Our attorneys have provided information on Washington State misdemeanors as well as federal crimes. And, we’ve even discussed the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.  But federal misdemeanors are a topic we’ve left uncovered – until now. The truth is that these crimes are regularly charged in Washington and our firm has long experience in defending these offenses. If you or a loved one has been charged with a federal misdemeanor, contact us now and let us provide the criminal representation you deserve.

What is a Federal Misdemeanor?

A federal misdemeanor can be charged when a crime is either:

  1. A federal offense itself (and categorized as a misdemeanor under federal law); or,
  2. A state misdemeanor committed on federal property.

Federal misdemeanors can be charged under the United States Code or the Code of Federal Regulations, in which case they would be substantive federal crimes, or through the Assimilative Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C. § 13. The Assimilative Crimes Act makes “state law applicable to conduct occurring on lands reserved or acquired by the federal government as provided in 18 U.S.C. § 7(3), when the act or omission is not made punishable by an enactment of Congress.”

Some examples of federal misdemeanors include:

  • Reckless driving on Joint Base Lewis–McChord (JBLM),
  • Domestic violence assault in the Olympic National Park, and
  • DUI upon Naval Base Kitsap.

Like crimes charged under Washington state laws, federal misdemeanors are less serious than federal felonies. They are also more severe than crimes known as infractions. Almost all federal misdemeanor offenses are handled by United States Magistrate Judges. 

What happens in a Federal Misdemeanor case?

Most federal misdemeanor cases are initiated by tickets that are reported to the Central Violations Bureau (“CVB”).  In some cases, the Central Violation Bureau offers the defendant the ability to resolve the case simply by paying a fine, without ever having to go to court.  What people don’t realize is that this can equate to admitting guilt and being convicted of a crime.  For this reason it is very important to consult an experienced federal criminal attorney before responding to federal citations. 

Many cases require court appearance.  In such cases, the Central Violations Bureau will refer the case to the local federal district court.  These cases proceed with an arraignment, trial, and sentencing (if any) just like any other case.  However, due to the unique structure of the federal misdemeanor system, cases can sometimes be resolved by being sent back to the CVB, which can result in a much cleaner record.

What are the Penalties for a Federal Misdemeanor?

There are some generalizations that can be made in terms of the penalties for federal misdemeanors. This is largely because these offenses are categorized into the following:

  • Federal Class A misdemeanors,
  • Federal Class B misdemeanors, and
  • Federal Class C misdemeanors.

Federal Class A misdemeanors are those crimes punishable by six months to one year in federal prison. The Federal Sentencing Guidelines apply to Class A federal misdemeanors. These guidelines establish sentencing ranges and penalties depending upon:

  • The severity of the misdemeanor,
  • The defendant’s criminal history, and
  • Other aggravating or mitigating factors.

Federal Class Bmisdemeanors are offenses punishable by imprisonment in the federal jail for 30 days to six months. Finally, Federal Class C misdemeanors carry a potential punishment of five to 30 days in federal jail. Federal infractions carry up to 5 days in custody.  Unlike the state system, defendants cannot receive “good time” credit on any federal sentence of one year or less.

Are there Legal Defenses to Federal Misdemeanors?

Luckily, there are several legal defenses that a defendant can raise when facing federal misdemeanor accusations. A quality legal defense can work to reduce charges or dismiss them altogether. Please note that the best legal defense will vary across cases and will largely depend on the particular facts of the misdemeanor and the accused being charged.

Please also note that the success within any legal defense will largely lie within the criminal defense firm raising one on its client’s behalf. If you are charged with a federal misdemeanor offense, you want an attorney with federal experience, who is familiar with the differences between federal and state court. That’s where we come in. Black & Askerov has over 30 years of combined experience defending clients across a broad spectrum of charges – including federal misdemeanors. Our Seattle criminal defense attorneys know the law and we understand the best way to apply it so that we protect you at every stage of your case.  Simply contact us now and let us start working, defending, and caring for you at once!