Are you curious about the differences between state and federal prosecution? Though both prosecution systems serve as a way to charge people, there are some key distinctions between the two. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at some of those key differences and what they could mean in your criminal case. So, if you’re wondering what sets state and federal prosecutions apart, keep reading!
The American legal system is complex, and there are many jurisdictional levels at which a case can be tried. For our purposes, we’ll focus on the two most common: state and federal.
The vast majority of criminal cases in the United States are tried at the state level. But in some cases, an individual can be tried in both state and federal court for the same crime. So, what are the differences? And how do you tell which cases fall under who’s jurisdiction?
- Federal vs. State Crimes
Federal crimes are typically prosecuted by a government agency such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), or the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), among others.
Common crimes which are convicted on a federal level include; interstate drug trafficking, federal tax fraud, gun crimes, mail fraud, counterfeiting, and sex trafficking.
On the other hand, state crimes are your typical domestic violence cases, drug crimes, or DUIs, among others.
- Differences in Jurisdiction
The first and most obvious difference is jurisdiction. State courts have authority over crimes that occur within their state’s boundaries. Federal courts, on the other hand, have jurisdiction over crimes that cross state lines or involve federal laws.
For example, if you’re accused of embezzling money from a bank, you’ll likely be tried in federal court because banks are regulated by federal law.
Federal prosecutors also have more resources at their disposal than state prosecutors. This includes a larger budget and access to more sophisticated investigative techniques. As a result, federal charges tend to be serious offenses that carry heavier penalties than state charges.
- Differences in Courts
Federal courts hear cases involving issues related to the Constitution or federal law, while state courts hear cases involving state law. Both types of courts are further divided into lower courts (trial courts) and higher courts (appellate courts).
Trial courts are where most cases begin. In a federal trial court, a case is heard by a district court judge, who presides over the trial and decides whether or not the defendant is guilty. If the defendant is found guilty, they have the right to appeal the decision to a higher court. In a state trial court, a case is heard by a circuit court judge. Like in a federal trial court, the circuit court judge decides whether or not the defendant is guilty. However, in some states, the jury also has a say in the decision. If the defendant is found guilty, they can appeal the decision to a higher court.
Appellate courts review cases that have been decided by lower courts. In federal appellate courts, cases are heard by panels of three judges. These judges review the lower court’s decision to see if any errors were made during the trial. If they find that an error was made, they can overturn the lower court’s decision. In state appellate courts, cases are heard by either a panel of judges or a single judge. The number of judges on the panel varies from state to state. Like in federal appellate courts, these judges review the lower court’s decision to see if any errors were made during the trial. If they find an error was made, they can overturn the lower court’s decision.
- Differences in Prosecutors
Federal prosecutors are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. They work for the Department of Justice, which is part of the executive branch of the federal government.
State prosecutors are elected by voters in their state or jurisdiction. They work for the state government.
The primary difference between federal and state prosecutors is the type of cases they handle. Federal prosecutors generally handle cases that involve violations of federal law, such as drug trafficking, bank robbery, and terrorism. They also handle cases that involve multiple states or jurisdictions. State prosecutors generally handle cases that involve violations of state law, such as murder, rape, and burglary. However, they may also handle some federal cases if they are specially designated to do so by the Attorney General.
Can a Person Be Tried in Both Federal and State Courts?
One of the most frustrating things about the American legal system is that a person can be tried in both federal and state courts. It’s called “double jeopardy,” and it’s one of the most basic principles of our criminal justice system.
The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution protects us from being tried twice for the same crime. But in reality, there are two different court systems, and a person can be tried in both.
It happens all the time. A person commits a crime, and the federal government prosecutes them. But then the state decides to prosecute them as well. It’s not double jeopardy if they’re tried in two different court systems. So a person can be tried in federal court for tax evasion and then again in state court for fraud.
If you’ve been charged with a crime, it’s important to determine whether your case will be tried in state court, federal court, or both, as this can have a major impact on the outcome of your case.
Generally speaking, crimes that are more serious or offenses that cross state lines are federally prosecuted, whereas lesser crimes are typically tried in state courts. However, there are many other factors that come into play when determining which court system has jurisdiction over a criminal case.
If you’re facing criminal charges, it’s crucial that you contact a good criminal defense attorney who can help you navigate the legal system and protect your rights. At Criminal Defense Heroes P.C., we have a team of passionate and dedicated lawyers who are ready to fight for you. Contact us today at +1 323-529-3660 to learn more about how we can help you get the best possible outcome for your case.