Last updated on June 16, 2015

Explaining Federal Criminal Charges vs. State Criminal Charges

Interviewer: At what point would a regular criminal charge become a federal charge, a federal crime.

Paul Tafelski: They’re two separate systems. If the federal government meaning the FBI or Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms or any federal agency prosecutes you for something then your case will be in federal court. If you violate something that is a federal law then your case will be in federal court. If you just do a run of the mill, for example, bank robberies are handled by the federal government and you are usually prosecuted for bank robberies in a federal court because the federal government insures a lot of these deposits. They have an interest and they’re involved in a lot of bank robberies but that’s not the case 100% of the time, but it’s often the case.

There are some situations where you could be charged in state court and some where you could be charged in federal court such as like firearms violations. If you’re just prosecuted by the Oakland County prosecutors officer you’ll be in state court but if you’re going to be prosecuted by the US attorney then you’ll be in federal court. Sometimes the police agencies will work to have you prosecuted by the agency that will get you the worst amount of punishment and there’s not much you can do about that.

The Process of Setting and Paying Bail in a Criminal Case

Interviewer: How does bail work? How is bail set? Does someone have to pay bail all in cash?

Paul Tafelski: Well, bail is set at the time of arraignment and the judge or the magistrate is considering two factors. 1) Are you a flight risk and 2) are you a risk to the public? They have a wide range of latitude in determining what an appropriate bail amount is. Bail is another word for bond in a way, bail is what you’ll post to get out on bond but the bond conditions is where to determine how do you get released. You can be given a personal bond where you just sign a piece of paper promising to return and you don’t have to post any money or you can be given a cash bond where the court sets a specific amount, let’s say $10,000 for example.

You have to either post $10,000 in cash or you have to hire a bail bondsman who will guarantee your attendance or they will be liable for the $10,000. There are also different ways that the court can make the bond be paid and sometimes for example they can have what’s called a 10% requirement where if they set $10,000 10% bond then you can get out by only posting $1,000 in cash even though if you violate your bond you’ll own them $10,000. There are a lot of different ways that it can be done and some can dramatically increase the odds of you being able to get out while your case is pending versus staying in jail while the case is pending.

It all comes back to that’s another reason why the arraignment is so important and why it’s so important for you to have somebody there on your side who understands the charges, understands what the courts, and understands how to get you the lowest possible bond.

Posted in: Criminal Defense
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