West Chester

Federal Defense Attorney

Are you being investigated by federal authorities, or was a federal grand jury convened to indict you? There are several differences between state and federal court. The locations, procedures, and possible penalties all vary. Even the Bar admission for federal district and circuit courts are different than for state courts. This makes it crucial to contact an experienced federal attorney as soon as you are aware you may face federal charges.

Federal allegations must be taken seriously, and you should protect yourself and your rights immediately. As an experienced and highly-skilled West Chester defense attorney, Michael J. Skinner is licensed to practice in both Pennsylvania and federal courts, enabling him to defend you when you face allegations of violating federal law. Attorney Michael J. Skinner is a former Chester County District Attorney and understands how prosecutors strategize to win in court. With this inside knowledge, he will review the case for weaknesses and develop the most effective strategy to have federal charges reduced, dismissed, or defeated at trial.

By working with Skinner Law Firm, you have a knowledgeable and aggressive federal defense lawyer to fight the charges and spare you from harsh consequences. To discuss your situation, contact us online or call (610) 436-1410 for a free and confidential consultation.

Federal Crime v. State Crime

When you are arrested in Pennsylvania, typically, you are facing state-level charges for allegedly violating a state law. A state prosecutor will handle your case and pursue a conviction. Your case will move through your local court system, and if a judge or jury convicts you, your sentence is based on Pennsylvania penal law.

However, a lot of illegal activity also violates federal law. In certain circumstances, you may be investigated and arrested by federal authorities, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) or the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). In other cases, a state prosecutor will hand your case over to a federal prosecutor when they agree you should be charged under federal law. Your case will go through the federal court system, and if a judge or jury convicts you, federal law dictates your punishment.

When You’ll Face Federal Charges

There are several circumstances under which you can be charged with a federal crime, including:

  • The alleged offense violated a federal law;
  • The alleged offense was investigated by a federal law enforcement agency;
  • The alleged offense was discovered through a federal informant;
  • The offense allegedly took place on federal property, such as a government building or military base;
  • The offense allegedly crossed state lines or national borders, electronically or physically; or
  • The offense allegedly involved a federal employee or contractor.

Federal Crimes in Chester County

Skinner Law Firm is prepared to defend you against a wide range of federal offenses, including:


Allegations of participating in organized crime typically lead to charges under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). You also can be charged under the Hobbs Act, the Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering Activity, or the Continuing Criminal Enterprise Law for allegedly being part of organized crime.


Obtaining money, property, or services by providing false information or some form of misrepresentation or deceit is unlawful. Fraud can be charged under Pennsylvania law, but if your offense crossed state lines or impacted a federal agency, prosecutors are likely to pursue federal charges. You could face charges for mail or wire fraud, credit card or check fraud, bankruptcy, bank, or accounting fraud, health care or insurance fraud, tax fraud, or immigration fraud.


A serious fraud-related offense is embezzlement. If you are accused of unlawfully appropriating federal funds or property based on a position of trust, prosecutors will pursue federal embezzlement charges against you.


Theft offenses involving federal funds or property are typically charged under federal law. Also, largescale theft schemes crossing state lines will result in federal charges.

Drug Offense

Drug crimes tend to lead to federal charges when large quantities, manufacturing, or importation are involved. If you are accused of a major drug offense and facing federal charges, call a federal criminal attorney immediately.

Child Pornography

Child pornography is often distributed online, which easily crosses state borders. It also is often investigated by federal authorities. For these reasons and others, you may face federal charges for the creation, possession, or distribution of child pornography.

Computer and Internet Crimes

You may face federal charges if you are accused of committing fraud online, hacking, identity theft, using malware or ransomware, or cyberterrorism. Federal law encompasses a wide range of computer and internet offenses, which are harshly punished.

Tax Evasion

Federal law outlines many tax-related offenses. If you are accused of intentionally trying to avoid paying taxes or unlawfully reducing your tax liability, you can face tax evasion charges.

our awards & memberships

  • A professional non-profit dedicated to the improvement of the criminal defense bar, and to providing valuable information to the public about drunk driving laws. Members of the NCDD are considered the most experienced DUI defense attorneys in the United States and Canada.

  • The preeminent organization in the United States. NACDL serves as a leader in identifying and reforming flaws in the criminal justice system, and addressing systemic racism, and ensuring that the criminal defense bar is fully equipped to serve all accused persons at the highest level.

  • PACDL is the premier network of the best defense attorneys in PA with a mission to educate, advocate, and inspire by providing support for criminal defense lawyers, promoting effective competence, leveling the playing field, and protecting freedoms.

  • The Pennsylvania Bar Association promotes and protects the legal profession, the rights of Pennsylvania citizens and access to justice for all. Membership is open to any lawyer in good standing who is licensed by the Bar of Pennsylvania.

  • The American Bar Association is one of the world’s largest voluntary professional organizations, with over 400,000 members and more than 3,500 entities. Their mission is to serve its members, the legal profession, and the public by defending liberty and delivering justice as the national representative of the legal profession.

  • The CCBA promotes professionalism, inclusion, and collegiality within the Chester County legal profession, and enhances the quality of life of its members and the practice of law within the community.

  • The NORML Legal Committee (NLC) is composed of attorneys committed to the overall goals of NORML. NLC attorneys meet each year to discuss emerging legal issues related to defense of marijuana consumers and to support each other in the pursuit of justice.

  • The American Institute’s Criminal Law Division is an impartial third-party rating service recognizing the excellence of fellow practitioners. To help clients across the United States make educated decisions, we compile an exclusive list of the “10 Best” Attorneys for each State. Our “10 Best” is a prestigious honor extended only to those who have reached the top of their profession while doing so with the client’s satisfaction being of paramount importance.

  • The American Institute’s DUI/DWI Division recognizes the excellence of practitioners in the field of DUI/DWI defense. We compile an exclusive list of the “10 Best” Attorneys for each State for potential clients to utilize. We look for Attorneys that have achieved unparalleled success but most importantly have done so for the benefit of their client. Very few Attorneys can do so and our organization recognizes this significant achievement.

  • Attorney Michael Skinner has been consistently recognized as among the best lawyers in Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties. Attorneys are nominated via peer balloting, then vetted through our editorial process in various fields of practice.

  • The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 is an invitation-only organization composed of the premier trial lawyers from each state. Membership is extended only to the most qualified attorneys who demonstrate superior qualifications of leadership, reputation, influence, stature and public profile. Each of our distinguished members possesses the knowledge, skill, experience, and success held by only the best and finest lawyers in America.

  • The Super Lawyers list recognizes no more than 5 percent of attorneys in each state. The Rising Stars further distinguishes no more than 2.5 percent of attorneys, and to be eligible, a Rising Stars candidate must be either 40 years old or younger, or in practice for 10 years or less who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement.

Federal Courts in Pennsylvania

Attorney Michael J. Skinner is admitted to the bar for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The Eastern District’s jurisdiction encompasses Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton, and Philadelphia counties.

Cases decided in the Eastern District are appealed to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Both the Eastern District and Third Circuit Courts are based in the James Byrne Courthouse in Philadelphia.

The Federal Court Process

When you are dealing with a federal law enforcement agency, it is important to understand how cases progress. The federal court process works differently than Pennsylvania’s state court process.

Pre-Arrest Investigation

A federal agency, such as the FBI, DEA, or DOJ may investigate allegations of a federal crime. You may learn of the allegations against you during the investigation. You may be contacted for an interview, or agents may show up at your home or work with a search warrant. Call a federal attorney right away.

Grand Jury

When a federal prosecutor wants to pursue charges against you, they will convene a grand jury. This is a secret proceeding during which the prosecutor shows the jurors evidence against you. You do not get to be present or defend yourself. If at least 12 jurors believe there is probable cause you committed the crime, you will be indicted.


Following an indictment, you will be arrested. An agent may show up at home or work to arrest you, or your federal lawyer may negotiate for you to surrender yourself.


Your first court appearance is an arraignment before a magistrate. You will be informed of the charges against you and whether you will be released from jail and, if so, on what conditions. The magistrate will set the bail amount. You also must enter your initial plea.


The prosecution and your defense attorney will go through the discovery process. The prosecution is required to hand over all exculpatory evidence. Your federal defense lawyer also will take steps to gather any other evidence available through discovery and an independent investigation into the allegations.

Plea Bargain

Following discovery, you may choose to enter into plea bargain negotiations with the prosecutor.

Pretrial Motions

If your case is not resolved through a plea, then your attorney will pursue an aggressive pretrial motion practice. These are opportunities to have the judge make decisions about your case before trial, such as decisions regarding evidence that is admissible or inadmissible. We also may file a motion to dismiss to request a pre-trial dismissal of the case.


If you do not accept a plea and the judge does not dismiss the case, then we will prepare for trial. We will identify the strongest possible defense and prepare for jury selection. At trial, we will present evidence in your favor and argue against the prosecutor’s claims. A jury will decide whether to convict or acquit.

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Statutes of Limitations for Federal Crimes

A statute of limitations determines how long federal prosecutors have to file charges or obtain an indictment against you. Most federal crimes have a statute of limitations of five years. However, some crimes have longer or shorter statutes of limitations.

Certain tax offenses, like failure to file a return or tax evasion, have a six-year deadline. Major fraud against the federal government and involving more than $1 million has a seven-year deadline. Embezzlement has a 10-year statute of limitations, while theft of major artwork has a 20-year statute of limitations.

Federal law allows the deadline to be extended for certain circumstances, such as new DNA evidence or the apprehension of a fugitive.

Also, sex crimes involving minors, terrorism resulting in serious bodily injury or death, and crimes punishable by death have no statute of limitations.

The time a prosecutor has to pursue charges against you depends on the alleged offense. Talk with a federal lawyer about how long you may have to deal with an investigation.

Federal Criminal Sentencing in Chester County, PA

If convicted of a federal offense, you face time in a federal penitentiary, probation, fines, restitution, and other penalties. The federal government has sentencing guidelines that differ from Pennsylvania’s sentencing laws. Typically, federal penalties are harsher than state sentences. However, the specific sentence you face depends on the crime and your criminal history.

Federal judges utilize federal sentencing guidelines and a sentencing table. Federal law divides crimes into 43 offense levels, and a judge will identify the offense level for the crime you were convicted of. A judge will assign you to one of six criminal history categories based on your record and the circumstances surrounding your current offense.

These two factors, the offense level and criminal history category, are used to determine the presumptive sentencing range on the sentencing table. Judges can sentence you within this recommended range or give you a lesser or greater penalty based on mitigating or aggravating factors present in your case.

A federal sentence ranges significantly depending on the offense level and your record. You may be granted probation only or sentenced to decades in federal prison. You may be fined hundreds of dollars or hundreds of thousands. Depending on the crime, you may be required to pay restitution to the victims of the federal government.

Speak with a West Chester Federal Attorney

You cannot handle allegations of a federal crime the same way you would handle a state-level offense. You need to retain a criminal defense attorney who is admitted to the federal court bar and who has extensive experience defending individuals in federal court. At Skinner Law Firm, we have an impressive track record of handling federal cases and providing aggressive legal representation for clients in and around Chester County, PA. Let us investigates the charges, evaluate the evidence, and use our skill and resources to fight the federal charges against you.

To schedule your free and confidential consultation, call Skinner Law Firm at (610) 436-1410 or contact us online.