Article Submitted by Elon Berk
If you’re ever involved in a legal dispute, it’s important to understand how the Federal and State criminal justice systems can vary. First, Federal crimes cross state lines, or are international in nature. As a result, their punishment is also different.
In a State system, the judge has discretion to punish based on what he or she knows about the case. There’s more leeway to make an informed decision on punishment.
While the Federal system allows for this, Judges tend to use set guideline sentences for each offense.
How This Plays Out
Let’s look at an example of an immigrant who enters the country illegally, and has the intent to stay permanently. This person settles in Los Angeles county, and is wealthy enough to afford to buy a house in cash.
This seems like a great idea, until a more attractive investment demanding immediate capital comes into play. Rather than purchasing the home for cash, this person tries to take out a loan for the house. This creates a problem: without extensive financial history in the US, and no income tax records, it’s nearly impossible to get a loan.
Instead of reverting back to paying cash, this person’s solution is to falsify a tax return and present them to the lender. This seemingly innocent act of deception, this person is not going to default on the loan, passes unnoticed at first. The loan is obtained and the home successfully passes through escrow. Six months down the road, the FBI arrives to arrest the home owner for falsifying Federal income tax returns. The punishment? Five years in a Federal prison.
Had this same case gone through the Los Angeles Criminal Court system, the California judge would be able to choose between a number of potential penalties. From the same, or similar, prison sentence, to community service. Whatever the judge feels best fits the crime.
This is why some consider the federal system to be harsh and unforgiving.
Elon Berk is a Criminal Defense Attorney and managing partner at “Gurovich, Berk & Associates.”, and is also the co-founder of the secure communication app for the iphone: Enkrypt,.