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West Palm Beach Criminal Lawyer / Blog / Federal Crimes / Federal Court vs. State Court

Federal Court vs. State Court


In the United States, there is a federal court system, and a state court system, as designed in the early years of the country’s existence. Those who may never have been in trouble with the law are often unaware of this, but if they are charged with a crime, this can cause real trouble, especially if they attempt to defend themselves against the charges alone. In particular, if you have been arrested and charged with federal crimes, you need an attorney who is well versed in the particulars of both court systems to help you get through it.

Proactive vs. Reactive

One of the most noticeable differences is that a federal investigation is usually proactive, meaning that evidence is gathered long before an arrest has been made. By comparison, a Florida criminal investigation will more often be a reactive one, with the evidence gathering and building of a case happening only after an arrest. This matters because if you have been charged with federal crimes, it is a good idea to be aware that a case against you already exists, so trying to contest the facts may not be a good option.

Federal courts only have jurisdiction in cases where federal law has allegedly been violated, but in some situations, both state and federal law have been violated, and federal prosecutors have first choice of whether or not to take up the case. For example, if you are arrested and charged with kidnapping another person and taking them across state lines, you might be charged under Florida law, or because you took your victim across state lines, you could be charged under federal law as well.

Federal vs. Florida Sentencing Guidelines

Another major difference between the two systems lies in sentencing guidelines. Federal judges use the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual, which establishes a minimum framework for sentencing, but also requires judges to take several factors into account when determining the appropriate length, such as the need to avoid sentencing disparities, the defendant’s specific role in the offense (for example, the driver of a getaway car versus the main shooter in an armed robbery), and any specific offense factors like the weight of the drugs a defendant was caught with.

Florida sentencing guidelines, by comparison, are almost entirely punitive. Comparatively speaking, very little thought is given to rehabilitation of prisoners; rather, punishment is the stated objective of criminal sentencing as uttered by the Legislature. In a state court sentencing hearing, a judge will assign a certain amount of points to an offense, and add more for any past criminal history or for other aggravating factors. No points are taken away for any mitigating factors; they simply are not added. If you are convicted in Florida state court, you can expect very little discretion to be exercised.

Contact A West Palm Beach Federal Charges Attorney

If you have been charged with federal crimes, it is crucial that you obtain experienced representation as soon as possible so as to ensure your rights are protected. The West Palm Beach federal crimes attorneys at the firm of Perlet, Shiner, Melchiorre & Walsh, P.A. are experienced in these cases, so we can work hard on yours. Call us today to speak to an attorney.

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