Federal vs. State DUI Charges
Although it is true that most DUI charges are levied in state court, it is also possible for these offenses to be tried before a federal judge. Whether a charge is filed in state or federal court has significant repercussions on a defendant’s case. For instance, federal offenses are often more aggressively prosecuted and come with more severe penalties than their state counterparts. The defenses that someone accused of this crime can raise also depend on whether the offense falls under state or federal jurisdiction. For these reasons, it is extremely important for those who have been charged with a federal DUI to speak with an experienced federal crime attorney who will give them the best possible chance of avoiding conviction.
When are DUIs Charged in Federal Court?
Most DUI offenses fall under the jurisdiction of the state courts, which are typically tasked with trying cases that involve violations of traffic offenses. However, it is not unheard of for DUI charges to be filed in federal court, although whether this is appropriate depends on where the offense occurred. If, for instance, a person was arrested for driving while intoxicated on most Florida roads, he or she could expect to be charged in state court. If, on the other hand, the driver was pulled over while driving through or on federal property, he or she could end up in federal court. Unfortunately, just because a person didn’t know that the roads were on federal land when driving, does not mean that he or she can escape conviction.
This can have important implications for defendants who are usually required to provide more stringent proof when refuting DUI charges in federal court than they would if called before a state judge. Penalties are also usually more severe, as conviction can be accompanied by incarceration in a federal prison and much higher fines.
What Constitutes Federal Property?
The U.S. government owns a wide range of properties across the nation, including:
- Military areas, such as army bases;
- Historical or national monuments;
- Courthouses and surrounding areas;
- National parks and forests;
- Airports; and
- Any building or lot owned by the government.
When detained on this type of property for driving under the influence, a person could face federal DUI charges.
What are the Differences Between Federal and State DUI Charges?
First time federal DUI offenders are usually only charged with misdemeanors, although they could still face jail time and hefty fines. The elements that must be proved by prosecutors to obtain a conviction, however, are the same in both state and federal court, as there must be evidence that the driver had a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher, which can be demonstrated through the results of a blood, urine, or breath test. However, federal courts do often require prosecutors to meet higher standards when presenting evidence, as law enforcement officers must comply with federal laws on criminal procedure, which includes ensuring that chain of custody rules are satisfied and that expert witnesses are thoroughly vetted.
Call Our Office to Schedule a Free Consultation
For federal DUI charges, it is important to consult with a lawyer, so if you or a loved one were recently arrested for and charged for driving under the influence while on federal property, please contact dedicated Miami federal crime attorney Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. at 305-670-9919 today.