Penalties for Federal Violent Crime Charges in New York
Federal violent crimes are among the most serious criminal offenses prosecuted in New York. They carry severe penalties, including lengthy prison sentences and steep fines. This article provides an overview of federal violent crimes, typical penalties, and defenses that experienced criminal defense attorneys may use to help their clients.
What Are Considered Federal Violent Crimes?
The definition of “violent felony” under federal law comes from the Armed Career Criminal Act of 1984, codified at 18 U.S.C. Section 924(e). Violent felonies include any crime punishable by over one year in prison that:
- Involves the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against another person
- Is burglary, arson, extortion, or involves the use of explosives
- Otherwise involves conduct presenting a serious potential risk of physical injury to another
Federal violent crimes prosecuted in New York include:
- Sex crimes
- Possession of illegal firearms, ammunition, explosives
Penalties for Federal Violent Crimes
Convictions for federal violent crimes carry severe penalties under federal sentencing guidelines. Maximum sentences depend on the specific offense and the defendant’s criminal history.
For example, first-time offenders face:
- Up to 10 years for assault
- 10+ years to life for robbery
- 20 years to life for murder
Penalties increase dramatically for repeat offenders. Those with three prior convictions for “violent felonies” or “serious drug offenses” face a mandatory minimum 15 years under the Armed Career Criminal Act, and up to life imprisonment.
Other factors enhancing federal sentences include:
- Use of a firearm during the crime
- Prior convictions in state or federal court
- Victim’s age, injury, or death
- Leadership role in group crime
Federal violent crimes almost always result in lengthy prison sentences. Life sentences are possible for egregious crimes or defendants with extensive criminal histories.
Fines and Restitution
In addition to imprisonment, those convicted of federal violent crimes in New York face fines up to $250,000 and restitution to compensate victims.
Fines over $250,000 are possible for extortion, robbery, and kidnapping resulting in death. Fines can reach into the millions of dollars for financial crimes and drug trafficking.
Restitution repays victims for losses like medical expenses, lost income, and funeral costs. Judges may order restitution for the full amount of each victim’s losses.
Defenses Against Federal Violent Crime Charges
Skilled federal criminal defense attorneys have succeeded in getting charges dismissed or reduced and avoiding mandatory minimum sentences. Some effective defenses include:
- Lack of criminal intent – Prosecutors must prove the defendant intended to commit the crime. For example, self-defense negates intent for assault charges.
- Mistaken identity – Eyewitnesses can be wrong. DNA or other evidence may exonerate the defendant.
- Unlawful police conduct – Illegally obtained evidence may be inadmissible, resulting in dismissed charges.
- Mental competency – Defendants unable to understand criminal proceedings cannot stand trial.
- Plea bargains – Defendants plead guilty to lesser charges in exchange for lighter sentences.
- Sentencing mitigation – Defense attorneys present mitigating circumstances to persuade judges to impose less severe sentences.