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Nov 19, 2020

Federal Prison vs. State Prison

Committing a crime of any nature could land you in jail or prison.

Jail is the term used to describe the place where people are held while they awaiting trial or sentencing, or where they go if their sentence is for less than one year. Local districts, counties, and governments are typically responsible for jails.

Prison, on the other hand, is an institutional facility that the state or federal government manages. It’s where people go if they commit crimes that warrant longer sentences. While the government runs most of the jails and prisons, privately owned parties run some of them, too.

In the United States, there are nearly 2.3 million people in 110 federal prisons, 1,833 state prisons and 3,134 local jails. In state prisons, violent criminals who committed assault, rape/sexual assault, murder, and manslaughter make up the bulk of the population. In local jails, most people are not convicted for the alleged crimes that got them arrested. In federal prisons and jails, the most common crimes have to do with drugs, public order, immigration, and property.

If you have been charged with a crime, then it’s important to learn about the difference between federal and state prison. And if you’ve been charged with a crime and want to prove your innocence and/or reduce your charges, then you should call up a California criminal lawyer like Silver Law Firm to help you.

All About Federal Prison

The Department of Justice’s Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is responsible for overseeing the federal prisons in the U.S. Federal prison is where someone goes if they break a federal law. If someone commits a violent crime, they will usually end up in state prison. There is no parole allowed for people in a federal prison, and the sentences for criminals are much longer than for criminals in a state prison. Federal prisons are known for providing better facilities than state prisons.

Federal Crimes in the U.S.

A crime becomes a federal crime if it meets the following criteria:

  • A person commits a crime and crosses state lines, such as taking drugs across state lines
  • A person violates immigration and customs laws, such as participating in international human trafficking
  • A crime takes place on federal lands or involves a federal officer, such as burning down a federal building or assaulting a member of the FBI
  • A person who commits a crime in multiple states, like running a pyramid scheme in three different states

Criminals who commit white-collar crimes – or crimes that are nonviolent and involve some sort of financial incentive – will go to federal prisons. White-collar crimes may involve costing investors money, ruining companies, and draining a family’s life savings. Famous white-collar crime cases involve Bernie Madoff, who ran a pyramid scheme and stole billions of dollars from his victims, and Jordan Belfort, aka The Wolf of Wall Street, who committed fraud by running a penny-stock scam. Along with serving sentences in federal prisons, white-collar criminals may have to pay back their victims.

Some examples of white-collar crimes include:

  • Money laundering
  • Embezzlement
  • Securities fraud
  • Corporate fraud

If a criminal act violates state and federal law, it very rarely will be prosecuted on both a state and federal level. Federal officers like DEA and FBI agents investigate federal crimes, while assistant U.S. attorneys prosecute federal crimes. The president appoints the federal judges who preside over the cases for life.

Federal court cases take longer than state court cases to resolve, and federal penalties end up being longer than state penalties for similar crimes. For example, the sentence is likely to be much harsher if you’re selling illegal drugs in multiple states rather than just selling drugs in one state.

If someone commits a federal crime, it’s in their best interest to contact a federal criminal defense lawyer who has experience with similar cases. Otherwise, they may not stand a chance battling their charges and hopefully getting off the hook or taking a plea deal for a lesser charge.

Federal Prisons in California

Among the federal prisons in the U.S. are places like federal prison camps, United States penitentiaries, federal correctional institutions, administrative facilities, and federal correctional complexes.

The federal prisons in California include:

  • United States Penitentiary, Atwater
  • United States Penitentiary, Lompoc
  • United States Penitentiary, Victorville
  • Federal Correctional Institution, Dublin
  • Federal Correctional Institution, Herlong
  • Federal Correctional Institution, Lompoc
  • Federal Correctional Institution, Mendota
  • Federal Correctional Institution, Terminal Island
  • Federal Correctional Institution, Victorville
  • Taft Correctional Institution
  • Metropolitan Correctional Center, San Diego
  • Metropolitan Detention Center, Los Angeles

If you have committed a federal crime in California, you could be sent to one of these federal correctional facilities.

All About State Prison

States are responsible for maintaining state prisons. Usually, they are funded by taxpayer dollars. Some prisoners are allowed privileges like watching TV and working out in the yard, but it all depends on where they specific facility they are housed in.

The state will have minimum and maximum security prisons for criminals depending on the type of crime they committed. If someone committed theft, for example, and no one got hurt or they didn’t threaten anybody, then they may go to a minimum security prison. There, they may have the opportunity to go into rehabilitation so they could be released from prison as soon as possible. On the contrast, if someone committed a violent crime like murder, for example, they would go to a maximum security state prison, which would have strict security measures.

State Crimes in the U.S.

Most crimes will land a person in state prison. These crimes include:

  • Sex crimes
  • Drug offenses
  • Animal abuse and neglect
  • DUI
  • Theft
  • Burglary
  • Arson
  • Robbery
  • Murder

County sheriffs, local police enforcement, and state agents will investigate state crimes, and city district attorneys or state district attorneys will prosecute state crimes. The governor appoints state court judges, who do go up for reelection as opposed to sitting in their positions for life.

If someone commits a state crime in California, then they should contact a California criminal lawyer to help them possibly avoid prison time and/or get their sentence reduced. There are many loopholes when it comes to the law and it’s all about having the knowledge to know which ones to pursue in your criminal case.

State Prisons in California

There are 35 state prisons in California. Some of them include:

  • California State Prison, Sacramento
  • Calipatria State Prison
  • Chuckawalla Valley State Prison
  • Mule Creek State Prison
  • Pleasant Valley State Prison
  • San Quentin State Prison
  • Valley State Prison
  • Wasco State Prison

If you have been charged with a state crime, then you could be sent to one of these prisons or another one on the list of 35. However, with the right California criminal lawyer on your side, you may be able to avoid jail time. While your attorney cannot make any promises, you will have a better chance of achieving a favorable outcome.

What Happens If You’re Charged With a Crime

You’re understandably very worried about possibly having to spend time in federal prison or state prison. But there is hope, especially if the police didn’t arrest you properly or the charges don’t hold up.

The only way to find out if you can avoid going to jail or prison or take a lesser sentence is to call a state or federal criminal defense lawyer. In the meantime, learning about what happens if you’re charged with a crime will help you understand the criminal justice system and what may lie for you ahead.

If you are caught in the act of doing something illegal, or a police officer suspects you are engaging in illegal activity, then you will be arrested. A police report is created, and then the prosecutor determines if you should be let go or charged. The prosecutor can also go to a grand jury and indict you, which means the jury would decide which charges to bring forth. You will not be present during a grand jury proceeding. Grand juries are like test trials, because it shows the prosecutor how the jury will look at the evidence.

A judge will conduct a preliminary hearing to see if there is enough evidence to go on with the case, and the prosecutor will usually file charges within two to three days. When there’s a grand jury involved, there is no preliminary hearing.

Working With a State or Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer

At any time, you can call your California criminal lawyer for help with your case. Remember that you have the right to remain silent during your arrest and after and simply tell police officers that you’re requesting to speak with your lawyer. Even if you don’t have one, many state and federal criminal defense lawyers will have an emergency hotline where you can reach them at any time.

Once you call the lawyer, be prepared to provide details about what happened. The more they know, the better, because then they can possibly come up with a defense for you. For instance, if you got pulled over for a DUI in California, the officer may have instructed you to do a field sobriety test like the walk and turn. That test is notoriously difficult and even sober people may fail it if they have bad balance. This could end up being your defense.

Another possibility is that during your arrest or afterwards, there was some misconduct from the police or the prosecutor. Perhaps the police officer failed to tell you about the consequences of resisting a breathalyzer test following your arrest for a DUI, and you now face harsher consequences because of it.

The average person is not expected to know these things. Only an experienced California criminal lawyer will know them and be able to help you.

How a California Criminal Lawyer Can Help You

A California criminal lawyer can perform many different functions for you. First and foremost, they will attempt to either get you off the hook for your charges or reduce your charges. You may not have to serve as much time in jail, do as many hours of community service, have to go on parole, or pay expensive fines and fees. A lawyer won’t be able to tell you what will happen, but they will work their hardest to get the best outcome possible.

Additionally, a California criminal lawyer will let you know what to expect. Right now, everything seems stressful because you don’t know what’s going to happen. But they can walk you through it step by step and give you potential scenarios so you know how to prepare for it. If you know you’re going to have to go to jail for one year, for example, you could let your family know and put aside savings for when you’re released.

A state or federal criminal defense lawyer is also going to be familiar with the local prosecutors and judges, and perhaps even the local state and federal prisons where you could be sent. They may know how to talk to a certain prosecutor and tell you about what to expect from your stay in prison.

A lawyer will help you gather witness statements and evidence that will support your position. They can sign on and manage investigators and assist you in avoiding future criminal activities and charges.

There is certainly a stigma attached to committing a crime, and a good criminal defense lawyer can make you feel less anxious and alienated. They know that these things happen since they deal with them all the time. You will feel less alone and be more prepared for what’s to come.

Get In Touch With Silver Law

Silver Law is here for you at your most vulnerable time. They are California criminal lawyers with years of experience representing people just like you.

If you’re looking for legal representation, then don’t hesitate to contact Silver Law by calling  (510) 995-0000, filling out our online form, or emailing us at

We’re standing by and ready to help you fight your criminal charges. Contact us today.

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