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3 things to know about federal criminal charges

The United States is said to be a free country, but there are laws that must be followed so that order in the country is maintained. When a person has allegedly broken these laws, that person is subject to criminal charges. The circumstances of the case determine if the charges will be state charges or federal charges. In the case of federal charges, it is important that the defendant learn as much as possible about the charges he or she is facing.

Immigration charges lead the pack

As of the end of the recent fiscal year, immigration crimes accounted for 52 percent of federal prosecutions. All other criminal charges, including drug charges and violent crimes, accounted for the other 48 percent. Some say that this is a waste of resources since many other federal crimes are violent in nature or threaten society. Others might claim that some charges filed at the federal level may also fall under state statutes and could be handled on the state level. This could explain the reason why immigration charges lead the pack for federal prosecutions.

Both state and federal charges are possible

When an alleged criminal act breaks both state and federal laws, it is possible for a person to face charges at both levels. Some people think that this goes against the double jeopardy concept covered in the U.S. Constitution. This isn't the case. Double jeopardy means that a person couldn't face federal charges more than once for the same criminal act. This means that if a person is facing a federal charge for drug trafficking, once the case is decided, that person couldn't face another federal drug trafficking charge for that same incident. However, the state of California, for example, could still file charges against the defendant for the same crime.

Burden of proof matters

In all criminal cases, the prosecution has to prove that the defendant did whatever he or she is accused of doing. The defense must work to introduce reasonable doubt regarding the claims the prosecution is making. However, it isn't necessary for the defense to prove that the defendant didn't do what he or she is accused of doing. Instead, defense attorneys may choose to scrutinize the prosecution's case and finding factors that could be called into question that refute the defendant's guilt. For example, the defense might be able to question how DNA evidence was collected, handled, and processed. The more evidence that the defense team can call into question the more it will help the defendant's case.

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