Columbia, South Carolina Federal Criminal Law Practice
Jack Swerling has extensive experience defending individuals and businesses against charges brought under federal law. Federal crimes are typically investigated by the FBI, DEA, IRS, or other federal agencies and prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney. Mr. Swerling's extensive federal court experience includes defending clients in cases involving:
Types of Cases We Defend
Mr. Swerling cautions that you should consult with an attorney immediately if you believe you or your business are the target of a federal criminal investigation. While he will always be thoroughly prepared to take a case to trial when the law and facts of the case call for it, his involvement at the early stages of an investigation means he can sometimes persuade prosecutors not to file charges or, if charges are brought, he may be able to negotiate a favorable outcome through a dismissal, a diversion program, or when the situation calls for it, a favorable plea and sentence.
It is Mr. Swerling's ultimate goal to minimize the anxiety and disruption caused by a federal criminal investigation by giving his clients straight answers and a realistic assessment of their case.
Before Charges Are Filed
If you have been notified that you are the subject of an investigation, or have been summoned before a grand jury, Mr. Swerling can investigate the potential charges against you and advise you on what to expect and how to conduct yourself during the investigation or before the grand jury.
Mr. Swerling can also help clients under criminal investigation negotiate proffer agreements with federal prosecutors. A proffer agreement is a written agreement between federal prosecutors and a witness or subject of an investigation that permits the person to provide information to the government with the understanding that the information provided cannot be used against the person in a criminal proceeding, except under certain specific circumstances. A proffer may help the government and the defense lawyer evaluate a person's involvement or lack of involvement in the subject matter of the investigation and if there is some involvement, the lawyers can evaluate a client's potential assistance to the government and how that assistance may benefit the client.
In the federal system, many people are advised that criminal charges have been initiated by the receipt of a letter advising them to appear before a United States Magistrate on a certain date for arraignment on the charges. If Mr. Swerling is involved in the case, he would have already arranged this appearance and attempted to come to an understanding with the United States Attorney on the issue of bond. Often, in these cases of self surrender, an unsecured bond is appropriate. On the other hand, if you are arrested by federal authorities without prior notice, you or your family should contact Mr. Swerling immediately so he can start arranging for a bond hearing to secure your release.
Initial Appearance / Arraignment
At an initial appearance before a United States Magistrate, you will be advised of the charges against you and the court will take up the issue of bond for your release from custody pending a disposition of the case. This is a critical stage of the proceedings against you and Mr. Swerling can guide you through these processes. Today, especially in serious drug cases, the government may move for your detention pending trial without bail. It is important that you have competent and experienced counsel with you at this time. At an arraignment before a United States Magistrate, you will be called upon to enter a plea to the indictment and it is routine to enter a not guilty plea at this time.
Federal criminal charges are not only serious, but they can often be complex. The government has enormous resources and it is not unusual for there to be thousands of pages of what is referred to as discovery. Discovery includes investigative reports, statements by witnesses, financial records and lab reports to name just a few. Mr. Swerling will file appropriate motions to insure that all pertinent documents in the possession of the government are released to the defense including favorable information in their possession. Mr. Swerling will review each document with you and map out a strategy going forward. This may include investigation, interviewing witnesses, securing additional records, retaining experts if necessary, and conducting legal research on what are often complex legal issues. Additional motions will be filed regarding the indictment, disclosure of specific information or suppression of statements, and illegally seized evidence.
After a thorough review of the law applicable to the case and an exhaustive review of all the facts that have been gathered, Mr. Swerling will discuss with you the various options that are available to you. One of the options available will be to enter into a plea bargain with the government. There are a variety of plea bargaining arrangements that can be pursued e.g. the government may agree to dismiss certain charges in return for a plea of guilty to certain others; the government may agree to certain stipulations regarding sentencing factors such as the weight of drugs, the amount of fraud, a person's role in the offense; and whether certain enhancements apply or certain mitigating factors should be considered. The government may agree to recommend a certain sentence, agree to the forfeiture of particular assets and the waiver of forfeiture as to other assets, or if the defendant co-operates in the prosecution of the case, the government may agree to recommend a departure from the advisory guideline sentence calculated under the United States sentencing guidelines. In federal court, plea agreements are memorialized in a written document filed in the court and they are enforceable by either party. Plea negotiations and drafting plea agreements is an art and Mr. Swerling has been involved in the negotiating and execution of scores of such documents.
If a decision is made to go to trial, Mr. Swerling will work tirelessly to ensure his clients get the best possible defense, by aggressively investigating, preparing, and defending their case, using all available resources. He draws on the top investigators, forensic experts, consultants, and professional researchers to help him prepare and present the facts of your case. Even after 40 years of defending people, he is committed to never being outworked in a case.
A major factor in determining a sentence in federal court is the advisory sentencing guidelines drafted by the United States Sentencing Commission. Many clients wrongly assume that the need for effective representation ends upon conviction or the entry of a plea agreement. Nothing could be further from reality. In his many years of practice Jack Swerling has protected his clients at the sentencing phase by thoroughly preparing them on sentencing procedures, making sure pre-sentence reports are complete and accurate, and arguing objections when they are not. His goal is to obtain the lowest sentence possible. A carefully prepared presentation at a sentencing hearing can humanize the client for the sentencing judge, help show remorse, and demonstrate why a lighter sentence would still ensure that justice is served.
If the client cooperated with authorities, Mr. Swerling will also pursue what are called downward departures from the advisory sentences set out in the sentencing guidelines. 5K1.1 and Rule 35 departures are available to defendants who provided substantial assistance to authorities.
To demonstrate how important effective advocacy is at sentencing, consider a sentencing proceeding Mr. Swerling had in May, 2008. A 63-year-old decorated veteran was facing a 36-month prison sentence under the advisory guidelines as the result of a plea to possession of pornography. After an extensive presentation, which included the testimony of a well know forensic psychologist, the court granted Mr. Swerling's request for a variance and sentenced the defendant to probation.
Jack Swerling has an extensive federal criminal appellate practice. He is prepared to pursue appeals of unfavorable results for clients he represented at trial and he is often retained to handle appeals in cases where he was not the original trial lawyer. He has argued appeals before the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals and has a thorough understanding of federal appellate procedure, as well as substantive and procedural criminal law.
Well known for his experience in federal criminal legal proceedings, Jack Swerling has earned a reputation for working tirelessly for his clients to obtain the best possible result.
Jack Swerling has written and lectured extensively on criminal law. He has also been selected as a Fellow in the prestigious American College of Trial Lawyers, the American Board of Criminal Lawyers, the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers, the International Academy of Trial Lawyers and Litigation Counsel of America. He has been listed for years in Best Lawyers in America and was named a South Carolina Super Lawyer in the South Carolina Super Lawyer magazine. (For additional details see: Teaching, Presentations and Lectures, Publications, In the News and Representative Cases.)
If you are facing federal criminal charges or learn you are the subject of a criminal investigation, you may call our law firm 24 hours per day at 800.701.0599. Our answering service will direct you to the Law Office of Jack Swerling. You may also e-mail Jack Swerling at [email protected] E-mails are checked regularly.