Five Ways Facing Criminal Charges in Federal Court Is Different Than Facing Charges in State Court
The Cops Will Definitely Show UpIf you're charged in state court, depending on where the case is, the chances that the cops won't show may be as high as fifty percent. In federal court, the government has put so many resources into the case by the time it gets charged that the cops will definitely show.
Just to have a case go federal, local police often have to lobby a U.S. Attorney's Office. When they've put in that much work just to get the case prosecuted, the police will make sure they come to court.
The Prosecutors Have Fewer CasesState prosecutors sometimes carry very heavy dockets. While federal prosecutors can have many cases going on at once too, they put a lot of their time into cases before they get charged. Once a decision has been made to charge a case, federal prosecutors make sure they have the resources to do the work they think the case needs. Federal prosecutors very rarely make a deal just to get a case off their desk.
The Judges Expect to See More Written WorkFederal judges are different that state judges, particularly in state courts that see a high volume of cases. Federal District Court Judges are all appointed by the President of the United States, and confirmed by the United States Senate. They serve for life.
Federal judges have more time for each case. They write more opinions than state trial judges and they have higher expectations for the writing that is submitted to them. They expect to see issues fully researched, briefed, and argued, at a level of detail and sophistication that a routine state court criminal matter does not normally require.
The Law Changes More OftenThe biggest source of federal law is Congress (though, of course, the courts make plenty of law themselves). For better or worse, Congress is always passing new laws. While a state legislature may be in session a few months a year, Congress is in session continuously, changing the law.
In addition, there are twelve federal Courts of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court, that are constantly creating new criminal law.
In order to most effectively represent someone charged with a crime in federal court, a lawyer needs to spend a significant amount of time making sure he or she is up-to-date on the latest developments in federal criminal law.
Sentencing Law Is DifferentFederal sentencing law is incredibly complicated. To effectively represent someone in federal court, a lawyer has to understand a number of federal statutes that control sentencing, the federal sentencing guidelines, and court opinions about sentencing.
This is not to suggest that you should assume that you're going to go to sentencing. It may be that your case can be dismissed or you can be acquitted at trial. But if it isn't, your lawyer should have an eye toward what would happen if his client is convicted. Only a lawyer who knows federal sentencing law can do that.