Traditional Criminal Defense Contractor Lawyers Are Not Usually Trained In Government Contracts and Procurement Laws

How to Find a Good Criminal Defense Attorney to Handle Your Government Contract Fraud CaseWithout a Criminal Defense Attorney that Knows Government Contracting Inside and Out, Finding a Good Government Contractor Fraud Defense Lawyer to Defend Your Rights in a Government Contract Fraud Case Can be Risky. Many Cases Without this Caliber of Defense Often Lead to Convictions and Jail Time. 

If you answer yes to any of the following, call us for immediate representation.

  • Are you a government contractor or employee facing indictment or jail time?
  • Have you retained a local criminal defense attorney that does not quite understand federal contracts and procurement rules?
  • Are you being investigated for alleged fraud against the federal government?
  • Is your criminal case involving False Claims Act or Buy American Act charges?

The criminal justice system is complex without the added complexity of being charged with a violation of federal procurement laws.  When you hire a criminal defense attorney in a government contracting case, he or she should also advise you about the underlying allegations by the Department of Justice. (DOJ) or SBA Inspector General. The attorney must be able to understand and explain where the prosecutor is taking the case and be able to explain the strong and weak points in your case.

What skills should you look for right away when finding a government contract fraud defense lawyer. Many companies make the mistake of seeking out large defense firms because they feel more comfortable with a large defense firm dealing directly with the Department of Justice or other law enforcement agencies. Although understandable, the real focus is whether the prospective defense lawyer understands the area of procurement law, what the prosecutor is looking to criminal charges or looks to get a criminal indictment. It is no secret that government contract fraud cases stem from allegations of fraudulent behavior such as Buy American Act violations, Trade Agreements Act violations, or simple allegations of fraud under the various small business programs. Without an in-depth knowledge of these complex areas, federal prosecutors are almost guaranteed to get a conviction if you don’t settle.

Is it better to retain a court-appointed criminal defense attorney versus a private attorney? When it comes to government contract fraud cases, not everyone can afford to find a criminal defense attorney in the private sector. In those situations, you can hire a court-appointed attorney. The tough part in a criminal case involving government contracting, many court-appointed defense attorneys may not be quite experienced in federal procurement law. If the underlying charges involve issues related to the Federal Acquisition Regulations. (FAR), SBA small business regulations, False Claims Act and Buy American Act, then you may want to seriously consider finding a federal defense attorney that also understands these unique areas of law.

Defense counsel also provides more personal services by giving the defendant a reality check as to the possible outcomes and by helping the defendant to deal with the frustrations and fears resulting from being thrown into the criminal justice system. And, of course, if no plea deal can be made, the defense lawyer represents the defendant at trial.

What is the Role of a Criminal Defense Attorney in Government Contracts Cases? Just like any defense attorney, a case involving federal procurement law requires your lawyer to investigate the facts leading to the charges brought against you by the prosecutor. The role of the criminal defense attorney in a government contracting fraud case is to dismantle the prosecution’s case. You can only accomplish this goal if you know the ins and outs of what the prosecution is claiming that you did wrong.

Our lawyers work with criminal defense attorneys that are not well-versed in government contracting. This is an important aspect of defending a criminal case because the fraud counts, whether False Claims Act or major fraud against the government, stem from a unique set of rules and regulations that many local criminal defense attorneys are unfamiliar with. We find that clients bringing such a team to the table can have attorneys that can master the government contracting aspect while the local criminal attorney understands the local and court rules for that particular jurisdiction. See information about false statements under 18 USC 1001.

The defense attorney must dig into the facts and allegations to then analyze your case against the respective procurement regulations.  For example, an allegation in a criminal case that claims you were defrauding the government and violated SBA regulations can be problematic if the defense contractor lawyer has no idea about the specific SBA program involved (HUBZone, SDVOSB or SBA 8(a) BD).

Once the case analysis is done, the lawyer can then get a better idea of how strong the government’s case is. He or she can then present a potential solution to you. This can be to proceed to trial, attempt to negotiate a plea if the prosecution has a strong case)

What is the Cost of Legal Representation in a Federal Criminal Case? Contractors serving as Defendants in a federal case can expect a long and costly process. Criminal of civil cases involving federal contractor fraud usually starts with a government investigation where the US attorneys issue subpoenas for records and testimony. The Investigation process can take several months or even years. In a criminal case, the cost of legal representation can be a huge issue for small businesses and individuals. In many cases, a private attorney can run between 300 to 450 dollars an hour at a small firm versus 65o to 850 per hour at large firms. A court-appointed lawyer fees are all based upon the income and ability to pay.

The next phase can include proceeding to the indictment phase. Here, the grand jury decides whether the prosecution has provided sufficient evidence to bring formal criminal charges against the contractor. Again, this is yet another phase where the cost of legal representation in a criminal case and be expensive and problematic.

Should You Hire a Private Attorney to Defend You? Is there an Advantage? If you are a government contractor involved in a criminal case, your defense can depend on who is in the best position to aggressively fight back in your case. Not all private attorneys are in the best position to defend your case. Having a court appointed attorney can benefit if the lawyer has previous experience with federal government contracting-type cases. There is no rule that a private attorney is better than hiring a court-appointed lawyer. However, keep in mind that in a criminal case involving contractor charges, the federal prosecutors may be at a greater advantage given the unique requirements of t underlying crime.

A explained above, criminal cases involving federal government contract defendants sometimes believe that private attorneys possess a distinct advantage over the overworked public defender’s office or panel attorneys who are paid a minimum fee. But do private attorneys provide better representation than court-appointed government-paid defense counsel?

Major Fraud Against the Government? What Does a Criminal Defense Attorney Do? Major fraud against the government is usually a dangerous part of a criminal case involving contractor fraud is when the prosecutor brings a case alleging major fraud against the government. These cases are very dangerous because a conviction can be for 10 years. The issue here is what was the amount of the awarded contract. If over a million dollars a charge of major fraud can be brought.

Government contractor lawyers must be able to focus on dismantling the government’s case regarding the underlying crime. In other words, if the major fraud allegation comes as a result of allegations of committing fraud under the SBA 8(a) rules, then the defense lawyer should focus on showing that the 8(a) or SBA rules were not violated. An attorney with this unique experience can improve your chances of prevailing with a strong criminal defense.

Should You Enter Into a Plea in a Criminal Case? There is no clear yes or no answer to that question. Entering into a plea agreement in a criminal case that involves government contract fraud can be dangerous. Prosecutors use this tool to offer immunity to defendants that help their cases against a more likely defendant. If you are the only defendant,  an experience contractor criminal defense attorney would wait until the other side provides discovery. This allows the defense lawyer to see what evidence the prosecution has. Only then, is it possible to assess the case for strengths and or weaknesses.

Tips for Government Contractor Defendants in a Federal Criminal Case?

If you are a government contractor being charged with a crime that includes government fraud, violation of SBA small business regulations, HUBZone or SDVOSB compliance, or being investigated, avoid doing the following:

  • Discussing the case with a federal investigator without legal counsel present
  • Discussing the case with employees, family or friends
  • Enter a plea without consulting with your defense lawyer.

Finding the Right Criminal Defense Lawyer for Your Case: If you are involved in government contractor fraud, or charged with violating federal procurement rules, you want to find an attorney experienced in government contract law. Many contractors can get better value by having legal counsel that has government contracting experience plus a criminal defense lawyer that understands the local rule etc. There is no quick and easy way to find the right attorney.

If you need legal help and defense in an upcoming criminal or civil case involving government contracts, call the government contractor lawyers of Watson & Associates, LLC for  a free confidential consultation. Call toll-free at 1.866.601.5518.