Boston Federal Criminal Defense


Federal Criminal Defense for Crimes in Massachusetts and Boston

Crimes prosecuted in federal court, particularly in Massachusetts and Boston, are the result of extensive investigations by federal law enforcement agencies and typically involve more substantial evidence compared to cases in state courts. Federal law enforcement agencies, including those in Massachusetts, generally do not pursue an arrest or indictment on federal charges unless they are confident in the strength of their case. This meticulous approach results in federal prosecutors in Massachusetts and Boston obtaining convictions in over 90% of the cases they bring to federal court, highlighting the critical need for an experienced Massachusetts federal criminal defense lawyer.

State Court vs. Federal Court

Despite a number of similarities in how the cases are handled, there are a number of differences between criminal cases prosecuted in state court (i.e., district court and/or superior court) and crimes prosecuted in federal court. Below are some of the more obvious and notable differences between federal court and state courts in Massachusetts.

Crimes / Laws

Most crimes involve violations of state laws and are under the jurisdiction of the state courts. However, crimes that are violations of federal law are prosecuted in federal court, including gun casesdrug cases, kidnapping, and bank robbery. Gun and drug cases prosecuted in federal court generally involve interstate activity.

Although not as high-profile anymore, organized crime is often the target of federal prosecutors through use of the RICO Act. While a number of financial crimes can be prosecuted in state court, tax evasion, money laundering, and fraud are prosecuted in federal court.


Although a number of crimes in state courts carry the potential for a life sentence (e.g., murder; armed robbery) and lengthy prison sentences, convictions for federal crimes almost always result in a committed time and generally result in more serious penalties than cases prosecuted in state court. A number of federal crimes carry mandatory minimum sentences and often result in large fines, as well.

Rules & Procedures

While a number of the rules and procedures in Massachusetts state and federal court are the same or similar, there are differences in both the rules and how cases are prosecuted procedurally.

In the United States District Court in Boston, MA, a criminal case generally proceeds in the following manner:

  • Arrest

The defendant is arrested by a federal law enforcement agency, taken into custody, and subsequently brought to federal court to appear before a Magistrate Judge.

  • Initial Appearance / Arraignment / Detention Hearing

At the Initial Appearance in Massachusetts, the defendant appears before a magistrate judge, who informs them of their rights and the reasons for their arrest. If the defendant does not have legal representation, a Massachusetts federal criminal defense attorney may be appointed. During this crucial stage, the judge also decides on bail eligibility. Especially in Boston, where arrests might occur without a warrant, the focus of the initial appearance often centers on assessing the probable cause for the arrest. At this point, it is not necessary for the defendant to enter a plea. Engaging a skilled Boston federal crime lawyer can provide crucial guidance and defense from the outset.

During a detention hearing, the Assistant United States Attorney prosecuting the case makes a request to have the defendant detained pending trial. Whether the defendant is a flight risk and/or a danger to the community are two major factors taken into consideration by the magistrate judge.

At Arraignment, the defendant is advised of their rights and the charges against them, and enters a plea of not guilty or guilty.

  • Pretrial Motions

During the pretrial stages, both sides are permitted to file motions with the court. Defense counsel may file discovery motions, motions to dismiss, and motions to suppress.

  • Plea Agreement or Trial

While every case is different, negotiations with the prosecution regarding a potential plea deal may be ongoing and often intensify once all motions have been litigated and ruled on. At some point, with the advice of counsel, the defendant must decide whether to enter a change of plea or take their case to trial.

Depending on the defendant’s bail / custody status, the prosecutor may make a request to have the defendant taken into custody pending the sentencing hearing.

  • Sentencing

At the sentencing hearing, the judge may hear from any victims in the case, if applicable, and may or may not hear from the defendant. Prior to the hearing, the judge will have reviewed sentencing memorandums previously submitted to the court. The judge issues the sentence / punishment to the defendant during this hearing.

  • Appeal

So long as a defendant did not waive his or her right to appeal, he/she can appeal their conviction and sentence.

In addition to procedural differences, the rules of evidence differ in state and federal court. As a result, evidence that may not be admissible at trial in state court could be admissible evidence at trial in federal court.

Federal Criminal Offenses / White Collar Crimes

Federal Criminal Offenses / White Collar Crimes

Riccio Law, LLC represents individuals on various crimes in in federal court in Massachusetts, including the following:

  • Drug Crimes
  • Sex Crimes
  • RICO charges
  • Embezzlement
  • Racketeering
  • Extortion
  • Bribery
  • Money Laundering
  • Tax Evasion
  • Insider Trading
  • Corruption
  • Arms Trafficking
  • Computer Crimes
  • Kidnapping
  • Mail Fraud
  • Official Misconduct

Contact a Boston Federal Criminal Defense Attorney

Lead attorney at Riccio Law, LLC, Anthony R. Riccio, Esq., is an experienced Massachusetts criminal defense attorney who has served as lead counsel in over fifty (50) trials over the course of his career. With a nearly 85% acquittal rate, Attorney Riccio has proven to be one of the most skilled trial attorneys in the Commonwealth.

If you are under investigation for federal charges, it is important to hire a Massachusetts federal criminal defense lawyer sooner rather than later. Attorney Riccio will immediately reach out to the government in an attempt to prevent charges from being brought. Whether under investigation or currently facing charges, contact Criminal Lawyer Riccio Law here or at (508) 226-4500 for a free case evaluation.