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Federal vs. state crimes: what are the differences?

  • Birdsall Obear

In the U.S., most cases are heard at the state or local level. If you break the law, you could face a state or federal crime charge. To ensure you have the best chance in court it is imperative that you know the differences between a federal and state crime, so you can make the correct decisions about your representation.

What is a state crime?

One of the biggest differences between a state and federal crime is jurisdiction. State courts have a much broader jurisdiction and thus hear more cases than the federal court system. Some examples of state crimes include:

  • Assault
  • Stalking
  • Robbery
  • Homicide
  • Sexual assault

What is a federal crime?

Federal courts have jurisdiction over fewer types of cases and usually only take cases where someone has violated federal law or if the crime took place on federal land. Federal crimes also include cases where the U.S. is a party, cases that involve government agencies and crimes that occur across state lines.

Some examples of federal crimes may include:

  • Drug trafficking or manufacturing
  • Tax fraud Crimes involving the internet
  • Kidnapping across state lines
  • Immigration violations

Differences in prosecution

The federal and state court systems are two entirely separate entities. Federal courts employ judges who only preside over federal cases. State courts employ judges who only preside over state cases. Federal court cases typically function under different proceedings than a state case. The prosecution team in federal court generally has more resources at their disposal. They have a higher budget than a state court prosecution team and will conduct more extensive investigations to gather evidence.

Whether you are under investigation for a state or federal crime, it is crucial to speak with a seasoned criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to fight your case.

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