What Happens When You Are Charged With a Federal Crime?

Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney Frank Walker

Video Transcript:

Rob Rosenthal:

What should you expect if you're charged with a federal crime as opposed to a state crime? We're asking Pittsburgh lawyer Frank Walker in this AskTheLawyers™ Quick Question.

Frank Walker:

They are two different things in two different arenas. I liken it to, for state court, you're in a local playground; whereas federal court, you're in Madison Square Garden. I mean, it's totally different. It's a different ball game. It's a larger arena, all eyes are on you, and the penalties are so much worse in federal court.

In state court, for example, as I said, if you’re found guilty of something, in most cases you know the exact sentence you're going to get. Whereas at federal court, all you're given is a range, you're given a suggestive, guideline range as to where the judge could sentence you, and you don't know what the actual sentence is until the judge pronounces the sentence. So your attorney can ask to vary or depart lower down in that suggested range, but again, you don't know. You have a general idea, but it's a lot of uncertainty and the penalties are so much stiffer in federal court than they are in State.

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