In the United States we have state laws and federal laws, and we have state
courts and federal courts respectively. When people commit crimes, they
may be violating a state law or they may be violating a federal law, or
they may be in violating of state and federal law.
If you’re like a lot of people, you may not understand the differences
between state and federal crimes, let alone their penalties. To shed some
light on the subject, we’re going to dig a little deeper into state
and federal crimes, as well as state and federal prisons, which are anything
but the same!
Who establishes the laws?
Federal laws are established by Congress, whereas
state laws are established by state legislators. Generally, state-level crimes are
heard in state courts, whereas
federal crimes are heard in federal courts.
By far, the vast majority of criminal cases are heard in the state courts;
the state courts have wide jurisdiction over a number of crimes, such as
assault, sexually-motivated crimes,
burglary, robbery, and most
drug and theft-related crimes.
However, state courts do not hear crimes involving violations of federal
law, many of which involve federal drug trafficking charges, kidnapping,
Internet crimes, and
white collar crimes. When a crime is committed on federal property, or when a criminal act
crossed state lines, the feds will get involved and the offender will
likely face federal prosecution.
Often, a person will commit a crime that violates both state and federal
laws. What happens in this situation? In this case, the state and federal
prosecutors will decide whether to press charges in state or federal court.
Are federal offenses more serious?
As a general rule, the sentencing and penalties for a federal crime are
much steeper than the sentencing and penalties for a similar crime under
state law. If the accused is found guilty under state charges, he or she
will be sent to state prison, and if they are convicted under federal
charges, the defendant will go to federal prison.
Ask anyone who’s been to state and federal prison and they will tell
you that federal prison is “much nicer” than state prison.
In fact, that’s an understatement.
While federal prison is higher security than state prison, most of the
convicts locked up in federal prison are doing time for financially-motivated
crimes – for white collar crimes. Think of bankers and stockbrokers
and you get the picture.
In contrast, state prison has lower security and it houses all of the violent
criminals who have been convicted of robbery, rape, and murder. Additionally,
the state prisons are plagued with rival gangs, so it is not the safest
place to be.
Unfortunately, whether a defendant is convicted of a state or a federal
crime, their options are not very favorable: enjoy a better stay at federal
prison for a much longer time, or have a shorter stay at a state prison
where you have to be concerned about your safety around the clock.
Are you facing state or federal criminal charges in Orange County? Your
best solution is to stay out of jail or prison in the first place!
Contact our office for a free case evaluation today.