What makes federal and state crimes different? Not many Americans know the answer to this question, but knowing the difference is vital if you face criminal charges. Whether the state or federal court handles your case significantly impacts which criminal lawyer you should choose for your defense.
Florida criminal defense attorney Ronald S. Chapman has over 20 years of experience defending clients in federal and state courts. Many criminal cases in the U.S. involve state crimes, so many lawyers practice solely in state courts. If a national authority files a criminal charge against you, you’ll need a lawyer who has experience with federal trials to have the best chances of success.
Whether preparing for a criminal case or curious about the law, keep reading to learn what makes state and federal crimes different in the United States.
State vs. Federal Crimes
Crimes like murder, robbery, arson, and theft are the ones you probably hear about the most, and these are all typically state law violations. When someone commits one of these crimes, it’s likely under the state’s jurisdiction (power to make legal decisions).
State laws are much more numerous because state lawmakers must narrow the definitions of legality for certain acts committed within state borders. On the other hand, federal lawmakers must pass laws that consider national interests, meaning the range of federal crimes is much narrower.
Federal crimes might be similar to state crimes but must relate to national issues or happen on U.S. federal property. Examples of federal crimes include:
- Counterfeiting U.S. dollars
- Robbery of a federal bank
- Murder on a military base
- Tax fraud
- Kidnapping across state lines
- Assault of a federal agent or official
- International human trafficking
Cyber crimes can also lead to federal charges when the perpetrator harms individuals in other states. For example, it’s a federal crime if someone in Florida uses the internet to steal the identity of someone who lives in California.
Additionally, crimes committed that exceed certain values in damages or happen across state lines could bring federal charges. Any crime that could bring charges by a federal agency such as the FBI, DEA, or IRS would be a federal crime.
Differences in Procedure
One of the most significant differences between state and federal crimes is who pursues the charges against the suspect. State crimes involve local or state law enforcement and prosecutors. Typically, local or state police make the arrest and gather evidence to present charges. Circuit court judges take the bench through elections and serve six-year terms.
National law enforcement agencies like the FBI, DEA, and ICE make arrests and manage the investigation for federal crimes, and U.S. attorneys handle the prosecution. The President of the United States nominates judges to the federal courts of Florida, and the U.S. Senate confirms the selections.
The courts that handle federal and state crimes are entirely separate. A criminal defense strategy for a federal court case will differ from a case tried in state courts. Choose a criminal defense lawyer with the right experience for your case.
Differences in Punishment
Federal sentencing guidelines advise specific punishments for each offense, and most federal judges follow them. Sentencing for federal crimes is generally much harsher than for state crimes. For example, drug felony charges receive severe penalties in federal courts, but the minimum sentencing might be a lot lower or nonexistent in some states.
If the court convicts someone of a federal offense, they must serve their jail time in a federal prison rather than a state or county jail.
What is Double Jeopardy?
Double jeopardy is a clause that prevents courts from charging someone with the same crime twice. However, since state and federal laws are separate, a defendant could receive a conviction from both courts. In some cases, the defendant might receive no charges from a state court but still receive federal charges for an offense.
Certain states like New York have laws preventing the state from charging someone for a crime they already face charges for in a federal court. A criminal attorney with a background in federal and state cases can help you better understand your charges and confidently represent you in either court.
Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Florida
Attorney Ronald Chapman is a seasoned criminal defense attorney with decades of experience in federal and state courts in Florida. Mr. Chapman has experience in hundreds of jury and non-jury trials, so you can trust him to defend your rights in court if necessary. Our skilled legal team can handle cases for criminal offenses such as arson, theft, money laundering, fraud, and more.
A criminal record can drastically change your life, making it harder to get jobs, take out loans, or rent a home. Contact Ronald S. Chapman, P.A. at 561-832-4348 or fill out our online form to meet with a criminal defense lawyer you can believe in.
Copyright © 2022. Ronald S. Chapman, P.A. All rights reserved.
The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country, or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.
Ronald S. Chapman, P.A.
400 Clematis St. Suite 206
West Palm Beach, FL 33401