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California has spent the last several years attempting to reform its criminal justice system after lawmakers and policy officials realized that the state’s harsh sentencing scheme was not working to lessen crime, and unfairly imprisoned non-violent offenders for years. Reforming the sentencing and bail system were two of the principal measures the legislature enacted to reduce the massive overcrowding in prisons. Fears concerning long prison sentences are a common and understandable worry by someone facing criminal charges, and a dedicated and experienced criminal defense attorney should be a person’s first stop once involvement in a crime is suspected. While California slowly makes headway in revising its onerous sentencing guidelines, a new proposed bill in the U.S. Congress would move the pendulum back in the other direction, and impose harsh mandatory sentences for certain crimes.

While most people associate criminal charges with violations of state law, a person can also be tried for a crime in federal court. Crimes are generally handled in either state or federal court, but some serious offenses can be tried in both. The new bill under consideration in Congress would overlap with state law on charges related to the murder or assault of a law enforcement officer. This means a person could be tried in federal court for such an offense, subject to the federal law’s strict sentences, instead of the state criminal system, which could allow for shorter sentences. An overview of the proposed federal legislation, and how it compares with California’s law on the same type of offense, will follow below.

Federal Bill

As noted above, the proposed legislation addresses the murder or assault of federal or local law enforcement officers, and specifically looks to increase the severity of the sentences that must be rendered when a defendant is convicted. In cases of murder or attempted murder, the law is restricted to federal officials – including law enforcement officers, judges and public safety officers, and imposes a minimum of 10 years in prison for attempts and 30 years if death results, including the possibility of the death penalty. The provisions on the assault of law enforcement officers apply to both federal and local officers, and they stagger the length of the potential sentence based upon the level of injury sustained. Specifically, the legislation states that:

  • the minimum sentence for very minor injuries is one year;
  • the sentence for bodily injury is at least two years and can go up to 10 years;
  • substantial bodily injury brings a sentence of at least five years and up to 20 years;
  • serious bodily injury is a minimum 10 year sentence; and
  • an assault that uses a deadly weapon has a minimum sentence of 20 years.

The most concerning aspect of the proposed law is how much authority it takes from states to prosecute these types of crimes. The bill would allow federal prosecutors to try a case in federal court, even if a state court has already sentenced the defendant, if the sentence was insufficient to satisfy the “Federal interest in eradicating bias-motivated violence,” or federal prosecutors believe it is in the public’s interest and “necessary to secure substantial justice.” Both standards are open-ended, and allow the federal government wide discretion on when to invoke this power.

California Law

California has two statutes that allow for either misdemeanor or felony charges related to an assault of a law enforcement officer. If the law enforcement officer required medical treatment following the altercation, the offense becomes a wobbler, and the prosecutor can file it as either a misdemeanor or felony. A misdemeanor conviction has a potential sentence of up to one year in county jail and/or a $2,000 fine. Thus, incarceration is not mandatory. Felony convictions bring sentences of 16 months to three years in county jail, and/or a $10,000 fine – which gives judges flexibility in imposing punishment, and is less harsh than the mandatory sentences listed in the proposed federal legislation.

Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney

Federal charges call for the services of a federal defense attorney. Even if your case starts in state court, if there is a possibility it could be federally prosecuted, hiring an attorney that handles both will give you the best chance at avoiding harshest consequences. The attorneys at Los Angeles’ Manshoory Law Group, APC have extensive knowledge in both state and federal criminal court needed to get you the best possible results. Attorneys are available 24/7 to take your call. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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