What Is The Difference Between Federal And State Criminal Charges?
Generally speaking, federal jurisdiction involves interstate commerce through the use of computers, phones, mail, text messages or travel between states. The federal jurisdiction also includes drug conspiracies and crimes that take place on federal or military property. If you are arrested on a military base, you’re probably going to face federal charges, unless you’re active duty military. In that case, you’re probably going to be charged by the military. The state has jurisdiction for the vast majority of crimes.
The state relies on its local police departments, sheriff departments, state task forces or the state police. Generally, anything you’re arrested for by these agencies, from a misdemeanor all the way to a second- or first-degree felony will be a state charge. The whole plea-bargaining process is completely different in the federal system than it is in the state system. In the state system, defendants and their attorneys engage in a plea bargain system with the district attorney’s office. The federal system relies on the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the authority of federal judges to sentence per those guidelines.
State cases generally result in reaching an agreement where the defendant will plead to a certain charge, a certain sentence, deferred probation, straight probation, a pre-trial diversion, or a minimum amount of time in county jail. That plea agreement is formalized in front of the judge. The judge has the authority to reject the agreement but, generally, judges honor those agreements. The federal system is completely different. If someone is charged, they’re going to be subject to the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. The U.S sentencing guideline has a table and has numbers and criminal history categories. You go into the sentencing guidelines and identify what the offenses are. Any enhancements would take points off.
In the federal system, you will plead in front of a U.S. federal magistrate. That federal magistrate will refer the case to a district judge and then the case gets assigned to a U.S. probation officer, who conducts a very extensive pre-sentence investigation report. In that report, they gather all the facts related to your family history, your education, employment, case facts, mental/medical history so on. They tabulate the sentencing guidelines, add any enhancements, and factor in other issues such as role acceptance or responsibility. They make a sentencing recommendation to the judge. The District Court Judge will then have a sentencing hearing, where you and your attorney will have an opportunity to speak to the judge and ask for a variance or departure from the guidelines. In addition, your attorney will have an opportunity to file any objections or any mitigation material before sentencing.
Who Is Generally Investigating My Federal Criminal Case?
On the federal side, you’re going to have federal law enforcement agencies investigating your case. Those agencies can include Homeland Security, the Drug Enforcement Administration, or the FBI. They can also include the U.S. Border Patrol or Customs and Border Protection.
Should I Cooperate With The Authorities If They Say I Am Being Investigated?
You should never speak to a federal law enforcement agent without first consulting with an attorney. These agents are very savvy. Their job is to conduct an investigation and present it to the U.S. attorney’s office with as much evidence as possible. Do not sign anything or make any statements without an attorney. If there’s danger that you are looking at an indictment, you should invoke your right to remain silent, invoke your right to be represented, and immediately consult with an attorney who can guide you through the process. If you do all these things well, there is a chance that you might keep yourself away from being indicted for serious charges.
For more information on Federal Vs. State Criminal Charges In Texas, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (915) 260-4552 today.
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