Many individuals facing federal criminal charges find out about their situation in one of two different ways. They may receive a copy of an indictment via certified mail asking them to appear in federal court. Or, in situations where a suspect is perceived to be a flight risk, law enforcement may instead knock on their door, barge in, and make an arrest. One of the officers may present the indictment at that time, or a defendant may not see it until they request discovery in their case. If you’re facing federal criminal charges, it’s irrelevant how you learned of your charges. Federal prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office have a 99.96% conviction rate. If you want a solid defense against the charges, hire a federal criminal lawyer who specializes in these cases.
How Federal and State Court Systems Differ
There are a few primary differences between state and federal cases, including:
Variations in Laws That Federal Criminal Lawyers Understand
State and federal laws are different when it comes to what types of actions can result in criminal charges. For example, while possessing certain amounts of marijuana for medical or recreational reasons is lawful under California law, it’s wholly illegal under federal law.
Federal and state court systems operate differently, too. The U.S. Attorney’s Office must always impanel a grand jury before indicting a defendant on federal criminal charges. Most state laws, California included, don’t require prosecutors to do the same.
If you’re curious why that matters, a grand jury is a panel of one’s peers, much like a trial jury. Prosecutors lay out their case for the grand jury, including presenting evidence and witness testimony in a confidential setting. Defendants don’t know these grand jury proceedings are happening and so they can’t offer their own rebuttal. Situations in which federal prosecutors secure a grand jury’s support give them confidence that they will secure a conviction if they take their case to trial.
The mandatory grand jury concept thus aids federal prosecutors in determining which cases to pursue or drop and leads to their high conviction rate.
State and federal prosecutors are often open to striking a plea deal with defendants. While either type of prosecutor may agree to negotiations, including charge bargaining, or reducing the counts or charges a defendant is facing, striking a deal on the length of sentence is something the U.S. Attorney’s Office doesn’t do with a defendant and their federal criminal lawyer. A judge ultimately decides what a defendant’s sentence will be in the federal criminal court system.
Both California and the federal government have their own unique sentencing guidelines that judges are supposed to follow when imposing sentences, fines, restitution, and other penalties in cases. Judges generally have some degree of discretion when following the outlined minimum and maximum sentences listed.
It’s important to note that penalties tend to be more significant in federal cases. One explanation why this is the case has to do with the federal prosecutors tending to take on larger or more complex cases. For example, drug trafficking cases instead of drug possession.
Since these legal matters often have the potential to affect the population on a larger scale and result in more significant financial losses, the penalties imposed following convictions, such as imprisonment, tend to be longer or harsher in the federal court system than they are in the state one.
Federal Criminal Lawyers Representing Clients
Another difference between state and federal court systems is representation options. While defendants facing state charges can generally only be represented by state-specific licensed attorneys, a federal criminal lawyer can generally try cases brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in any state or U.S. territory.
Hire the Right Federal Criminal Lawyer
Karren Kenney is one of the best federal criminal lawyers with extensive experience representing defendants facing federal criminal charges nationwide. The worst choice you can make when you learn that the U.S. Attorney’s Office is pursuing criminal charges against you is doing nothing. You, instead, must start devising a defense strategy in your case right away. Contact Kenney Legal Defense today if you have been advised that you’re under federal investigation or have already been charged with a federal crime.