What exactly is a federal offense? Who handles the investigation? What are the potential penalties? How do I get help if I am under a federal government investigation? If these are questions you have about your current circumstance, you have come to the right place. Here we answer those common questions. For concerns about your specific federal case, contact our criminal defense attorneys in Greenville today.
What is the Difference Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony in South Carolina?
Misdemeanors are crimes that are less severe than felonies. Both are punishable by jail time and fines, however, because misdemeanors are milder in nature, they will typically receive less severe penalties than a felony charge.
Misdemeanors and felonies are each divided into multiple classifications. Misdemeanors are divided into Class A, Class B, and Class C. Felonies are divided into 6 categories: Class A, Class B, Class C, Class D, Class E, and Class F. On each scale, Class A contains the most severe criminal charges and is subject to the harshest punishment. As you move down in class, the crimes and the punishments are less serious.
The majority of states have a penalty cut-off of one year for misdemeanors, but the state of South Carolina can sentence up to 3 years in jail for certain misdemeanors. A Class A misdemeanor is also punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and other various consequences like community service, rehabilitation programs, and loss of privileges related to the crime. Class C misdemeanors may face a fine of up to $5,000 and up to 1 year in jail. Common misdemeanors include shoplifting, trespassing, second-degree assault and battery, child endangerment, slander, and possession charges.
Common felonies include murder, rape, drug trafficking, involuntary manslaughter, and filing of a false tax return. Class A felonies, like murder, are punishable by up to 30 years of prison time, while Class F felonies, like stalking, are punishable by a maximum sentence of 5 years in jail. The most serious crimes or a combination of multiple felonies may be subject to life in prison or in rare occasions the death penalty.
Felony convictions may also be subject to thousands of dollars in fines. The fine is determined by the type of crime in question, not by the classification. As with misdemeanors, the person may be subject to a loss of privileges as it relates to the crime. For example, loss of license for traffic crimes, loss of the right to possess a firearm, or having to register as a sex offender.
What is the Difference Between Federal Criminal Charges and State Criminal Charges?
Similarly to the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony, federal crimes are deemed more severe than state crimes. Other than this, the biggest difference is who and where the case is handled. For state crimes, a South Carolina prosecutor will take the case. For federal crimes, the case will be handled by a federal prosecutor, also known as a United States Attorney. Where state crimes are held in the state judicial systems and federal crimes are held in the federal court system.
Because federal charges are more serious than state charges, the penalties are also more serious. Just as the state of South Carolina determines the fines, jail time, and additional penalties for the convicted, federal law is used to determine consequences for federal offenses. As with other criminal offenses, the sentencing is determined by the nature of the offense and prior criminal convictions.
Who Handles Investigations of Federal Crimes?
There are multiple federal law enforcement agencies, each created to perform expert investigations for different types of crimes. This means the federal agents assigned to a case are determined by the specific offense. Below is a list of the different federal law enforcement agencies.
- Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF)
- Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC)
- Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
- Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
- Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI)
- General Services Administration (GSA)
- Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
- Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
- Postal Inspection Service
- Secret Service
- Securities Exchange Commission (SEC)
- Social Security Administration (SSA)
For example, the FBI would investigate crimes involving terrorism, federal white-collar crimes, and property crimes. Similarly, the IRS would handle financial crimes like tax evasion.
Different Types of Federal Criminal Law Charges
As mentioned, federal crimes are viewed as more serious in nature than state offenses. They are often usually out of the scope of the state police department and require specialized training to prosecute. Here is a list of common federal offenses:
- Mail fraud or tampering
- Drug trafficking
- Hate crimes
- Public corruption
- Money laundering
- Immigration crimes
- Violations of securities laws
- Violations of interstate commerce
- Child abuse or child pornography
This list contains examples of just a few types of federal offenses. There are many more beyond this list. If you are facing federal charges, a qualified criminal defense attorney is your best strategy for a favorable outcome.
What Should I Do If I'm Being Investigated by the Federal Government?
Hire a federal defense attorney. Due to the high-stakes nature of a federal investigation, it is in your best interest to seek legal counsel as soon as possible. If you have been contacted by a federal agent or suspect you be under criminal investigation, protecting your legal rights is crucial to the process and can be achieved through the guidance of an experienced attorney. They will advise you on how to avoid mistakes and incrimination. The criminal justice process can be complicated, lengthy, costly, and confusing. Enlisting the services of a federal criminal lawyer can help prepare you for the road ahead.
What Should I Consider When Hiring a South Carolina Criminal Defense Lawyer?
The most important factors to consider when hiring a federal defense attorney is their experience and their track record. You should prepare questions to ask your potential representation. Ask if they have handled any cases similar to yours. Ask about the outcomes of those cases. Ask about the types of strategies they use and if they are successful. Ask about the relationships they have with their clients.
It is never a good idea to represent yourself in federal court. It is also rarely a good idea to rely on a public defender. These cases rarely have favorable outcomes. If you are worried about the cost of legal fees, consider the cost of the potential fines, loss of income, loss of community standing, and loss of quality of life due to a criminal record.
At TF Law, we have an impressive track record and are committed to aggressive defense strategies. We are dedicated to our clients and take on each case with determination. Contact us today for your free consultation.