Federal criminal practice is distinct and separate from criminal practice in state and municipal courts. It has its own particular rules, procedures, and body of case law. Federal crimes fall into four classifications: felonies, misdemeanors, infractions, and petty offenses.
There are further groupings and classifications within these four broad categories. There are sex crimes, financial crimes, banking crimes, drug crimes, etc. Various statutes and provisions of the US Code govern the different offenses. The Federal Sentencing Guidelines Manual, together with relevant statutes and case law, control sentencing.
Felonies by definition are offenses for which the possible punishment is more than one year of imprisonment. They are categorized into different “classes”, designated by the letter A, B, C, D, or E. Each one of these classes carries with it a possible range of punishment. A prosecution of a felony is begun by the filing of an indictment (unless a defendant agrees to waive indictment and proceed by information). Prosecution of a misdemeanor is begun by the filing of an indictment, information, or complaint. Prosecution of a petty offense is begun by the issuance of a citation or violation notice.
A misdemeanor is an offense for which the maximum length of punishment is less than one year of imprisonment. Misdemeanors are further grouped into “classes” of A, B, C categories, depending on the possible length of punishment. An infraction is an offense for which the maximum possible length of punishment is five days or less, or an offense that carries no possible imprisonment, only a fine or probation. A law enforcement officer normally issues a citation to a defendant, who is required to appear in court on a certain day and time. Petty offenses are a special class of offenses: they are class B and C misdemeanors and infractions. Congress created this special class of offenses for procedural reasons that primarily revolve around the trial rights of a defendant.
If you have issues or questions regarding federal criminal cases, please do not hesitate to call us for an appointment.
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