There have been several dramatic shifts taking place in federal government agencies since President Trump took office. Leaders overseeing everything from immigration and education to defense and the environment have been appointed and announced new priorities.
The same can now be said for the Department of Justice. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently announced that he plans to ramp up federal prosecutions for violent crime. Recent statistics from the Pew Research Center suggest that this would mark a shift in prosecution trends reported over the last several years.
So, what does this mean for people here in Florida?
It means that certain charges that were previously more likely to be filed at the state level will now be a higher priority for federal prosecutors. In accordance with Sessions' announcement, this includes violent crimes such as:
- Drug trafficking
- Gang violence
- Gun crimes
Historically, these offenses have been more commonly charged at the state level while offenses like drug crimes, theft and immigration violations are more commonly prosecuted by the federal government.
The shift in prosecutorial priorities is not unusual, but it may be cause for concern among people accused of these crimes. Instead of facing state charges and penalties, they can be facing more severe federal charges and penalties in the near future.
Again, these efforts reflect a shift in prosecution trends. Over the past five years, federal criminal prosecutions have declined. In fact, last year they were at the lowest level in about 20 years.
It will certainly be interesting to see if Sessions' plan becomes reality in the coming years, and we will continue to examine changes in how and when federal charges are pursued.
One thing that remains the same is the fact that federal prosecutors have enormous resources at their disposal, and people facing federal charges are often -- and understandably -- intimidated and scared. However, if you are charged with a federal offense, you do not have to face the federal government alone. You can defend yourself and level the playing field by working with an attorney experienced in defending against federal charges.