As is the case around the country, people in South Florida can get in trouble with local authorities and prosecutors. These officials investigate and prosecute violations of Florida law.
Federal officials also investigate violations of the laws of the United States. Typical federal prosecutions involve drug charges, certain sex offenses and various white collar and other financial crimes.
A federal criminal case is very different from those filed in the state courts around Broward County.
Because they are filed in federal court, the rules and procedures which the court follows are very different. The way things work can be different from the time a charge gets filed all the way through how a jury gets selected and instructed before deciding a case.
Even an attorney who does not have experience in federal court can get tripped up by some of these rules. Many of these rules involve important rights that someone accused of a federal crime may not want to give up.
In some cases, the federal rules also can be quite harsh. For example, it is relatively common for federal courts to decline to let a person out on pre-trial release, meaning they will wait in jail for months before their trial.
As with the court, the way federal probation offices and the federal prison system work differently from Florida’s state system.
Dealing with federal criminal charges can be challenging for other reasons
The federal laws themselves also are read differently, and get interpreted differently, than do state laws.
This is true even if both Florida and the United States deal with the same behavior, such as alleged drug dealing or financial crimes.
Importantly, federal laws in many cases will allow or even require much harsher penalties, including lengthier prison terms, than do the state laws. Practically, behavior that could mean probation in a state court in federal court could land a person in prison for years.
One must not also forget the Assistant United States Attorneys and federal law enforcement have a reputation for being very well-trained and well-equipped.
Someone who is facing a federal criminal charge potentially has an uphill battle. They will need to understand their rights and be prepared with a vigorous defense.