Federal Citations

Police sirenIt is a common misconception that federal crimes only include serious complex cases such as money laundering, public corruption, drug trafficking and conspiracy.  While these are certainly common types of federal cases there are far more petty offenses and misdemeanor offenses circulating through the United States District Courts.  These criminal or traffic violations are typically charged by way of citations that go through one national office called the Central Violations Bureau.  The CVB is responsible for processing all petty offenses committed on federal property, and because the federal government maintains numerous institutions in Maryland, the courts in Greenbelt and Baltimore deal with hundreds of these cases each year.

A federal citation case starts with an officer of one of the many federal police agencies issuing a ticket to the defendant.  These departments include the Department of Veteran Affairs Police, the NSA Police and the Fort Meade Police Services Division.  That ticket then goes to the CVB and ultimately to the clerk of the district court in the jurisdiction where the offense took place.  The process could take a while, so if you receive a federal citation do not worry if you don’t get a court date right away.  Even if you retain a lawyer he or she may not be able to find the case in the Pacer system for a few weeks, and this is completely normal.  Once the clerk’s office at the specific district court receives the citation they will assign a case number and set a court date.  The first court date will be an initial appearance that you must attend unless you hire an attorney that waives the initial appearance.

Cases at the Greenbelt and Baltimore City courthouses are typically set for trial depending on where the offense occurred.  For example the courts will have a docket for VA cases, Walter Reed cases and Fort Meade cases and there is typically one or two prosecutors that handle the entire docket.  Other dockets may include violations at the Social Security Administration and traffic citations occurring on the BW Parkway, Clara Barton Parkway and other federal highways patrolled by the Maryland-National Capital Park Police.  If you have been charged with a petty offense your case may be set on the same day as minor cases such as parking tickets, but these cases will typically resolve before court starts.  Jailable offenses such as petty theft, possession of a handgun or drug possession will be heard in front of a United States Magistrate Judge.  The maximum penalty for a large number of petty offenses is six months in jail, although do not think that just because it is a federal case you will automatically have to serve a jail sentence.  The judges and prosecutors are strict but fair in federal court, and if you present an adequate defense or your case will likely be resolved in a way similar to state courts.

Federal police officers have the ability to charge a defendant with any offense that falls under Maryland state law.  In this instance the elements of the offense and the maximum penalty would be the same as under state law.  For example, possession of a handgun on federal property could result in a citation for the same wear, transport, carry law that regular state cops use.  If you have received a citation on federal property contact Benjamin Herbst for a free consultation about how to best handle your case.  Benjamin has experience representing clients in both the Greenbelt and Baltimore federal courts, and may be able to have your case dismissed.
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