Federal Misdemeanors

Felonies are the most serious crimes in the United States. Felonies carry over a year in prison. Misdemeanor crimes are less serious. Misdemeanors are punished by a year or less.

Most criminal prosecutions, both felony and misdemeanor, are a matter of state law and filed in state court. Federal misdemeanors are a limited exception to this general rule. Most often federal misdemeanor charges originate when a crime is charged on a federal enclave. Federal misdemeanor charges can also be filed to enforce federal legislation such as fish and game laws. South Mississippi has several federal enclaves or domains. These federal lands include Keesler Air Force Base and Keesler Medical Center in Biloxi, Naval Construction Battalion Center Gulfport (Seabee Base), and Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System (Biloxi VA) and Stennis Space Center. Mississippi’s Desoto National Forest lies in parts of several Mississippi counties including Perry, Wayne, Harrison, Forrest, Stone, Greene, Jones, Jackson, George and Pearl River. Another popular federal land is the Gulf Islands National Seashore located in Jackson and Harrison County, Mississippi. The Gulf Islands National Seashore is a National Park and compromises the seashore in Jackson County and these Mississippi Gulf Coast Barrier Islands: Petit Bois, Sand, Horn, Ship and part of Cat Island. National Park Service rangers patrol those areas and enforce the laws. Federal misdemeanor jurisdiction also extends to protected species of fish and game such as gopher turtles, pelicans, certain sharks and migratory birds.

For example, in a recent case, a federal wildlife agent boarded a fishing vessel and found undersized grouper, a federal misdemeanor. When the vessel’s captain threw the undersized fish overboard, he was charged with felony destruction of evidence under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and convicted of the felony. Eight years later, the United States Supreme Court reversed the conviction.

The rules governing offenses on federal land are a maze of laws and regulations. In order to streamline federal law enforcement, congress passed the Federal Assimilative Crimes Act (ACA) which incorporates the law of the surrounding state to federal lands. The ACA is widely applied in federal misdemeanor court. Under the ACA, Mississippi law is sometimes applied to federal lands but the cases are heard in federal court. Mississippi substantive law provides the elements of the charge but federal courts apply federal criminal procedure and federal sentencing provisions upon conviction. As you can imagine, it can get complicated.

For example, if a person is charged with DUI on Keesler or the Gulfport Seabee Base, Mississippi law will apply to the charge, which will be filed in federal court. Similarly, possession of marijuana in the Desoto National Forest will be charged using Mississippi law but the misdemeanor charge will be filed in federal district court. Shoplifting on a base exchange (BX) will be charged as a federal crime applying Mississippi law and federal procedure. A federal class A misdemeanor carries up to 1 year jail time. Federal class B misdemeanors carry up to 6 months in jail. A federal class C misdemeanor carries up to 30 days in jail. A federal infraction carries up to 5 days in jail.

Many federal misdemeanors include petty offenses, consisting of class B and class C Misdemeanors and infractions. When a person is charged with a federal petty offense, or a traffic ticket, he is usually given a citation called a “Violation Report” that resembles a traffic ticket. If appearance is mandatory, the accused must appear in court. If appearance is optional, the defendant can mail in a payment. Federal misdemeanors are filed and cleared through the Central Violations Bureau (CVB). CVB contact information will be listed on the violation report.

In recent years we see more and more charges filed by the National Park Service on Ship Island. Gulfport defense lawyer Rufus Alldredge has defended federal misdemeanors. In a recent case, a group was swimming nude on Ship Island in an area where this has been done for generations. NPS rangers used high powered binoculars and four wheelers to make an arrest for obscenity even though no one else was present. In court the case was favorably resolved. NPS rangers also enforce the prohibition on glass bottles at Ship Island. Ship Island jurisdiction extends out to anchored boats and swimmers so that standing waist deep in water with a glass bottle can land you in federal misdemeanor court.

A federal misdemeanor or petty conviction can have a ripple effect on a person’s life. Certain federal misdemeanors can limit eligibility for professional licenses, child custody, student loans or employment.

Contact Rufus Alldredge Now

If you received a federal violation notice or you were arrested, contact us. We are located six blocks from the Dan M. Russell, Jr. federal courthouse in Gulfport, Mississippi, the United States Attorney and federal probation. The Law Office of Rufus Alldredge is located at 1921 22nd Avenue, Gulfport, Mississippi. Our telephone number is 228.863.0123.