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Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney
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Will I Face Federal Prosecution?

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 state vs. 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, DUIs, drug crimes, sexual assaults, and violent crimes, such as manslaughter and 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
  • Embezzlement
  • 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!