to end, and how Fort Lauderdale federal criminal attorney Deric Zacca helps at every step of the proceeding.
Agencies such as the FBI, DEA or ATF investigate crime based on reports of victims or witnesses. Cases are prosecuted by U.S. Attorneys from the Department of Justice. Deric Zacca can prove influential at this stage by convincing federal agents and prosecutors that they do not have a strong enough case to file charges.
Grand Jury Indictment
In the federal system, a grand jury indictment is required in all felony cases unless it is waived. The grand jury hears witnesses and receives evidence and then votes in secret; its proceedings are sealed from public view. While individuals may not have an attorney present during their testimony in the grand jury room, they can consult with an attorney before their testimony or outside the grand jury room upon request to the prosecuting attorney. If you are ever subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury, it is essential to consult with a criminal defense lawyer in order to determine if you are the target or subject of the federal criminal investigation. Attorney Deric Zacca has vast experience in representing individuals who have been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury.
After arrest but before the initial court appearance, a defendant will be interviewed by U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services. The purpose of this interview is to gather information regarding an individual’s drug use, ties to the community, prior arrests and other factors which are important to a determination of pretrial release (bail). If you have retained a lawyer prior to arrest, arrangements can be made for your lawyer to be present during this interview which may improve your chances of being released from custody while your trial is pending.
At this first appearance before a federal judge or magistrate, you will be advised of the charges against you, your right to counsel, the right to remain silent, and your right to a preliminary examination. Conditions for pretrial release are also covered at this appearance, based on information gathered at the probation interview. The initial hearing/arraignment should take place the day of your arrest or the day after. You may enter a plea (usually not guilty) at this appearance.
Preliminary Examination Hearing
If your arrest was not based on a grand jury indictment, you are entitled to a preliminary examination hearing to determine whether probable cause exists to believe that you have committed the alleged offense. The preliminary hearing is like a mini-trial with witnesses and evidence, although the evidence allowed at these hearings is broader than what may be admitted at an actual trial. The case against you can be dismissed at this hearing. The preliminary hearing should take place within 14 days of your initial appearance, or 21 days if you are out on bail.
Pretrial Detention Hearing
If it is felt that you may be a flight risk, a threat to witnesses or a danger to the community, the prosecution may request that you be held in jail throughout the pendency of your case. You are entitled to a hearing on this matter.
Discovery is the opportunity to talk to witnesses, study the evidence and develop a trial strategy. You are entitled to copies of materials and evidence from the prosecution, including any evidence which tends to show that you are not guilty of the crime (known as exculpatory evidence).
If you decide it is in your best interests based on advice from your attorney, your lawyer may negotiate a guilty plea in exchange for the dismissal of some of the charges against you, or a recommendation from the prosecution to the judge for a lighter sentence.
Before the trial, your attorney may present arguments to the court why certain charges or the entire case should be dismissed, why certain evidence should be suppressed, or why the location of the trial (venue) should be changed in order for you to get a fair trial.
The trial begins with jury selection and then opening statements by the prosecution and the defense, followed by the presentation of the prosecution’s case and then the defense. Witnesses are heard and evidence is introduced; your attorney may make objections that certain evidence or testimony is irrelevant, overly prejudicial, or inadmissible according to the Federal Rules of Evidence. Both sides make closing arguments, and the judge delivers a set of instructions to the jury. The jury engages in its deliberations and then returns a verdict of guilty or not guilty.
Your attorney may argue for a new trial or for a judgment of acquittal. The judge has the authority to vacate or set aside a jury verdict or correct a sentence.
If you were convicted, sentencing will occur in a separate proceeding. Federal judges follow guidelines developed by the United States Sentencing Commission, which provide minimum and maximum sentences according to the crime and certain factors. The judge may consider aggravating or mitigating circumstances to increase or lessen a recommended punishment.
Criminal defendants are entitled to appeal their conviction and argue that they were wrongly convicted, that the sentence imposed was too harsh, or that the judge ruled incorrectly on admitting evidence or sentencing. The appeals court can reverse the conviction, alter the sentence, or order a new trial.
Call Deric Zacca in Fort Lauderdale for Immediate Assistance With Fort Lauderdale Federal Crimes
If you have been approached for questioning by federal agents, or if you have been arrested for a federal offense in Fort Lauderdale, call Deric Zacca, P.A. at 954-450-4848 for immediate assistance from a Board Certified federal criminal trial attorney ready to stand by your side and defend you in federal court.
Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney For State & Federal Crimes
The U.S. is renowned for its incredibly high levels of incarceration. Currently, there are over 4.7 million people on probation or parole and over 2.2 million in prison or jail, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Almost seven million Americans are incarcerated or under the jurisdiction of a correctional program that limits their freedom in some way. Florida, unfortunately, has an even higher than the national average rate of incarceration. 100,873 people incarcerated, according to the Florida Department of Corrections. An experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney can help minimize your chances for conviction and work with the prosecution and court to decrease the punishment that you may receive
Mandatory Sentencing for Nonviolent Crimes Increases Prison Population
Mandatory sentencing, pushed by politicians seeking votes and the multi-billion dollar industry of privatized prisons seeking profits, has placed millions of low-level criminals, many of whom have had no business being punished to the extent that they were, in state and federal correctional facilities over the past decades. In fact, according to Families Against Mandatory Minimums, Florida has more incarcerated people than almost any other state in the country. Nonviolent drug crimes, many of which elicit mandatory minimum sentencing, have vastly increased Florida’s correctional budget and flooded its prison systems with nonviolent offenders. Our state’s fervor of strict punishment for low level crimes leaves little room for the court to make leniencies or rational sentencing. As such, the importance of hiring an attorney that will fight for the charges to be dispelled and examine every possible avenue in your defense becomes even more vital. Convicted federal criminals do not have the same rights as everyone else. They can no longer vote, be a jury member, become a lawyer, or own a gun (unless they get it from a private seller or other loophole). There are traveling restrictions and restrictions on places a felon can go in the time of their parole or probation, and finding a job as a convicted felon can seem almost impossible. And, after being released, many felons now have to wait seven years to make an appeal for the reinstallation of their civil rights. Even what may at first seem like a minor offense or a complete accidental arrest can lead to serious problems down the road. Even if you are fully innocent and your arrest was completely unjust, your future could be in serious jeopardy. Do not take any chances by going with a lesser attorney. Contact the Fort Lauderdale law office of Deric Zacca immediately if you have been accused of any state or federal offense. With years of proven success, Deric Zacca not only has your best interest at heart, but the experience and resources to create the best possible outcome for you and your loved ones.
An Experienced Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney with A Proven History of Success
The actions you take immediately following an arrest can either haunt you for years to come, or set you on the path to a reduced sentence or proven innocent. One of these steps is deciding upon an attorney. If you have been arrested for a serious felony in Florida state or federal court, or even for a misdemeanor offense, you have so much at stake including your liberty, your livelihood and your reputation. For this reason, you should only consider hiring the best attorney possible to represent your interests. Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney Deric Zacca is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Criminal Defense which is a rigorous process that has produced only a handful of Board Certified criminal defense attorneys in the Fort Lauderdale area. Deric Zacca is truly an expert in criminal defense.
Additionally, Mr. Zacca is certified by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, recognizing his skills and experience as a trial lawyer. A former prosecutor in the State Attorney’s office, Mr. Zacca has conducted well over 100 trials in the roles of prosecution and defense in both the Florida state and federal systems. While Deric Zacca will attempt to resolve your matter favorably at the earliest possible stage, he is ready and able to take your case to trial and vigorously defend you in Florida circuit and federal courts.
Here for you whenever you need us with hands-on, personal attention
When you call Deric Zacca, P.A., you will speak personally with Deric Zacca. Mr. Zacca personally handles your case and deals with you directly throughout the course of your representation. Mr. Zacca is the kind of Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney who gives his cell phone number to his clients and goes out of his way to be accessible and responsive to their needs.
If you have been arrested in Fort Lauderdale, make your first phone call to Deric Zacca, P.A. We are available 24/7 to make sure your case is positioned for success from the very start. Your initial consultation is free, no-obligation, and 100% confidential. Spanish-speaking services are also available. Our office is conveniently located across the street from the Broward County courthouse in Fort Lauderdale and only three blocks from the federal courthouse. Call 954-450-4848 for a no-cost, confidential consultation, and get help in your criminal matter from a recognized expert in Fort Lauderdale criminal defense.