Finding yourself charged with a crime can be a terrifying and confusing experience, especially if you don’t understand what you are being charged with. Broadly, there are two levels of charges a person may face: federal or state charges. Learning everything there is to know about the difference between the two can help a person understand how to build their defensive case.
While it can be challenging to understand the difference between a federal and state crime, the best way to go about it is to break down the definitions of each:
Federal crimes are those which have to do with stakes at the federal or national level, which means there are fewer federal crimes than state crimes. However, broadly speaking, there are a number of categories in which a federal crime may apply:
- A crime that takes place on federal land or involves federal officers in some way
- A crime has involved fraud or deception in regard to the federal government
- A crime has occurred, and the defendant has crossed state lines
- A crime has occurred across state lines
- A crime involving immigration or customs violations has occurred
On the other side of things, state crimes are far more commonly seen. The majority of crimes that come to mind, such as murder, arson, robbery, and more, all fall under the umbrella of state crimes. States can make their own laws which differ from those of other states, which means violating a certain state’s law will involve being tried in that state. State legislatures establish the laws which govern their specific state, but federal law always trumps state law.
In the majority of cases, a crime will be charged in either state or federal court if it overlaps between the two. However, there is technically no legal statute which states a person has to be tried in one or the other. This means that, in theory, a person could be charged for a state and federal violation in both types of court.
Most federal charges carry much harsher sentences than state charges due to the baseline severity of federal crimes. That is to say, federal charges often deal with crimes that have a national interest at stake which could affect millions of people. Additionally, if you are charged with prison time at the federal level, you are sent to a federal prison instead of a state prison.
Regardless of whether you are charged with a federal or state crime, you will need the best legal protection you can find. An accredited criminal defense lawyer can help a person develop a case that works in their favor. Reach out to the best criminal defense attorney in your area to start defending your name the minute you find yourself arrested for a federal or state crime.