Knoxville State And Federal Criminal Defense Attorney


Helping Clients Charged with Crimes in Both State and Federal Court

When you have been charged with a crime, your overwhelming concern is how your criminal charges will impact your future. Most people don’t understand or appreciate the difference between state and federal criminal charges and often aren’t sure whether they have been charged with a federal or state crime. However, the distinction between state and federal charges is very important – it will shape how your case proceeds, the options available to you, and the potential penalties you are facing.

Criminal defense attorney John Barnes and former federal prosecutor Ed Holt work with people who have been charged with both state and federal crimes. Their extensive knowledge of both the state and federal court systems allows them to provide excellent legal representation to their clients in almost any case. They can help you understand your charges, lay out your options, and fight for your rights to ensure a fair outcome. If you’ve been charged with a crime, contact Barnes Law to see how we can help – call us at 865-805-5703 or contact us online.

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State Crimes vs. Federal Crimes

Generally speaking, most crimes are violations of state law, and therefore charges are filed in state court. As a result, the vast majority of criminal cases are handled in the state court system. Here are some examples of crimes that are typically state crimes:

  • Assault and battery
  • Traffic violations
  • Theft
  • Homicide
  • Drug possession charges
  • Rape

The federal courts, on the other hand, handle cases that involve crimes under federal law. That said, the federal courts also have jurisdiction over crimes that occurred in two or more states. Here are some examples of common federal crimes:

  • Various types of fraud: insurance fraud, mail and wire fraud
  • Immigration crimes
  • Drug trafficking
  • Human trafficking
  • Bank robbery

It’s important to note that many “white collar” crimes involve violations of federal law.

It is possible to be charged with both federal and state crimes related to a single incident. As a result, it is critical to understand the difference between the charges as the law that applies could be very different. It’s also important to note that you could be acquitted in state court and still face charges for the same crime in federal court.


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Many people are surprised to learn that state criminal cases and federal criminal cases are handled very differently. It helps to recognize that they are actually two separate and independent court systems, even though there is a fair amount of overlap between state and federal law. As a result, where your charges are filed can determine how your case proceeds. Here are some of the ways that state court and federal court procedures can differ:

    • Legal terminology
    • When and how motions are filed
    • What kind of motions can be filed
    • What kind of evidence can be presented and how it is presented
    • How long you have to collect and review the evidence in your case
    • How long it will take for your case to go to trial

Understanding the law is important, but being able to navigate the court’s rules and procedures is critical to success. You may have an ironclad defense or strong evidence supporting an acquittal, but you need to understand how to get before the judge or jury in order to make your defense. Procedural errors can lose your case and result in a conviction.


In the event that you are convicted or chose to accept a plea agreement, it’s important to understand the difference in sentencing between state and federal crimes.

Sentencing for federal crimes uses the federal sentencing guidelines. These guidelines apply to all felony charges as well as serious misdemeanors. Your sentence is then determined by a sentencing table, which primarily uses two factors to determine your sentence:

  1. The conduct associated with the crime; and
  2. The defendant’s criminal history.

Another key component for sentencing purposes is the offense level, which is based on the conduct associated with the alleged crime. There are 43 different offense levels. There are also factors that can increase or decrease your sentence, or justify a departure from the sentencing guidelines. All together, these components, together with the table, creates an incredibly complex system for determining your sentence.

Criminal sentencing in Tennessee is comparatively straightforward. Felonies are categorized as either class A, B, C, D or E felonies. Each felony has its own range of potential prison sentences. Misdemeanors are categorized as class A, B, or C misdemeanors and are punishable by jail sentences of up to 11 months and 29 days. That said, you still need to know what factors can help you receive a fair sentence.

In addition to prison time, both state and federal crimes can subject you to heavy fines. While staying out of prison is your first priority, these fines can also be a tremendous burden, and so it’s important to understand the potential fines for whatever charges you are facing.

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Whether you are charged with a federal or state crime, or possibly charged with both, you don’t have to face these charges alone. An attorney experienced with both federal and state criminal defense can help you navigate the court system and protect your rights. Without a criminal defense attorney, you are at a severe disadvantage. Prosecutors want a conviction and are not obligated to act in your best interests. Without an attorney, the prosecutors will take full advantage of inexperience and lack of knowledge to make sure you are convicted.

Knoxville criminal defense attorneys John Barnes and Ed Holt will work with you every step of the way to protect your future. Aggressive and dedicated, we prepare your case for trial from the very first meeting. We don’t counsel our clients to accept a plea bargain unless we are confident that it is your best possible option. We work closely with you to shape our defense strategy to ensure you are completely comfortable with your case and understand your options. If you need an experienced criminal defense attorney who will fight for your future, contact Barnes Law today – 865-805-5703 or contact us online.

Client Testimonials

"John is amazing not only did he get the outcome he promised he did it in a shorter time than he originally said. He went above and beyond in returning my emails and phone calls. John and staff truly cared about me as a person. I highly recommend John Barnes."

Coach M.

"I would highly recommend Mr. Barnes to everyone & I would definitely contact Mr. Barnes if I or anyone in my family should ever need an attorney again:) They were all very professional, friendly & treated our case with importance:) Mr.Barnes got my son’s DUI dropped to reckless driving so I would definitely recommend him to everyone!!!!!!!"

Alicia U.

"Mr. Barnes and his staff are amazing. I can’t imagine anyone doing a better job with my case. At no point in the long process was I disappointed in any way with how things were handled."

Scott C.