One of the reasons it is imperative to hire a federal criminal defense lawyer in Florida if you face federal charges is because the sentencing process differs from that of the state criminal justice system. Under the federal sentencing guidelines, judges are advised to dole out certain punishments. This means that if you are charged with a federal crime, you will face certain penalties based on the crime (quantity and type of drug if a drug crime) and your criminal history.
Federal crimes are strictly regulated compared to state crimes
Most criminal offenses are considered state crimes. For example, in Florida, offenses like robbery, assault, burglary, and theft are state crimes. On the state level, criminal regulations are passed by state governing bodies or can come from a state’s constitution. For federal offenses, laws are passed by the U.S. Congress or result from the Constitution.
When a criminal case goes to trial on the state level, it is prosecuted by a state or district attorney. Federal criminal defense cases, on the other hand, are prosecuted by a U.S. Attorney or Assistant U.S. Attorney.
Federal guidelines were established in 1984 because it was believed that judges’ sentences were too lenient and too inconsistent. While Congress intended for the Guidelines Manual to be mandatory, a large number of judges complained that they were too harsh and too restrictive. In the case of U.S. v. Booker (2005), the Supreme Court made two limits to the Guidelines Manual: it was to be advisory, and enhancements must be proved.
Plea bargaining and crime sentencing
While plea bargaining occurs often in federal cases, it is more common for state level offenses because prosecutors have more “wiggle” room. Due to the provisions in the United States Sentencing Guideline, federal prosecutors have less freedom when it comes to arranging plea bargains. Further, certain federal offenses carry mandatory sentences, making plea-bargaining non-applicable. Lastly, certain statutes for federal offenses specifically prohibit the use of plea-bargaining.
If you would like to file an appeal for your federal criminal case in Florida, you must wait until the final judgment of conviction before beginning the appeals process. An attorney can assist you in filing your notice of appeal within 14 days of the final judgement of conviction.
The federal appeals process can be complex and take significantly longer that state level appeals. If you are appealing because you believe you were unfairly sentenced, remember that when the Court of Appeals reviews a sentence following the guidelines, it presumes the sentence is reasonable (Rita v. United States, 127 S. Ct. 2456 (2007).
Federal criminal defense attorney advocates for your rights
The Law Office of Nayib Hassan, P.A., has extensive experience representing Florida residents accused of fraud, drug trafficking, identity theft, and other types of federal offenses. Call (305) 403-7323 or contact us online to speak with an experienced criminal law attorney today.