The number of federal crime prosecutions has soared in the last five years. For example, federal cases across the nation have increased 17% in just three years. In the Middle District in Florida, there were 1,200 federal cases in 2012, and 1,500 in 2013.
So, it is very important to know the law if you are being charged with a federal crime in Florida, as prosecutions are soaring. Remember, the consequences of a federal charge can be much worse than a state conviction. For instance, if you are charged in Florida on a state charge of drug possession with 5 grams of cocaine, you may be able to negotiate a probationary sentence. But if this is a federal charge, you could face a minimum mandatory sentence of five years, in addition to the state charges.
Note that if you are charged in Florida on federal charges, the feds will have to inform you of what the charges against you are. After that, you usually are going to be held in federal custody in the appropriate Florida district. Unless you can pay to bond out of jail, you probably will have to stay in custody until the court process starts.
About the Preliminary Hearing
In Florida, your preliminary hearing will be held within three days of when you are arrested on federal charges. It is at this hearing that your attorney has an opportunity to challenge the evidence against you.
Know that in federal crimes, investigators usually build a case against you before you are arrested, so the evidence against you will likely be strong. On top of this, the burden of proof on the feds at this point is low. They only must show probable cause that a federal crime was committed. If the matter goes to trial, then they must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Witnesses against you may testify at this hearing, and hearsay is allowed. In all likelihood, you will have to be detained after this hearing until the trial. Still, your federal charges lawyer in Florida can use the hearing to challenge evidence and learn more about the charges against you.
About the Bond Hearing
You will receive a bond hearing in Florida if you are being held on federal charges. You will probably want to be released pending trial. But you have to be a legal resident of the US or a US citizen to get bond.
Your chances of being released can increase if you have people testify about your good character.
Federal Jurisdictions in Florida
The state of of Florida has three districts:
Sentences for Federal Crimes in Florida
When thinking about sentencing, remember that you also can face state charges for the same crime and may have to do added time. This often happens in drug cases, for example.
If you do get convicted on the federal charge, the federal sentencing guidelines inform the judge about how long the sentence should be. It is required for the federal judge to follow these sentencing guidelines.
The length of your sentence will depend upon several factors:
What is your childhood background?
What is your criminal background? Were any of the charges serious?
Do you have family or friends that will testify about your character?
Are you in drug treatment?
Do you have family to support?
Your lawyer may get you a plea bargain, where you plead guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a shorter sentence.
Top Florida Federal Crime Issues
More than ⅓ of all federal charge cases in Florida are related to drugs. Meanwhile, immigration and fraud charges make up another third. ATF and sex related offenses make up the rest.
Statute of Limitations in Florida
For federal crimes, there is a uniform statute of limitations for each type, and whether it is a civil or criminal case:
Assault – 2 years
Contract – 10 years
False imprisonment – 2 years
Fraud – 5 years
Judgements – 20 years
Libel – 1 year
Personal injury – 2 years
Property damage – 5 years
Slander – 1 year
Wrongful death – 2 years
Arson – No limit
Assault – 3 years
Burglary – 3 years
Murder – no limit
Manslaughter – no limit
Rape – no limit or 3 years, depending on case
Kidnapping – 3 years
Robbery – 3 years