A federal crime is charged in the federal court and involves the violation of a federal criminal law. These crimes can be committed over two state lines or internationally where the United States has jurisdiction. Being charged with a federal crime is very serious and carry severe penalties no matter what state the perpetrator is located in or committed the offense. These are the types of cases that make it absolutely essential to have a skilled federal defense attorney.
What Makes a Federal Case Different from Other Criminal Cases?
There are a number of differences that make federal cases stand out from other criminal cases. The charges tend to be more complex and the rules stricter. The penalties for these crimes are also considerably harsh in comparison to state charges. In state courts, probation applies for many non-violent crimes, but this is not the case for federal crimes. Additionally, in a state case, the attorney files a demand for discovery to receive information about witness reports and pertinent evidence, but that doesn’t occur in federal cases. Because federal cases are so much more complex and evidence may not be available to them, it is also more difficult for a federal criminal defense attorney to prepare a defense in a case.
Sentencing in federal cases is also different. Generally, each crime receives an offense level ranging from one to 43, and the higher the level, the more serious the crime. However, the defendant’s base offense level can vary, not only depending on the crime but their criminal history and how cooperative they are with authorities.
Types of Federal Offenses
In short, anything that violates federal criminal law is considered to be a federal offense. The most common types of federal offenses include the following:
• Arms trafficking
• Alien smuggling
• Bank fraud
• Bankruptcy fraud through concealing property
• Child pornography
• Computer crimes (hacking)
• Credit card fraud
• Drug trafficking
• Illegal reentry
• Identity theft
• Mail fraud
• Possession with intent to distribute drugs
• Wire fraud
Process of Federal Criminal Charges
There is a specific process that occurs when a person has been charged with a federal crime. A skilled federal criminal defense attorney is needed to counter the complaint by the prosecution. The individual is arrested after a warrant has been issued. Often, a search is done depending on the exact crime, such as of the person’s computer in the case of computer crimes or child pornography.
After the defendant is apprehended, they appear before a judge, who determines if there is enough evidence for an indictment. The judge informs the person of their rights and sets a bond. At that point, the defendant will want to hire an attorney.
A hearing is held if the individual is released on bond. Generally, they are released only after 72 hours after their arrest. Around 10 days after the arrest, a hearing will take place in federal court in which the prosecutor presents evidence of the crime. The prosecutor can file an indictment instead of a complaint, but a grand jury determines whether an indictment is handed down.
If a plea agreement isn’t reached, the case goes to trial. If the person is found, they are then given a sentence.
Penalties for Federal Crimes
Individuals who are convicted of federal crimes are usually sentenced to prison. The amount of time they receive in their sentence, however, can vary. One factor that can determine a prison sentence that the federal judge decides is the statutorily mandated punishment range. Also, again, the defendant’s criminal history also comes into play when a prison sentence is decided.
In addition, whether a person is convicted of a misdemeanor or felony also determines how much time they are sentenced to prison. A misdemeanor is a lesser offense, while a felony is more serious. If someone is convicted of a class A misdemeanor, they can spend a maximum of 364 days in jail. However, if they are convicted of a class A felony, the individual can spend anywhere from four to 15 years in prison.
If you have been arrested on federal criminal charges, you need a federal criminal defense attorney on your side. These are very serious charges that require the best possible defense.
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