There’s an old saying: “Well you don’t have to make a federal case out of it!” Generally speaking, the phrase means you don’t have to make a big deal about something. And as the saying implies, in criminal cases involving drugs, a case in federal court generally means a more severe punishment is possible than a case in a state court.

Most criminal matters that occur in North Carolina, from burglary to murder to sexual assault, are handled by local police and prosecuted in state courts by district attorneys. Other offenses which violate federal laws are tried in federal court, where the prosecutors are called U.S. attorneys. Examples of cases that can be tried in federal court include securities fraud, tax fraud, counterfeiting, child pornography, and even damage to mailboxes.

Some crimes are prosecuted in federal court simply based on where they occur. For example, the vast majority of drug possession cases nationwide are handled in state courts. But if the arrest occurred on federal property (such as a national park), it would be handled in federal court, even if the case was relatively minor. In other cases, the circumstances of the crime may allow federal authorities to take over the case from state officials. One example would be when an investigation reveals criminal activity across state lines.

As mentioned above, federal crimes are often punished more severely than comparable state crimes, and one reason is mandatory minimum laws, which call for harsh sentences, particularly when guns are used as part of drug crimes. For example, the federal mandatory minimum sentence for trafficking in cocaine (in amounts over 500 grams) is 5 years in prison. If a firearm was involved, it adds a mandatory 5 years. If the gun is discharged (fired), 10 years is added. If the gun in question has a silencer, 30 years is added.

As you can see, these federal mandatory minimum laws quickly ratchet up the sentence that the judge must impose if the defendant is found guilty. Thus it is extremely important for anyone accused of a drug-related crime-or even someone who is merely under investigation-to have an experienced criminal defense attorney to ensure their legal rights are vigorously defended.

State v. B.S.: Not Guilty Verdict in First Degree Murder Case.

In this case, our client was charged with First Degree Murder in connection with a “drive-by” shooting that occurred in Charlotte, NC. The State’s evidence included GPS ankle monitoring data linking our client was at the scene of the crime and evidence that our client confessed to an inmate while in jail. Nonetheless, we convinced a jury to unanimously find our client Not Guilty. He was released from jail the same day.

State v. S.G.: First Degree Murder Charge Dismissed.

Our client was charged with First Degree for the shooting death related to alleged breaking and entering. The State’s evidence included a co-defendant alleging that our client was the shooter. After conducting a thorough investigation with the use of a private investigator, we persuaded the State to dismiss entirely the case against our client.

State v. B.D.: First Degree Murder Charged Dismissed.

After conducting an investigation and communicating with the prosecutor about the facts and circumstances indicating that our client acted in self-defense, the case was dismissed and deemed a justifiable homicide.

State v. I.R.: Reduction from First Degree Murder to Involuntary Manslaughter and Concealment of Death..

Our client was charged with the First Degree Murder of a young lady by drug overdose. After investigating the decedent’s background and hiring a preeminent expert toxicologist to fight the State’s theory of death, we were able to negotiate this case down from Life in prison to 5 years in prison, with credit for time served.

State v. J.G.: .

Our client was charged with First Degree Murder related to a “drug deal gone bad.” After engaging the services of a private investigator and noting issues with the State’s case, we were able to negotiate a plea for our client that avoided a Life sentence and required him to serve only 12 years.