Federal Charges Sentencing Punishment
Federal Charges: Federal Sentencing and Punishment
While some federal charges can be similar to state charges, federal crimes are much more serious and fall under federal jurisdiction.
How do crimes fall within federal court’s jurisdiction?
A crime will fall within the federal court’s jurisdiction generally if a federal law enforcement agency (i.e., FBI, DEA, ICE, USPS, etc.) is investigating the crime and/or if the crime falls within the jurisdiction of federal charges (on or against federal property, related to interstate commerce, violating Federal Statutes or the Constitution, etc.).
Some of the more common federal charges include but are not limited to:
- 21 USC Sec. 841 – Drug Offenses/Trafficking
- 8 USC Sec. 1324 – Illegal Alien Smuggling or Border Crossing
- 18 USC Sec. 2113 – Bank Robbery
- 18 USC Sec. 2251 – Child Pornography
- 18 USC Sec. 1030 – Internet Fraud
- 18 USC Sec. 1341 – Mail Fraud
- 18 USC Sec. 1348/1349 – Securities Fraud
- 18 USC Sec. 21 – Counterfeiting and Forgery
- 18 USC Sec. 1956 – Money Laundering
- 18 USC Sec. 1961 – Organized Crime
- 26 USC Sec. 7201 – Tax violations
Federal Sentencing and Punishment
Penalties for federal charges typically carry much harsher sentences than state criminal charges. Why is that?
- Federal statutes have harsher sentencing laws than state statutes on crimes that can be filed in state or federal court.
- Generally, the maximum punishment for federal crimes is much higher than the punishment for state crimes.
- Federal prosecutors have much less discretion in negotiating plea bargains than state court prosecutors.
- Federal judges have much less discretion in sentencing decisions.
- Federal judges must follow strict sentencing guidelines under our federal laws.
- Federal crimes carry additional punishment enhancements for most every crime.
Your federal sentence may be increased
In a possession of child pornography case, where the punishment is severe to begin with, the ultimate sentence can be increased for many additional reasons that would seem to be a part of the underlying crime. For example, your punishment for your federal charges can be increased for any of the following reasons:
- Use of the computer
- The exact number of images
- The exact age of the children in the images
- If the images are sadistic or masochistic
- Video file vs. a photo image
- If the images involve sexual exploitation or abuse
- Relationship of the defendant to the minor
In federal court, your sentence will be negatively affected by many more factors that may not seem fair or just. Also, if you are convicted of the federal charges, you will serve your sentence in a federal prison, which often times is much farther away from your home and family than in state court cases.
Length of sentence for federal convictions vs. state convictions
Another major difference between federal punishment vs. state crimes punishment is the percentage of actual time you will have to serve if you are sentenced to a federal conviction. In federal court you will have to serve 85% of your sentence if convicted of federal charges. Thus, if you are sentenced to 10 years in prison, you will actually serve 8.5 years in prison. However, for most state felony convictions, you will only serve 50% of your actual sentence. Additionally, in some serious felony matters, you can serve up to 85% of your sentence, but in the vast majority of state felony matters, you will only serve half of the sentence imposed. The bottom line is federal sentencing is much harsher than state sentencing in almost every situation.
The Changing Face of Federal Sentencing
Unfortunately, the importance of sentencing has not resulted in clear and consistent laws proven effective at achieving the purposes of sentencing. Over the past 25 years following Congress’s enactment, and subsequent disregard, of the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, which has lead to a hodgepodge of statutory provisions that affect sentencing, including:
- mandatory-minimum penalties
- “mandatory” Sentencing Guidelines
- Case law
For most sentencing matters, the pre-sentence investigation and report prepared by the probation officer, and the sentencing hearing conducted by the judge, are the primary means for determining the nature and circumstances of the offense and the history and characteristics of the offender. However, prosecutors, and even law enforcement and probation officers, can have considerable influence over the sentencing options available to the judge by:
- control of the facts that are relevant to the statutory and guideline provisions
- their choice of what federal charges to bring and which facts to allege
- their control of motions for various types of sentence reductions
- penalizing non-cooperation and the exercise of a defendant’s rights
However, the U.S. Supreme Court has recently reinvigorated the role of judges and the opportunities for Federal Criminal Lawyers to advocate through a serious of constitutional decisions:
- U.S. v Booker (rendered the Sentencing Guidelines “effectively advisory”)
- U.S. v Gall (judges are obliged to consider all relevant factors in sentencing)
- Rita v U.S. (judges are free to disagree with a policy underlying a guideline)
This is a new and challenging period in federal sentencing, and to navigate through the federal court sentencing successfully, you must contact an experienced Federal Crime Defense Attorney to help.
Importance of Retaining a Federal Criminal Lawyer at the Outset of Your Case
When you are first contacted by anyone from federal law enforcement, it is critical you retain an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer who will take charge of your defense, for the decisions you make early on in your case will impact the outcome of your case.
At Wallin & Klarich, your federal criminal lawyer will meet with you, and both of you will make very important decisions during your initial meeting, such as:
- Whether or not you will cooperate with the Federal Government at an early stage in the proceeding, and
- Whether or not you will enter into early plea of negotiations with the United States Attorney in an attempt to minimize your possible sentence.
Then, your federal criminal lawyer at Wallin & Klarich will meet with the United States Attorney to discuss:
- What federal charges, if any, will be filed against you, and
- Whether a plea agreement can be reached before formal federal charges are filed, which will minimize your exposure to more serious federal criminal charges.
Contact a federal criminal Lawyer at Wallin & Klarich today
The experienced California federal criminal lawyers at Wallin & Klarich can help you if you are facing federal charges in Orange County, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, Victorville, West Covina or San Diego. With over 30 years of experience as federal criminal lawyers, Wallin & Klarich will assist you in this difficult time. We will get through this together.
For a Free Consultation with one of our federal criminal attorneys, call (877) 466-5245 or fill out our confidential case review form. We will be there when you call.