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Practice Areas

Federal Criminal Defense

Federal criminal defense attorney Jonathan Laurans has extensive experience in Federal court defending those charged with the unlawful possession of, use of, or intent to distribute controlled substances. Mr. Laurans has defended over two hundred cases brought by Federal agencies including the FBI and DEA.

If you are being contacted by a Federal agent regarding possible involvement with the possession, use, or distribution of any controlled substance, or are being accused of conspiracy to commit a drug crime, please contact Federal criminal defense attorney Jonathan Laurans at (833) 421-5200, immediately.

Federal Drug Charges May Include:

  • Possession or Use of a Controlled Substance

  • Sale or Distribution of a Controlled Substance

  • Cultivation of Marijuana

  • Conspiracy to Traffic or Distribute a Controlled Substance

  • The Sale or Manufacture of Methamphetamine or other Controlled Substance

  • Interstate or International Transportation of a Controlled Substance

  • Illegally Writing Prescriptions for Opiates or Other Controlled Substances

Federal drug cases are unique in that the accused is often contacted before Federal charges are formally filed against them. This can be a trap for the unwary, as Federal investigators are not obligated to inform a suspect of his or her legal rights unless the suspect is formally placed “under arrest.” To circumvent this status, investigators often conduct their interviews in the residences or places of employment of their targets. Instead of talking with law enforcement agents immediately, a suspect should virtually always politely decline to say anything at all, and should instead consult with a lawyer who can give the accused proper counseling and advocacy in their defense.

Appeals attorney Jonathan Laurans has been defending Federal criminal cases for over 29 years. In addition to defending drug charges, Mr. Laurans has litigated cases ranging from mortgage fraud to bank robbery, child pornography to illegal big game trophy hunting. Mr. Laurans has also tried and appealed murder, conspiracy and corruption (RICO) charges.

Criminal Appeals

Appellate attorneys handle the “appeals process” which is designed to permit a review of verdicts, criminal penalties and sentences, or civil monetary judgments (as well as other rulings). The appeals process is usually hyper-technical, but at its core, the reviewing Arizona appellate court will evaluate your appellate attorney’s “brief” which is akin to a book report about your case. However, the brief must be written with reference only to the trial and hearing transcripts that have been prepared to reflect verbatim what happened during your court appearances. Anything else is generally deemed “outside the record” and may not be considered by the appellate court.

The brief should also contain citations to, and arguments from, other published appellate court decisions, which constitute what is known as the “common law.” This means that your appellate attorney should be adept at thoroughly researching Arizona case law. And your appellate attorney must be able to construct arguments showing that Arizona case law, when applied to the specific facts of your case, leads to the outcome requested (i.e., a dismissal of charges, a new trial, or a reduced sentence). Thereafter, an appellate attorney ought to be prepared to defend the positions asserted at an “oral argument” hearing in front of the appellate court to which the appeal has been assigned.


Section “2254” Federal Post-Conviction Litigation

In Chapter 28 of the United States Code, section 2254, one finds the law (“statute”) which allows prisoners in State custody to seek a review of their convictions from a Federal court, which will adjudicate any claims alleging that a State court has trampled a prisoner's Federal constitutional rights in imposing a conviction and sentence. This federal law allows an inmate to combine all of his or her State court "direct appeal" and "post-conviction" (Rule 32) claims into a single review-action. That said, the "2254" procedure is extremely complex, and contains many pitfalls and traps for the unwary lawyer or pro se litigant.

Stated simply, a Federal court will not reach the merits of a prisoner's claims unless the "2254" action is commenced within the time limits established by Congress.

Likewise, a Federal court will not provide relief on any claims that are worded improperly, i.e., claims which do not raise a violation of a right recognized in Federal constitutional law. Stated differently, a Federal "2254" action is evaluated for the inmate's compliance with the strictures of the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, known simply as the "AEDPA." Failure to raise all claims within the standards established by the AEDPA and its companion case law results in a Federal court denying Habeas Corpus relief on the basis that the inmate's claims are "procedurally defaulted."

If This All Sounds Complicated, that Is Because It Is.

An inmate or family member or friend ought to consider proceeding into Federal court only after hiring an experienced Federal post-conviction "2254" lawyer. It is difficult to win a "2254" action; it is even harder to obtain permission to file a second "successive 2254" action.

Section “2255”federal Habeas Corpus

In Chapter 28 of the United States Code, Section 2255, one finds the law which is the modern version of the Writ of Habeas Corpus. This Federal law is available as an aid to people who have been convicted of violating Federal criminal laws, and who are in custody, but who feel they have been wrongly convicted, or excessively punished. Section 2255 provides the procedural vehicle for these people to challenge their convictions or sentences, beyond the limited challenges available through the “direct appeal” process.

In other words, if someone in Federal custody has lost their direct appeal after a trial, or is not able to file a direct appeal because of their guilty plea paperwork containing a clause called an “appeal waiver,” they still may be able to challenge their conviction or sentence via “Habeas Corpus.”

This Federal post-conviction procedure is invoked by filing a “2255 motion.” When a “2255 motion” is used effectively, it can be a powerful tool to right injustices that were not, or could not have been raised, in the direct appeal process. This is because Section 2255 gives courts broad discretion in fashioning appropriate relief – including dismissal of all charges, retrial, or resentencing – if a constitutional violation of an inmate’s Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel can be proven, or a violation of an inmate’s Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel or unusual punishment can be shown.

Difference from Direct Appeals

The most significant difference between a direct appeal and a “2255 motion” is that a direct appeal is decided based on the district court record as it exists as of the time the Notice of Appeal is filed. By contrast, “2255 motions” offer inmates the opportunity to present the Federal court with new evidence. The most common employment of a “2255 motion,” however, is to question whether an inmate’s trial attorney failed to raise legal and factual issues which thus deprived the inmate of his or her Sixth Amendment right to effective representation, either at trial, sentencing, or on direct appeal.


Arizona Rule 32 Proceedings

The Rule 32 post-conviction process in Arizona is complex, subtle, and procedurally driven. And as of January 1, 2020, the procedures for filing and litigating Rule 32 claims are being altered dramatically. For example, inmates who pleaded guilty will be required to follow a separate, limited conviction-review process than those who proceeded to a trial.

Unlike the “direct appeal” process which is focused on erroneous rulings by the trial judge, Rule 32, by contrast, is concerned generally with matters which occurred outside of the courtroom. Specifically, Rule 32 is the proceeding in which an inmate is permitted to lodge allegations against his or her trial attorney, known as claims of “ineffective assistance of counsel.” Most of these claims involve assertions that trial counsel neglected to investigate witnesses or evidence, or hire expert witnesses. An inmate may also assert that trial counsel neglected to challenge part(s) of the prosecution’s case by filing appropriate written motions asking the trial judge for a ruling prohibiting the prosecution from using or eliciting certain evidence or testimony. And, an inmate can also assert that trial counsel made errors during trial, either by failing to lodge a timely objection to evidence, by overlooking key cross-examination questions, or by committing other misfeasances.

Unlike the direct appeal process which already has a record of hearings and the trial (the “transcripts”), in Rule 32 proceedings, most often a new supplemental record must be made. The inmate and his or her post-conviction lawyer are permitted to bring forth affidavits, new evidence, new witnesses, and even seek an evidentiary hearing where testimony from trial counsel can be compelled.

(There are other limited circumstances where post-conviction relief can be sought using Rule 32, as well. But the most common claims deal with “ineffective assistance of counsel.”)

Most importantly, seek legal advice immediately after a trial - before sentencing even occurs - about the time deadlines for filing direct appeals, and Rule 32 claims. For example, the Rule 32 deadline after an appeal is only 30 days after the final written ruling of the appellate court, known as a “mandate.” These deadlines are often “jurisdictional,” meaning that your case ends if the deadlines are missed.

United States Supreme Court

You can appeal your State or Federal conviction or sentence to the United States Supreme Court. The procedure for petitioning the Supreme Court to take review of your case begins with the research, preparation and filing of a “Petition for Writ of Certiorari.” Please call attorney Jonathan Laurans to learn more about the particulars of this unique and time-consuming process.