Unless you have a law degree, you may not understand the difference between
state and federal crimes. In fact, there’s a lot of confusion about
federal offenses and state vs. federal prosecution. So, to clear things up, we’re
going to explain what events cause a person to be prosecuted in federal court.
In the United States, we have state legislation and federal legislation.
State laws are created by state legislatures, whereas federal laws are
created by Congress.
If a person violates a state law, they commit a state-level crime and will
be prosecuted in the state courts. In contrast, if someone violates a
federal law, they are committing a federal crime and will therefore be
prosecuted in federal court.
Sometimes however, a crime, such as identity theft is criminalized under
both state and federal law. What happens in this scenario? The state and
federal prosecutors will look at the facts of the case and the totality
of circumstances and decide whether to prosecute in state or federal court.
Most Crimes are Prosecuted in the State Courts
By far, the vast majority of criminal cases are under the jurisdiction
of the state courts because they violate state laws. Most theft-related crimes,
sexual assaults, and
violent crimes, such as
murder are all prosecuted in the state courts.
A large percentage of federal crimes are “white collar crimes,” which means they are financially-motivated and committed by business
and government professionals.
White collar criminals are under the watchful eye of the Federal Bureau
of Investigation (FBI) which has entire task forces dedicated to identifying
highly sophisticated schemes and bringing the fraudsters to justice.
Common examples of white collar crimes:
- Healthcare fraud
- Identity theft
- Money laundering
- Bankruptcy fraud
- Tax fraud
- Immigration fraud
- Securities fraud
- Mortgage fraud
When it comes to prosecuting people who commit white collar crimes, the
FBI frequently works with local law enforcement agencies, as well as other
agencies, such as the Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Attorney’s
Offices, and the Security and Exchange Commission among others.
What Sets Federal Prosecution Apart
There are two key differences between state and federal charges: 1) federal
charges usually mean stiffer sentencing and penalties than a similar charge
under state law, and 2) federal prison is notorious for being much “nicer”
than state prison for many reasons.
Our state prisons house people who have been convicted of violent crimes,
such as sexual assault, child sexual abuse, and murder. State prisons
have a large gang population and they are lower security than federal prisons.
On the other hand, federal prisons are higher security and tend to house
a larger population of white collar professionals, many of whom are college
educated and have not committed any “violent offenses.” Generally,
prisoners argue that federal prison is much “cushier” than
state prison, however, it usually means more years behind bars.
Whether you’re facing state or federal charges, the Law Offices of
Virginia L. Landry, Inc. can help. Licensed to practice in the state and
federal courts, we can defend you.
Call now for a free case evaluation!