Virginia and Washington D.C. Federal Crimes

Why is my misdemeanor charge in federal court instead of at my local courthouse?

In some cases, individuals charged with misdemeanors find themselves in federal court facing a U.S. attorney rather than at the local courthouse with a city or county prosecutor.  Misdemeanors are handled in federal court when a crime or alleged crime occurs on federal property.  For example, if you are charged with a DUI while you were on property at a military base in Northern Virginia, you will be charged in the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria.

Here in Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. there are numerous federal properties including, military bases such as Fort Belvoir and Fort Myer, federal roads such as the George Washington Memorial Parkway, National Parks and Monuments, and other places such as Arlington National Cemetery, the CIA, and the Pentagon.  So, misdemeanors in the EDVA and the D.C. District Court are not uncommon.

When a crime occurs on federal property federal charges can result either directly under an applicable federal law, or under a state statute pursuant to the Assimilative Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C. § 13.  The Assimilative Crimes Act states that “state law applicable to conduct occurring on lands reserved or acquired by the federal government as provided in 18 U.S.C. § 7(3), when the act or omission is not made punishable by an enactment of Congress.”   What this means for practical purposes is that one can be charged with violating a state statute even when they are on federal property.

A person who is caught drinking and driving on the GW Parkway could be charged either under the federal DUI law, 32 CFR § 234.17, or, thanks to the Assimilative Crimes Act, under Virginia’s DUI law, Va. Code 18.266.  Even when the Assimilative Crimes Act is used to charge under a state statute, the government is not enforcing state law but is enforcing the federal law by incorporating or by applying the state law to the offense.  In other respects, federal law and procedures apply, including penalties.

What is the penalty for federal misdemeanors?

Federal misdemeanors are categorized into three classes depending upon the potential sentence they carry:

  • Class A misdemeanors, like Virginia state Class 1 misdemeanors, are subject to up to a year in jail.
  • Class B misdemeanors are punishable by up to six months imprisonment
  • Class C misdemeanors are punishable by up to 30 days imprisonment

If imprisonment of five days or less its authorized, the offense qualifies as an infraction.  18 U.S.C.A. § 3559.

What kind of attorney do I need if I am charged with a federal misdemeanor?

If you are charged with a federal misdemeanor it is best to hire an attorney who has experience in federal court.  These cases are prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys and are on a faster timeline than state courts. If you’re charged with a federal misdemeanor, it is important that you speak to an attorney right away.  If you have been charged with a crime in EDVA or the DC District Court, call our office for a free consultation.

Jurisdictions We Serve

Alexandria City Virginia Courthouse 

520 King Street, Alexandria, VA

Arlington County Virginia Courthouse

1425 North Courthouse Rd, Arlington, VA

District of Columbia Superior Court

500 Indiana Ave NW, Washington D.C.

Eastern District of Virginia District Court

401 Courthouse Sq, Alexandria, VA

Fairfax County Virginia Courthouse

4110 Chain Bridge Rd, Fairfax, VA

Loudoun County Virginia Courthouse

18 E Market St, Leesburg, VA

Prince William County Virginia Courthouse

9311 Lee Ave, Manassas, VA

Many Other Virginia Counties

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