Why Choose an Attorney with Experience in Federal Court?
Below, DC federal criminal lawyer David Benowitz answers questions about his experience in federal court.
Why hire an attorney who has experience with federal court, or a specific jurisdiction or area of the law?
Answer: It’s important to hire someone with experience because the difference between federal court and state court is the way the sentencing guidelines run. The sentencing guidelines are not mandatory. They used to be mandatory. Once you (received) a calculation, the judge was bound to sentence someone within a certain range. That’s not the case anymore. But the different factors that go into fashioning a potential sentence in a health care fraud case or an ERISA fraud case, they’re very complicated. And you get into lots of different issues.
For example, in a benefits case, the number of victims can bump up a potential sentence. Then, you have to get into the issue of who is the victim? Is the victim the federal government? Is it one victim? Or is the victim all of the members of the plan? You have a thousand employees in the plan, are they all victims? So you get into those issues. You also get into issues, just like in a lot of white collar cases, of what is the potential role that your client has played? If they’ve played any role at all.
But let’s assume that they’re pending sentencing in a case like that. Were they a “leader?” Because that could be a real problem. That could lead to a potentially enhanced sentence. Or were they what’s called a minor, or minimal, participant? That leads to potentially a reduced sentence. So all of those factors play a big role. These types of cases, in addition to the traditional criminal case aspects, are so paper-intensive and they require you get in early with experts to look at the stuff, to look at the discovery. That is so you can make decisions that will shape potential outcomes early. When you’re dealing with very document intensive cases, it’s important to get your ducks in a row early. Not that you don’t do it in traditional criminal cases like, for example, a DUI. But in those cases, it’s just lots of evidence to deal with. There’s just less stuff that you have to get a handle on. In these benefits, or health care fraud cases, there are more witnesses. There is more paper. You just have to be on top of it right from the start.