Being charged with and prosecuted for a crime under federal law is very different than being charged under South Carolina state law. In addition to proceeding in different courts and with different prosecuting bodies, federal criminal charges may result in significantly harsher penalties upon conviction than the equivalent state-level offense would, and any jail time a defendant receives would be served in federal prison.
If you are facing federal charges, it may be a good idea to seek representation from a defense attorney who has handled these difficult cases before. Guidance and support from a seasoned Beaufort federal criminal lawyer could prove crucial in your fight to protect your rights and your best interests.
What is the Difference Between State and Federal Charges?
Although federal criminal law overlaps South Carolina state law in numerous places, there are only a few circumstances under which federal courts have jurisdiction over an offense committed in the state. Historically, federally prosecuted offenses were those that involved a defendant crossing state lines during the commission of a criminal act or occurred on federal property. Over time, however, federal jurisdiction has broadly expanded so that many offenses that were traditionally prosecuted in the state courts may be brought in federal court.
As opposed to state court judges, who must be elected to their states, federal court judges receive lifetime appointments. In the same vein, the prosecution for a federal offense will typically be led by an Assistant U.S. Attorney and may involve input from various federal agencies, including the FBI, the DEA, and the ATF.
Can You be Charged in State and Federal Court for the Same Crime?
Under certain circumstances, it is possible for a person to be prosecuted at both the state and federal levels for the same offense. Given these and other ways in which federal cases differ significantly from state-level ones, it is a good idea for anyone in Beaufort charged with a federal or white-collar offense to be represented by a legal professional who is familiar with how these cases work.
Maximum Penalties for Criminal Convictions
When someone is charged with a crime under state law, it is usually easy to determine what the maximum penalties they could face upon conviction would be. South Carolina Code of Laws §16-1-10 defines three classes of misdemeanors and six classes of felonies that a resident could be charged with, and state statutes that define specific crimes usually also define what penalties may be levied upon conviction for that offense.
Classification of Penalties for Federal Crimes
Conversely, punishments upon convictions for federal crimes are determined based on a much more complex classification system. Federal sentencing guidelines incorporate factors like how involved the defendant was in the alleged offense, whether they had a prior criminal record, and aggravating circumstances like the presence of a weapon.
As a result, these guidelines allow for 43 unique levels of severity under which a crime may be prosecuted depending on the exact nature of the alleged offense. Beyond just advocating for less severe penalties upon conviction, representation from an experienced federal defense team in your area could be necessary.
Seek Help from a Beaufort Federal Criminal Attorney
Finding out you are under investigation or have been charged with a federal offense can be a confusing and intimidating experience, especially if you have never faced criminal prosecution of any kind before. Based on the way federal authorities classify and prosecute criminal offenses, these types of cases are often much more procedurally complex than state-level ones as well.
Fortunately, help is available from a dedicated and experienced Beaufort federal criminal lawyer. To find out how the services of a federal defense law firm could benefit you, call today to set up a consultation.