Even if they’ve had the misfortune of being charged with a crime previously, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, residents who are facing charges in federal criminal court for the first time need to be aware of some important differences in the way that system works.
The key point is that going to federal court is not just like going to a state criminal and just having a different judge and different attorneys. The differences between the two courts can profoundly affect a person’s case:
For instance, federal courts have different procedural rules than do the state courts of Pennsylvania. While sometimes the rules are very similar between the two, in other cases the way one goes about doing something, like appealing a conviction or getting released on bail, are very different. In many cases, the federal system is stricter than is the state court system.
Another big difference is that the federal courts still rely heavily on the Federal Sentencing Guidelines when determining what punishments to mete out for criminal offenses. Federal judges also have to follow all United States laws concerning minimum sentences and other matters.
The sentencing provisions of Pennsylvania are different, so drug distribution charges that might land a person on probation in a Pennsylvania court could mean a stint in federal prison if the case gets filed in a federal court.
On the whole, it is important for people to remember that facing federal criminal charges is in many ways a completely different ballgame than criminal charges filed at the state level. This is why it’s important when considering who to hire as a defense attorney to know how much experience the attorney has in the federal courts located in Pennsylvania.