Important Differences between How State and Federal Charges Are Tried
Posted By Law Offices of Jeffrey C. Grass || 28-Dec-2011
While the federal court system and state court system share many similarities, there are several important differences between the two. There is a significant difference between being charged with a federal and a state crime.
For state cases, bail is set according to a Bail Schedule, as well as certain factors such as prior record, parole or probation status, and citizenship status. The arrestee can then choose to post bail or to remain in custody. There is no Bail Schedule in a federal case. The arrestee must be taken before a federal magistrate, where they are interviewed and a background investigation is performed. Upon conclusion, the magistrate will either set bail or issue an order for detention without bail.
Discovery is a pre-trial process in which the prosecution must disclose all of its evidence to the defense. This includes witness statements, photographs, police reports, lab test results, and other relevant documents or evidence logs. In state court, the discovery process takes place very early in the trial timeline. In federal court, discovery takes place later. In some cases, the prosecution may not have to disclose witness statements until after the witness has testified at trial.
Sentencing may be the biggest difference between the state and federal system. Although both types of crimes often carry minimum/maximum sentences, in a state case the judge is given discretion over final sentencing. Thus, a judge may order a sentence under the minimum if they decide there are mitigating circumstances or even if a plea bargain is struck. Federal cases are less flexible. The judge is required to sentence in accordance with a chart that takes into account the nature of the offense and the criminal history of the defendant. There are fewer exceptions to these guidelines than there are in state court.
Getting an early start on your defense is one of the keys to success in the legal system. If you live in the Plano or Dallas area and would like to speak with a criminal defense attorney regarding your case, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey C. Grass.