In Florida, most crimes are prosecuted under the state laws. However, due to their characteristics, certain offenses can be classified as federal crimes. Federal offenses are pursued in federal court with the cooperation of federal law enforcement agencies. As a result, facing criminal federal charges can result in harsher penalties than a state crime.
These crimes are prosecuted at a federal level, so you can expect some significant differences between the federal and the Florida prosecution proceedings. In both situations, you need to have a strong defense. However, a federal charge might require more extensive legal preparation.
What Are Federal Crimes in Florida?
A federal crime is an illegal action against federal law. An offense can become a federal crime if the alleged offender:
- Broke a federal law.
- Commited a crime across two state lines.
- Perpetrated a criminal offense on a U.S. military base, federal property or in federal waters under U.S. jurisdiction.
Based on this definition, there are many crimes that could be classified as a federal offense. Since they are an offense against federal law, these crimes might be pursued or investigated by federal law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, DEA, IRS, and prosecuted in federal courts.
Federal offenses are aggressively pursued and can result in severe penalties. Given that the federal criminal justice system is very complex, you might want to retain the services of a Florida federal criminal lawyer. If you have been arrested for a federal offense, contact the defense lawyers from Goldman Wetzel.
Examples of Federal Crimes
Just as with Florida crimes, federal crimes also have different degrees of severity. Any crime that meets the stipulations mentioned above can be charged as federal offense. Examples of these crimes might include:
- Human trafficking
- Bank robbery
- Sexual abuse and exploitation
- Drug-related crimes
- Firearms offenses
- Child pornography
- Murder or manslaughter
Examples of Non-Violent Federal Crimes
Not all federal crimes imply the use of violence. In fact, white-collar offenses not only do not use violence, but they have the intent of obtaining a financial gain. Some examples of non-violent crimes that could be classified as federal crimes might include:
- Tax offenses
- Mail fraud
- Wire fraud
- Money laundering
- Health care fraud
- Insurance fraud
The fact that white-collar crimes do not imply the use violence does not necessarily mean that the crime is less severe. If a federal law enforcement agency has reason to believe that you might have committed a white-collar crime, they might arrest you and work to build a case against you.
Since federal prosecutors have more resources and federal offenses can result in harsher penalties, it is important to have a strong defense that convinces the court to dismiss or reduce your sentencing. If you are a Florida resident facing charges, speak to our federal crimes attorneys and get to know your legal options.
Difference Between Federal and State Crimes in Florida
Even though the charge might seem the same, there are some important distinctions between federal and state crimes. As you may imagine, these differences have an impact in the way your criminal case is handled.
Some of the common differences between these offenses include:
- Type of crime: a federal crime violates a federal law or was committed in a U.S. property while a state crime is perpetrated inside of the Florida borders.
- Bails: usually, state bails only require defendants to pay the amount set by the law enforcement, but in federal cases, the judge can add some stipulations such as relevant treatments and check-ins with pretrial officers.
- Harsher penalties: one of the biggest differences between a federal and state crime is the potential punishments. Overall, federal crimes tend to result in larger penalties than an offense against the state.
- Law enforcement: federal crimes are investigated by federal law enforcement agencies (FBI, DEA, IRS) with much more resources to find evidence than the local police department. Additionally, a federal prosecutor has a lighter caseload so they can spend more time building a stronger case.
- Harsher discovery process: in Florida criminal cases, your attorney can acquire witness reports prior to trial. However, in federal cases, the defense usually can’t obtain witness reports until after the witness has testified in some manner. This affects the time that your lawyer has to prepare your defense.
Penalties for Federal Crimes
When a person is found guilty of a federal charge, her or his penalties can result in fines and imprisonment in a federal prison. However, the sentencing for a federal offense is not as straightforward as the Florida sentencing might be.
In federal sentencing, the judge has more discretion and she or he must consider the guidelines proposed on the federal Guidelines Manual. In order to dictate a sentence and penalties, the judge will take into account the type of crime, aggravating and mitigating factors, the defendant’s past convictions and criminal history, etc.
Below there is a table presenting federal sentencing classifications:
|Type of Federal Offense||Maximum Imprisonment|
|Class A Felony||Life imprisonment / Death penalty|
|Class B Felony||+25 years|
|Class C Felony||10-25 years|
|Class D Felony||5-10 years|
|Class E Felony||1-5 years|
|Class A Misdemeanor||6 months – 1 year|
|Class B Misdemeanor||30 days – 6 months|
|Class C Misdemeanor||5 – 30 days|
Repeat offenders might face mandatory life imprisonment if they have been previously convicted (either in federal or state court) for:
- Two or more serious violent felonies.
- One or more serious violent felonies and one or more serious drug offenses.
Federal offenses follow complex prosecutorial proceedings. Thus, determining a defendant’s possible penalties depend on numerous factors. If you have been accused of committing a federal offense, contact our criminal defense lawyers to learn more about the possible penalties and strategies for your case.
Probation for Federal Crimes
In federal cases, probation can be used as an alternative to imprisonment, so the person convicted is able to remain in the community while being supervised by a probation office. Additionally, it might include some conditions imposed by the judge and it cannot be granted for all federal offenses.
Probation for federal crimes can be provided if it meets the purpose of the sentencing such as providing a punishment for the offense and preventing the defendant from committing more crimes. The judge has a lot of discretion when it comes to sentencing probation.
Based on the type of crime, the court might order some probation conditions. Some of these might include:
- Fines or community work
- Attend a rehabilitation program (for domestic violence offenses)
- Dwelling should be approved by the probation officer
- The convict cannot use any controlled substance (drug tests might be applied)
- Restrictions on leaving the district of residence without the probation officer’s permission
- The convicted cannot have access nor possess a firearm or dangerous weapon
- The person convicted should not commit another felony
Violating the terms of your probation can result in severe consequences. Make sure you understand what your conditions are as well as the potential penalties. If you are facing charges for probation violation, you should get legal representation as soon as possible. Schedule a free consultation with one of our federal criminal attorneys.
Statutes of Limitations on Federal Crimes
Most federal crimes have a statute of limitation of 5 years to prosecute the case. However, some offenses that are subject to a longer period of time. These include:
- Arson – 10 years
- Major art theft – 20 years
- Tax crimes – 6 years
- Crimes against federal financial institutions – 10 years
- Immigration fraud – 10 years
Just like some offenses have a statute of limitation, there are other offenses that have no limitation and that can be prosecuted at any time. These include death penalty offenses, some terrorism-related crimes, child abduction and sex offenses. Some examples might include:
- Failure to register as sex offender
- Sexual abuse or explotation of children
- Violence at international airports where death results
- Destruction of federal property
- Use of weapons of mass destruction
- Hate crimes resulting in death
A statute of limitations establishes the time frame within which a legal procedure must begin prosecution. Although most federal crimes have a statute of limitations of 5 years, there are some exceptions that need to be kept in mind.
Federal Crimes FAQs
Here are some frequently asked questions related to federal crimes. If you want more specific information about your case, you should contact an attorney.
Are all federal crimes felonies?
Just like offenses committed in Florida, depending on the type of crime, federal offenses can be classified either as federal felonies or federal misdemeanors. In broad terms, federal felonies imply severe crimes while misdemeanors are a lesser offense. These offenses can result in imprisonment and fines.
Based on the nature of the crime, felonies are classified as classes A, B, C, D, E while misdemeanors are divided into 3 classes (A, B, C). Some examples of federal felonies might include but are not limited to drug-related crimes, murder, bank robbery, sex crimes, terrorism, and arson.
Is a felon in possession of a firearm a federal crime?
Under federal law, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon is a class D felony. This type of offense can lead to a sentence of between 5 to 10 years imprisonment. If a felon has 3 or more prior felony convictions for violent crimes, he or she may receive a minimum sentence of 15 years.
In addition to felons, there are other people that are also that are prohibited from owning a gun, including:
- Persons under indictment.
- Fugitives from justice.
- Immigrants with an illegal status.
- People subjected to a restraining order for stalking, harassment, repeated or domestic violence.
- Convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.
- Mentally ill people or persons committed to a mental institution.
As for the state laws, keep in mind that a charge of felon in possession of a firearm will have different penalties if the crime is prosecuted in Florida.
What is the crime of racketeering?
In broad terms, racketeering refers to establishing, acquiring or operating an illegal business or using a legitimate business for illegal purposes. Racketeering offenses, also known as RICO, are activities that involve some sort of group or organization such as street gangs and drug cartels.
Some offenses that can be charged as a racketeering offense include:
- Gang activities
- Wire fraud
- Forgery and counterfeiting
- Drug trafficking
- Human trafficking
- Money laundering
- Fraud with identification documents
In Florida, a racketeering offense is classified as a first-degree felony and it is punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. On the other hand, a federal racketeering offense might result in up to 20 years in a federal prison and a fine.
Is drug possession a federal crime?
Drug crimes are both state and federal crimes. According to federal law, if a person knowingly or intentionally possesses a controlled substance without valid prescription order, he or she might face charges for drug possession. This offense can result in penalties of up to 1 year in prison and a minimum fine of $1,000.
Repeated offenders can face more severe penalties. The same happens if the defendant is facing charges for possession with intent to deliver. Intent to deliver means that the U.S. attorney needs to prove that the alleged offender planned to distribute or transfer the drugs to another person.
Contact a Federal Criminal Attorney in Florida
Compared to state criminal charges, an accusation for a federal crime can result in treacherous legal proceedings and harsher penalties. As a result, you should enlist the help of an experienced criminal attorney.
Goldman Wetzel is a criminal law firm that provides legal presentations for individuals facing criminal charges in both state and federal courts.
If you or your loved one are facing federal charges in the Middle District of Florida, schedule a free consultation with federal criminal lawyers in Florida to learn about your legal options. Get in touch with us via contact form or call (727) 828-3900.