In the United States – and in Texas – you are allowed to defend yourself from criminal charges in both state and federal courts. People are facing federal crimes, however, tend to feel overwhelmed. Federal crimes seem as though they’re more serious, whether they actually are or not.


It’s a logical reaction. You’re going up against the federal government which has many more resources at its disposal to prosecute you for a crime – even when compared to a large state like ours.


The truth is that federal cases are unique. That’s why working with an attorney experienced in federal charges is vital to developing a successful defense against the charges. With the complexities of federal law, extensive knowledge and familiarity is a must so that you can have the best possible defensive strategy.


Have you ever wondered about how an attorney is best defend your particular case in court?


While an experienced federal practice attorney takes the facts of each case into consideration, there are different types of defenses that can be used at various points along the way to produce a successful outcome.


Below is a small overview of the types of potential defenses that can be used against federal charges in general to help you understand the process a little bit better.


Pretrial Defenses


In a federal criminal proceeding, there are certain defenses that can be used only if the defendant meets requirements in the early stages of the case. The requirement may be something as routine as providing the government with notice that a certain defense will be used by the defendant. Be aware, however, that these types of notice requirements do open the door for the government to object to the defense.


In other types of cases, some defenses can only be used if certain steps are taken pretrial. Most of the time, this includes a pretrial hearing regarding the defense to determine if it is appropriate to be used or not. This step akes place early, since it can shape how the case proceeds for both the prosecution and the defense.


In most cases, if you don’t comply with the requirements of certain defenses in the pretrial period, then you may not be able to use the defense at trial. Some examples of pretrial and notice defenses include:


  • having an alibi
  • outrageous conduct by the government
  • Insanity
  • vindictive persecution


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Affirmative Defenses


Affirmative defenses are tricky and require a skilled attorney to have a successful outcome.



The government must prove every element of the case against you beyond a reasonable doubt.

When the government fails to carry this burden in any respect, the defendant needs to only show that the government has not presented sufficient evidence upon which a valid conviction can be sustained.


An affirmative defense, however, allows the defendant to present evidence which, if accepted as credible by the judge or jury, negates criminal liability even though the evidence is sufficient that the defendant committed the crime charged.


This can be confusing.


To break it down, an affirmative defense usually has a series of elements that the defense has to prove. If they can’t do that, then the affirmative defense fails.


However, there are advantages to affirmative defenses that must be considered. It entails a lower standard of proof. While the government bears the “beyond a reasonable doubt” burden, an affirmative defense can be established by a “preponderance of the evidence.” This lower standard of proof necessitates an evaluation to determine if an affirmative defense is viable in some situations.


Examples of affirmative defenses include acting under duress, self-defense, defense of others or property, entrapment, and battered spouse’s syndrome, just to name a few.


Specific Intent


Another type of defense in cases in which the government much establish is called specific intent. It’s not uncommon for federal law to outline elements that must be proven in order to convict someone of a crime. For many crimes, specific intent is a requisite element that must be proven.


An intent defense may provide an opportunity to offset specific intent with credible evidence would warrant a not guilty verdict or a judgment of acquittal.


For example, if your attorney can show there was a negation of mens rea, that you were acting in good faith, or that you were acting under the advice of counsel, then that may be enough for a not guilty verdict or a judgment of acquittal by the court.


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Obviously, any criminal defense must be tailored to the facts and circumstances each individual situation, but this overview is intended to show that there are legitimate defenses, trial strategies, and trial tactics that can be used to defend against a federal prosecution.