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Federal Criminal Defenses

We have a proven track record of success in handling over 20,000 criminal cases and consistently awarded as one of Ohio’s Best Criminal Defense Firms. We treat our clients like family with a non-judgmental approach. Knowledge is power in any situation. We are here to help educate you about your circumstances. Use our resources below to contact us and learn how we can help you.

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Federal Criminal Defenses

Defending yourself against criminal charges in federal court can be complex. The process is very different from facing state or local prosecutors. Given the complexities of federal law, it is crucial to create a strong defense tailored to the federal system.

To receive assistance in your case, contact a qualified defense attorney at Joslyn Law Firm. Since every case is unique, our attorneys will guide you on the appropriate defense for your circumstances.

Cincinnati Federal Criminal Defense Attorney, Ohio

If you have been arrested for a federal crime, time is of the essence. In federal crimes, obtaining the counsel you need should be your top priority. Allow our experienced legal team at Joslyn Law Firm to handle your case and concentrate on preserving the rest of your life. We will fight to protect your rights.

To schedule your first consultation with Joslyn Law Firm and discuss your federal criminal case, call (513) 399-6289. Joslyn Law Firm serves clients in Franklin County, Madison County, Fairfield County, Union County, Licking County, Madison County, and more.


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Notice & Pre-Trial Defenses for Federal Criminal Offenses

When defending criminal charges in federal court, the government may require defendants to provide notice to the prosecution of certain defenses they intend to raise to prove their innocence. Other defenses require defendants to file successful pre-trial motions before they may utilize the defense. These defenses are known as notice and pre-trial defenses.

Alibi (Fed. R. Crim. P. 12.1)

An alibi defense is an assertion of innocence. Federal prosecutors are permitted, on written demand, to discover before trial a defendant’s alibi and alibi witnesses. In turn, the government must disclose to the defense the names and addresses of the witnesses it intends to present to establish the defendant’s presence at the crime scene.

The government must also disclose any other witnesses it intends to rebut the testimony of the alibi witnesses. The parties are obliged to provide notice of any additional witnesses who may provide relevant testimony.

Insanity (Fed. R. Crim. P. 12.2)

This defense also acts to negate the specific intent element of a crime. If the issue of insanity is raised by the required notice, on motion of either party or the court, the defendant will be found either (1) guilty, (2) not guilty, or (3) not guilty only by reason of insanity.

The court automatically commits a defendant the jury found not guilty by reason of insanity to an institution, pending a hearing on their present mental state and the extent of the danger they pose to society. The penal system requires a psychiatric or psychological examination and report forty days before the hearing.

The burden of proof is on the person committed to prove that their release would not create a substantial risk of bodily injury or serious damage to another person or property due to their present mental disease or defect.

Legal Authority (Fed. R. Crim. P. 12.3)

The defense of legal authority is also an affirmative defense. With this defense, the defendant is asserting that he knowingly committed a criminal act but did so in reasonable reliance upon a grant of authority from a government official to engage in the illegal activity charged as the criminal offense. However, this defense is only available when the government official had actual authority rather than apparent authority to authorize the defendant to commit the criminal acts in question.

A person has actual authority when someone with dominion (i.e., a supervising principal or agent) explicitly grants a person, who has a lower rank, the authority to act on their behalf. For example, a chief may tell the deputy chief to fulfill a specific task. However, a deputy chief (someone of lower rank) cannot place the same request on the chief. Contrastingly, a person has apparent authority when they assume they have the higher-up’s authority to act on their behalf. During the latter, the authority is implied, not directly stated.


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Affirmative Defenses for Federal Criminal Offenses

A defendant might present affirmative defenses, evidence of facts that negate criminal liability even if the defendant committed the alleged acts. This is unlike an alibi defense, which negates the defendant’s presence at the time when or where, the defendant is alleged to have committed the offense.

The following are affirmative defenses:

  • Withdrawal
  • Abandonment
  • Necessity
  • Duress
  • Entrapment
  • Self-Defense
  • Defense of Others
  • Defense of Property
  • Voluntary Intoxication

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Procedural Defenses for Federal Criminal Offenses

The U.S. Constitution endows citizens with certain rights in criminal procedures. Defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to fair and speedy trials. Federal and state law enforcement agencies must abide by practices that protect the defendants’ rights at all times.

Procedural defenses relate to failures of the criminal justice system to treat a defendant per his constitutional rights. These defenses are distinct from questions of the defendant’s criminal liability and rely upon procedural misconduct during the criminal process.

Procedural defenses are challenging to assert since they rely on some acknowledgment of failure by the criminal justice system. However, they can never be overlooked and must be established at every opportunity to safeguard the criminal justice system against constitutional abuses of power.

  • Denial of a speedy trial
  • False statements or confessions by witnesses
  • Double Jeopardy
  • Falsified or tainted evidence
  • Entrapment
  • Prosecutor misconduct
  • Selective prosecution

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Specific Intent Defenses for Federal Criminal Offenses

These defenses focus on a defendant’s lack of criminal intent or mens rea, which refers to the intention or knowledge of wrongful action that makes up part of a criminal offense. Specific intent defenses are valuable because even if the prosecution can establish every other element of the crime, the lack of the necessary criminal intent or mens rea should be sufficient to acquit the defendant of the crime. Below are specific intent defenses.

  • Automatism
  • Advice of counsel
  • Good faith
  • Mental disease or defect

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Statutory Defenses for Federal Criminal Offenses

Federal statutes outline specific affirmative defenses. Other federal regulations construe an exception to criminal liability as an affirmative defense rather than an essential element of the crime. The defendant has the burden of proving the exception in this situation. The government does not have the burden of disproving the exception’s existence.

  • 18 U.S.C. § 922(o): This law prohibits unlawful possession of a machine gun but contains exceptions for lawful possession before the statute’s effective date, which have been construed as affirmative defenses.
  • 18 U.S.C. § 2332a(a): “Lawful authority” is an affirmative defense to the use of, the attempt to use, or a threat to use a weapon of mass destruction.

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Additional Resources

Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure – This includes information about the assertion of criminal defenses in a federal criminal case and the procedural requirements to assert them.

Brennan Center for Justice – This nonprofit’s article “A Federal Agenda for Criminal Justice Reform” details problems with our criminal justice system and suggests various reforms.


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Ohio Federal Criminal Defense Attorney, Cincinnati

If you are under investigation for allegedly committing a federal criminal offense, do not delay in retaining experienced legal counsel from Joslyn Law Firm. Our skilled federal crime attorneys offer sophisticated defense strategies for complicated federal criminal charges throughout the State of Ohio. Should you choose to retain our representation, you will see firsthand the dedication our legal team has to protect your rights in and out of the courtroom.

Call (513) 399-6289 to schedule your first consultation with Joslyn Law Firm today. Joslyn Law Firm accepts clients throughout Cincinnati, Ohio including nearby counties such as Franklin County, Madison County, Pickaway County, Fairfield County, Delaware County, Union County and Licking County, Ohio.


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  • Brian Joslyn was named Best Lawyer in 2019 by Birdeye.
  • Columbus CEO magazine has yearly selections for the best attorneys in Columbus Ohio. Brian Joslyn has been identified as one of the most highly skilled attorneys across central Ohio.
  • Brian Joslyn has earned recognition for community leadership by Lawyer LegionLawyer Legion
  • Preeminent Attorney Award. Peer rated for highest level of professional excellence.
  • The Better Business Bureau (BBB), founded in 1912, is a private, nonprofit organization whose self-described mission is to focus on advancing marketplace trust.

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