An Alexandria resident may find themselves facing criminal charges in a Virginia state court or in a federal court within this state. The United States District Attorney’s Office prosecutes federal criminal charges related to drugs, improper financial transactions and other types of crimes. These cases often get investigated by well-funded federal agencies.
The federal government has a reputation for hiring only the best prosecutors and law enforcement agents. They typically take on the more serious criminal cases within their jurisdiction and have the resources to prosecute them. One other practical difference between state and federal court is that federal courts have their own procedures, which many attorneys might not have a lot of familiarity. However, the courts will expect those accused of federal crimes to know and follow the court’s rules.
Sentencing in federal court can be surprisingly harsh
Violations of United States laws also get punished differently.
Federal courts will use the Federal Sentencing Guidelines to help them determine how they will punish someone who gets convicted of a federal crime. Often, these guidelines call for sentences that are much harsher than they would be in state court. Certain federal crimes also include mandatory minimum sentences. In other words, federal judges may have to give a person prison time even if that person would have been able to get probation or a much lighter sentence in a Virginia state court.
The bottom line is that someone who is facing a federal charge should understand that they are up against some uniquely challenging circumstances. Also, the stakes are high in any federal case. Whether it is a drug-related charge, a charge alleging white-collar crime or even an allegation of drunk driving on federal property, someone facing a criminal case in federal court should make sure to understand all of their options.