In federal court, judges must consider the “advisory guidelines" in fashioning an appropriate sentence. The guidelines are complicated and require in-depth knowledge to correctly apply the calculations. After the facts of the case are applied to the law, a guideline range is reached.
Federal Cases include a multitude of alleged crimes, but the general categories are:
Drugs: In federal court, drug charges are mostly limited to “trafficking" type crimes – manufacture, growing, distribution, or possession with the intent to distribute, and conspiracy to commit any of these crimes.
Child pornography/enticement: Federal jurisdiction can be had on these type of crimes if a computer, recorder, camera, film, disks, etc., was involved. As it is almost impossible for possession of child pornography to not involve one of these mediums, Federal jurisdiction is almost always possible if the US Attorney chooses to prosecute these crimes.
Fraud: In federal court, fraud centers in large part on the use of a bank, wire or the mail. Meaning, if any of these mediums was “used,” then a case may have federal jurisdiction. As it is essentially impossible to conduct business without the use of a bank, the mail or wire (phone, fax, computer, etc), most cases will fall under federal jurisdiction if the US Attorney chooses. Remember that criminal prosecutions can evolve from investigations by federal agencies – Department of Labor, EPA, IRS, Immigration, Medicaid/Medicare and Social Security. These investigations can, and frequently do, escalate to criminal prosecutions.
Guns: Federal charges are typically directed at firearm possession by “prohibited individuals." Prohibited persons include felons, persons subject to orders of protection, persons with domestic violence convictions (including misdemeanors), unlawful users of drugs and the mentally incompetent. Gun related charges are also filed when the prosecutor alleges the use of a firearm in relation to a drug crime or a crime of violence.
Obstruction: Lying to a federal agent, witness tampering, perjury, etc., are all types of federal obstruction of justice crimes. It is easy to misspeak to law enforcement. Agents rarely record interviews with their “subjects." When you speak with a federal agent, your statements could be misinterpreted and the agent could conclude you have lied to her. If they do, that constitutes a federal crime, a felony. ALWAYS REMEMBER, YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO CONSULT WITH AN ATTORNEY BEFORE SPEAKING WITH AUTHORITIES.
Immigration: These cases generally target employers alleged to illegally hire or harbor illegal aliens or target the immigrant himself for illegal entry or reentry to the United States.