Understanding Federal Felonies
The United States Government, like each of the 50 States, has three separate and independent branches of government. The Judicial Branch- the Federal Courts- is the smallest, but in many ways the most powerful of the three branches. When Richard M. Nixon was President of the United States, a single Federal District Court Judge had the power to require him to turn over White House tape recordings that eventually spelled the end of his Presidency. More recently, the Federal Courts have exercised their authority to require the Bush Administration to handle citizen non-combatants in a way that affords them Constitutional protections. A Federal Court can take over an entire state’s school system (as it did in the early years of Desegregation) and it can take over an entire state’s prison system (as it did in Florida over issues including overcrowding and treatment of prisoners.) The Brevard County Department of Corrections (the County Jail) is currently under the supervision of the Federal District Court for the Middle District of Florida (Orlando Division.)
The United States Supreme Court recently upheld the Affordable Health Care Act, even though a majority of Americans polled disagree with its passage.
State Vs. Federal Crimes
In the context of criminal law, there are many actions that constitute crimes against both the state where the crime is committed and against the United States of America. Although in theory, under the Separate Sovereignty Doctrine, you could be prosecuted in both Court systems, in practice, you will almost certainly be prosecuted in only one or the other. In these circumstances, the Federal system, acting like “Big Brother,” usually exercises its jurisdictions only over the largest of the cases, leaving the smaller cases to the State prosecutors. The area where this is most frequently a concern is in narcotics cases where the possession, importation or sale and delivery violate both State and Federal drug statutes.
There are also a large number of offenses that are violations of only Federal law. Federal tax related crimes, violation of federal Securities laws, federal environmental laws, immigration offenses, and other offenses created by federal legislation. There are also crimes that would ordinarily look like State court offenses that may occur on federal property such as a military base or ceded federal enclave, and over which the Federal Government may choose to retain jurisdiction.
Federal Sentencing Guidelines were recently the subject of great news coverage. It was suggested on some networks that the US Supreme Court has killed the application of these Draconian Sentencing Guidelines. Be careful. This is an extremely complicated area of the law and the US Supreme Court did not invalidate these guidelines. The high Court merely ruled that they may not be applied mandatorily, that the jury must play a larger role, and that they may still be used by the Courts as an informal discretionary guideline. In fact, it appears that most federal judges still rely very heavily on these “guidelines” as if they were still mandatory.
A tension has been generated between state and federal jurisdictions over the enforcement of criminal laws against possession cannabis. Washington state has decriminalized medical marijuana and Colorado has decriminalized simple possession. While marijuana use, possession, purchase and sale still constitute federal crimes, it appears that the Department of Justice has elected not to pursue prosecutions in states that have decided to permit it. It remains to be seen if other states will follow suit and if the US Congress will also change its position on this controversial issue.
Contact A Federal Felony Defense Attorney
If you are facing an investigation and/or charges for federal criminal activity, you need to contact one of our Orlando federal criminal defense attorneys. Call 352-742-9090 for a free consultation. The Defense Group are dedicated, knowledgeable attorneys that will fight for your rights. The earlier you seek legal assistance, the better chance you have of obtaining a favorable disposition of your case. We can help!