Federal Misdemeanors


Why is my misdemeanor in federal court?

In this area, federal property is everywhere. With many military bases such as Fort Belvoir, Fort Myer, or Quantico, among others; federal roads such as the George Washington Memorial Parkway; and other sites such as Arlington National Cemetery, the CIA, and the Pentagon; federal property is hard to avoid. Federal misdemeanors occur when a crime is either a federal offense itself, or it is a state misdemeanor committed on federal property. Federal misdemeanors are charged either by the Code of Federal Regulations, which means it is a substantive federal crime, or through 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.” 

Some common federal misdemeanors include:

  • Speeding on the George Washington Memorial Parkway
  • Reckless Driving on the GW Parkway
  • Running a stop sign at the Pentagon
  • Running a red light on Fort Belvoir
  • DUI on Pentagon or GW Parkway
  • Possession of marijuana on the Daingerfield island
  • Possession of marijuana on the Pentagon
  • Carrying a weapon on the Pentagon
  • Carrying a weapon on a military base

Almost all federal misdemeanor offenses are handled by United States Magistrate Judges who are authorized by statute to impose sentences up to one year imprisonment. Class A misdemeanors in federal court are subject to the same maximum 12 months in jail, as Virginia state Class 1 misdemeanors. The cases are prosecuted either by Assistant United States Attorneys, or Special Assistant United States Attorneys. The Special Assistant United States Attorneys are attorneys who work for the federal government and are usually temporarily detailed to the United States Attorneys office. For misdemeanors that occur on the military bases, often a Judge Advocate General (JAG) attorney will represent the government in the U.S. District Court as a Special Assistant United States Attorney.

What are the penalties for a misdemeanor in Federal court?

Penalties for the same offense may be different in federal versus state court. For example, in Virginia state court DUI or DWI offenses may carry mandatory minimum jail sentences. In federal court, however, these mandatory minimums may be imposed differently than through straight incarceration. A U.S. District Magistrate Judge has discretion to sentence a defendant to home confinement rather than incarceration on a mandatory minimum DUI offense. Additionally, the while the State of Virginia has the authority to suspend a Virginia driver's license, the federal Government does not. Therefore, rather that a “restricted license,” a defendant may find himself subject to “restricted driving privileges” that are conditions of probation. Of course, the federal court is free to notify the Virginia DMV of the conviction, and the Virginia DMV may take its own action, but the federal court itself, cannot suspend or restrict a Virginia driver's license. Federal probation programs utilize ASAP classes and drug treatment similar to Virginia probation offices. Importantly, federal courts do not typically align with state courts for deferred dispositions. Deferred disposition options that may be available to a defendant in a state court may not be available in a federal court and vice versa.

Federal misdemeanor offenses are categorized by “class:”

  • Class A misdemeanors are punishable by up to 12 months imprisonment
  • Class B misdemeanors are punishable by up to six months imprisonment
  • Class C misdemeanors are punishable by up to 30 days imprisonment
  • Five days imprisonment or less, or if no imprisonment is authorized, qualifies as an infraction

If you are charged with a federal misdemeanor offense, you want an attorney with federal experience, who is familiar with the differences between federal and state court. An attorney who typically handles only state misdemeanors may not be aware of other options presented in United States District Court. Contact the experienced attorneys at Carmichael Ellis & Brock, PLLC for your initial free consultation to see what options you may have available on your federal misdemeanor case.

What Happens Now?

If you are incarcerated, we will contact you in the jail where you are held, and we will remain in contact throughout the pendency of your case. If you are able to come in to the office, we will ask you to come meet in person as soon as possible. Our approach to defense is zealous, organized, and fast-paced, and we look forward to helping you.


Carmichael Ellis & Brock, PLLC is committed to representing you in criminal, military, security clearance, medical malpractice, personal injury, and product liability cases.