If you are charged with a violent crime, most likely you will be tried in a state court under the penalties of New York. Be aware, however, that this isn’t always what happens – you could end up in federal court facing federal charges and penalties.
While most cases that go to federal court are white collar crimes or big organized operations, technically any crime can become a federal matter. All the federal government has to do is decide that they want the case.
A few miles or an individual involved in the crime may make the case a federal matter. Federal and state cases are different, so understand each type of case in case you are charged. That doesn’t usually happen, though. The federal justice system usually has bigger fish to fry, and most violent crimes just don’t make it onto their radar.
There are, however, things that make it more likely for the feds to take an interest in your case.
When Is a Violent Crimes Case Heard In Federal Court?
If the crime in question crossed state lines, there’s a greater chance the federal courts will get involved. If certain types or classes of people were involved, the chance increases as well. Also, if federal laws, organizations, or federal land is involved in a crime, it will be handled in federal court.
More specific examples of federal crimes include:
- The crime crosses state lines: An example might be a defendant who kidnaps someone in Texas, but holds the victim in Oklahoma or another state before they are arrested. Organized crime or terrorism that expands over many states will also be tried in federal courts.
- The crime involves a federal organization or federal land: If, for example, a robbery is committed in a U.S. Postal Service building, the accused has committed a crime against a federal organization. Federal organizations may also include the TSA or DEA. When the armed “activists” in Oregon took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in early 2016, they faced a federal jury.
Differences between Federal and State Courts
If your case is taken to a federal court, there are a few things that you should know. Federal courts and state courts have separate rulebooks, and while the overall procedure is very similar, the following differences could greatly impact the outcome as well as the length of time you spend dealing with the charge:
- Fewer federal cases are heard each year. If you’re the defendant, this can be both a good and a bad thing. Since fewer cases are heard in federal court, the process will most likely take less time than a state case. However, this could also mean that both sides have no rush to look at the finer details of the incident in question and may be able to uncover more evidence to use in the case. This extra scrutiny could make or break your fate.
- Federal organizations can provide evidence against you. Simply put, there is more evidence involved in federal cases. State cases only contain evidence from state or local law enforcement, a few eyewitnesses, and so on. When you’re facing a federal charge, though, federal organizations can also submit evidence. What sounds more intimidating: going up against state troopers, or going up against the FBI and the CIA?
- You’ll need a federal defense lawyer. When you’re choosing a lawyer, it’s crucial to ask for their experience in federal cases. Since the legal process is different, the lawyer must be experienced in handling federal matters specifically.
- Federal convictions come with federal sentencing. No matter what you are charged with, it is important to understand the penalties you are facing. If you are convicted of a federal crime, you will most likely be subject to mandatory minimum prison sentences. Moreover, whether you’re sentenced to a few years behind bars or a few decades, don’t count on parole – it doesn’t exist in the federal system.
If you are charged with a federal crime, don’t delay. Call a Brooklyn criminal defense lawyer with success handling federal charges and start building your defense.