How are State Criminal Charges and Federal Criminal Charges Different?

When it comes to crime, there are many distinctions that differentiate one criminal act from another. One distinction is the type of crime, such as theft or murder, but another distinction is whether it is a state or federal crime. Most people are more familiar with state crimes, which is understandable since they are more frequent and tend to garner a lot of attention. However, federal crimes can be quite newsworthy in their own right since they tend to be quite large in scale.

Many people probably do not know the difference between state and federal crimes, especially since there are situations where a crime can fall into both categories. The differences are distinct but they are fairly easy to understand even to the layperson. But in order to get a better understanding of either type of criminal charge, it is best to consult with an expert like Orlando criminal defense attorney Parikh. He can not only help explain the differences between state and federal criminal charges, he can also help you if you get involved in either one.

State and Federal Criminal Charges Explained

State law and the crimes that violate state laws will be familiar to everyone as they include offenses like robbery, manslaughter and murder, rape, arson, burglary, and theft. That means the state has the power to decide the outcome of any case involving these crimes. While state lawmakers can pass any type of law outlawing any type of crime, as long as the decision is not unconstitutional, federal lawmakers have less leeway when passing laws. That is because they can only pass laws that affect the national or federal interest.

That means the federal government has jurisdiction over crimes that include the following elements:

  • The crime takes place on federal land. Federal land includes reservations, national parks, and military bases, so crimes that occur in these locations are federal crimes.
  • The crime is against a federal officer. Federal officers include members of the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigations), ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms) agents, and the Coast Guard, so any offense directed towards them counts as a federal crime.
  • It is a crime where the defendant crosses state lines. Normally a state has jurisdiction over crimes that occur within its borders, but when the suspect crosses state lines, the federal government takes over.
  • There is an incident where criminality crosses state lines, such as a mail, wire, or internet fraud scheme.
  • The crime involves customs and immigration violations. This includes crimes like human trafficking, the importing of child pornography, terrorism related activities, and import/export violations.

Crimes like counterfeiting and tax fraud also fall under federal jurisdiction, but the act of robbing a bank is both a state and federal crime.

State and Federal Crime Procedures

In addition to differences in the nature of state and federal crimes, there are also differences in the way that they are handled. State crimes are investigated by the local police, county sheriffs, or state agents, and they are prosecuted by city attorneys or state district attorneys. Federal crimes are investigated by government agents such as those in the FBI, DEA, or ATF, and they are prosecuted by assistant US attorneys. Note that if a criminal act violates both state and local law, then it can be tried in both state and federal courts. When it comes to punishment, federal crimes tend to have longer and harsher sentences than state crimes and the criminals will be sent to federal prison rather than state prison.

Contact an Attorney When You are Charged with Any Type of Crime

You will need an attorney to help you no matter what kind of crime you have been charged with, but if you were charged with a federal crime, then you will need an attorney who has experience in the federal court system. The reason is that federal courts have different rules than state courts and the attorney needs to be able to navigate the federal court system if they are going to provide the best representation for their clients. So if you are charged with a federal crime, make sure that you ask any prospective attorneys if they have experience in federal court.

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