How Do State Crimes Compare To Federal Crimes In Terms of Probation And Sentencing?
Interviewer: Do people charged with federal crimes tend to be more scared? Is it more serious? What happens that is different?
Paul: It is more serious because the federal system is designed to deal with more serious offenses or more serious degrees of the same type of offense.
Under federal sentencing guidelines, the terms of custody increase very dramatically. Also, the portion of the federal grid for which a defendant might be able to receive probation is extremely limited.
At the state level, if you look at the Kansas sentencing guidelines and grid, there is a large portion of the sentencing grid, probably 40%, that carries with it a presumption of probation. At the least, it falls within a zone where the court has the discretion to offer probation.
So at the state level, the system anticipates there will be more defendants for whom probation is the anticipated outcome. At the federal level, they anticipate far fewer people for whom custody is not going to be the ultimate objective of the prosecution. So, yes, the charges are more serious. The sentences are considerably longer.
Interviewer: For federal crimes, you are much more likely to be in jail for the crime; and for a lot longer. The whole situation is a lot more serious, correct?
Paul: That is absolutely right. Also, at the federal level, you see a lot more indictment following long-term, extensive investigation. You may have a client who has been indicted, and he contacts my office post indictment. I find out he is accused of being involved in a drug distribution ring that has been under investigation for 18 to 24 months; before charges are filed and the indictment is dropped.
That means the prosecutor is in a position where he has multiple layers of evidence to prove his charge. He had federal investigators and law enforcement officers investigate and collect evidence, months before ever filing the indictment. So each defendant is in a situation where there is much more evidence against them.
Maybe we could file a successful motion to suppress one or more telephone calls because the wiretap was not requested or issued appropriately. Maybe we could file a motion to suppress a certain automobile search that violated the Fourth Amendment.
However, we find ourselves in a position of winning battles and losing wars because there may be mountains of evidence against my client. This is in addition to the phone calls or a search that you were able to effectively challenge. So it is a much more serious place to practice law.
“The Importance of Aggressive Federal Criminal Defense”.
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