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Federal vs State Charges

Federal vs State Charges

If you or someone you know is facing a criminal charge, it is important to recognize the distinction between federal vs state charges. Certain offenses are managed by local law enforcement, whereas others may be monitored by federal agencies. 

Keep reading to learn the differences between state and federal crimes in order for you to understand and know your rights. If you are seeking legal advice and guidance, our skilled and experienced criminal defense lawyers in Greenville can help you understand what charges you are facing and whether these crimes will be conducted through a state or federal criminal investigation. 

Reach out to our top knotch criminal defense attorney, Adam Touma, today for a free consultation!

What Constitutes A Federal Crime?

A federal crime is an offense that violates a law enacted by the United States Congress. Federal crimes are investigated and prosecuted by federal law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, DEA, and ICE. Examples of federal crimes include drug trafficking, tax fraud, credit card fraud, internet crimes, money laundering, tax evasion, counterfeiting, cybercrime, terrorism, and immigration violations. 

Federal charges can be brought against individuals who commit crimes on federal land, on federal property, in national parks, on Native American reservations, or on a military base. A crime is taken into the hands of federal law if the criminal conduct takes place in two or more different states. For example, if a kidnapped victim crosses several state borders, the case will be dealt with at the federal level. 

"federal law" on a desk with a gavel, book, and notepad.

Furthermore, federal crimes are typically more serious than state crimes because they are prosecuted by the federal government. This means that the penalties for federal crimes tend to be harsher and more severe than those for state crimes. It's advised to speak with a knowledgeable Greenville federal criminal defense attorney today about your case!

Understanding Federal vs State Charges

When it comes to criminal charges, there are two different types of jurisdictions that can bring a case against an individual: federal and state. Understanding the differences between federal and state charges is important for anyone facing criminal prosecution.

Federal crimes

Federal charges are brought by the federal government and involve violations of federal laws. These crimes are prosecuted by the United States Department of Justice in federal courts. In a federal crime, there are three levels in the court: the District Court, the Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court.

Federal crimes can be both misdemeanors or felonies. Some of the most common types of crimes that are prosecuted at the federal level include arson, bank robbery, child pornography, and counterfeiting. If you are interested in reading an extensive list of federal crimes, see USC Title 18

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If you have been charged with a federal crime, your trial proceedings will take place in front of a federal judge. Federal judges are chosen by the United States president. Federal prosecutors take federal offenses very seriously and often seek maximum sentences for those convicted of such crimes. Federal law enforcement agencies have dedicated resources to investigate and prosecute these types of criminal activity, so it is important to understand your rights.

State Crimes

State charges are criminal offenses that are prosecuted by the state government and, just like federal offenses, state charges can include both felonies and misdemeanors, and they may be punishable by fines or imprisonment. Common state crimes include traffic violations, aggravated assault, contract breach, robbery, burglary, theft, rape, and arson. Depending on the type of crime, the jail sentencing can vary. 

Can a Crime Be Charged in both Federal and State Court? 

There is no rule that prevents a criminal offense from being prosecuted in both federal and state courts if it breaks both federal and state laws. In certain cases, an individual might face prosecution from both federal and state courts simultaneously; yet, typically it will be handled in just one of the courts. 

If a crime is prosecuted by both federal and state governments, this is known as dual sovereignty. The decision to charge a crime in either state or federal court depends on the type of crime committed and the jurisdiction of each court. In addition, the federal government may choose to prosecute a crime if it believes that the state court system is not adequately addressing the issue.

What Makes Federal Charges More Severe Than State Charges?

Federal charges are more severe than state charges because they are prosecuted by the federal government, which has more resources and power than a state government.

Adam Touma, Greenville SC criminal defense attorney

Federal prosecutors have access to a larger pool of evidence and witnesses, as well as the ability to seek harsher sentences. Additionally, federal laws tend to be more stringent than state laws, meaning that punishments for breaking them can be more severe. Typically, you will have longer jail sentences and more fines for federal offenses.

Depending on the type of crime, the penalties for federal and state charges can vary significantly. For example, federal drug crimes carry lengthy mandatory minimum sentences, meaning that even if a person is convicted of a minor offense, they could still face a significant amount of jail time. These charges are typically brought by the federal government, as opposed to state or local authorities. 

If you are facing federal charges, it is important to get immediate counsel from an experienced and skilled attorney to help defend you in court. 

How Do Federal Courts Differ From State Courts?

Federal courts and state courts differ in many ways. Federal courts are established by the United States Constitution and have jurisdiction over cases involving federal law, such as those involving violations of the U.S. Constitution, federal statutes, or treaties. State courts, on the other hand, are established by state constitutions and have jurisdiction over cases involving state law.

One of the most significant differences between federal and state charges is the severity of the punishments associated with them. As mentioned before, federal charges are typically more serious than state charges, as they carry harsher penalties such as longer prison sentences and larger fines. Additionally, federal crimes often involve interstate commerce or other activities that cross state lines, whereas state crimes are usually limited to a single jurisdiction.

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Federal prosecutors have a distinct advantage over state prosecutors when it comes to prosecuting criminal cases. This is because federal prosecutors have access to greater resources than state prosecutors, including more experienced attorneys, larger budgets, and access to specialized investigative agencies such as the FBI. 

Federal vs. State Enforcement & Penalties

When it comes to criminal law, the federal government and state governments have different enforcement and penalties for violations. Federal laws are enforced by federal agencies such as the FBI, DEA, ATF, and IRS. These laws generally involve interstate commerce, national security, and other matters of national importance.

State laws are enforced by local police departments or state-level agencies such as the State Highway Patrol. These laws are typically related to public safety, health, and welfare. Examples of state laws include traffic regulations, criminal offenses, and civil matters such as contracts and family law.

State vs. Federal Prison 

The prospect of going to jail or prison is intimidating, but gaining knowledge of the various kinds of correctional establishments could be beneficial if you are facing criminal charges.

The main distinction between state and federal prisons lies in who operates the facility. The national government runs federal prisons and the state prisons are managed by the state. Generally, federal prisons are more secure and less populated than state prisons. The prisoners in federal prisons are less dangerous and the length of sentence times is less. 

outside a state courthouse

If you have committed a white-collar crime, you will most likely be sent to federal prison. White-collar crimes typically are nonviolent, including mortgage fraud, money laundering, and public corruption. State prisons tend to contain a higher proportion of violent offenders than federal prisons. That is because certain offenses, such as rape, mayhem, bank robbery, and murder are punishable by imprisonment under state law.

Call Touma Law Group Today!

If you are facing federal or state charges, it is important to have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. At Touma Law Group, we understand the complexities of the criminal justice system and are dedicated to providing our clients with the best possible legal representation. Call (864) 618-2323 today for an appointment to discuss the criminal court process, ask questions, and get legal advice from a criminal defense lawyer.

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