Most people who face a criminal charge in the Warrenton area will have their cases dealt with locally by the Virginia state courts.
However, for some types of offenses, including many drug-related crimes and financial crimes, a person may find himself facing accusation at the hands of federal prosecutors and in case in the federal courts.
There are many important differences between federal courts and state courts, even aside from the judges and prosecutors involved.
Federal courts use different rules and procedures
State courts follow the procedures set out in their state-wide rules as well as any local rules a court may choose to use.
Federal courts have a different set of rules that apply to their courts. Likewise, the federal courts in Virginia may have their own local rules.
What this means is that, in practice, there may be different deadlines, filing requirements and the like which people, and even lawyers who do not have a lot of experience in federal court, may not be aware of.
The consequences of not following these rules, even if out of ignorance or confusion.
Sentencing is different in the federal court system
How a federal judge will sentence a defendant is also different than how a state court would treat the same person, even if it looks like the allegations and circumstances are similar.
For one, federal criminal law may prescribe different penalties for drug crimes or other activity which both state and federal authorities prosecute.
What this means that a relatively minor offense in state court could spell a prison term in federal court, or vice versa. Federal courts also use separate Federal Sentencing Guidelines to help them determine a punishment.
If a person has a question about possible options and outcomes in a federal criminal case, she should speak to an attorney with experience handling these types of matters.