An arrest is an arrest—right? Not necessarily. How you proceed after an arrest and who you hire to defend you will depend on who arrested you. If it was a federal law enforcement officer, such as an agent from the FBI, DEA, or ATF, you will need a federal defense attorney. If you were arrested by an officer from a state or local police department, you need an attorney who is admitted to the bar in the state of Florida. We explain why this matters here.
Key Differences Between State and Federal Criminal Cases
There are many significant differences between how the state handles criminal cases and how the federal government handles them. Not every defense attorney is qualified to handle both kinds of cases. A few important differences include the following:
CourtsState and federal crimes are handled in different courts by prosecutors and judges assigned to that specific court. Defense attorneys must also be admitted to practice before the court. Not every Florida defense attorney is admitted to practice in federal court.
ProcedureEvery step of a criminal case—from the investigation to the arrest to the trial—is different between a state and federal court. That is why you need an attorney with experience in the court where your case is being tried.
SentencingState and federal crimes carry different sentences—even when the crime is the same, such as drug possession. Your attorney needs to be familiar with the penalties you face in your specific case.
Post-Conviction OptionsThe procedure for filing an appeal, or other post-conviction relief options, differs greatly between state and federal cases. An experienced federal criminal defense attorney will understand your options and the timeline for action.
The first question to ask any defense attorney you contact is whether they are admitted to practice in the court that is charging you.