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By: Law Offices of Mace J. Yampolsky

Difference Between State and Federal Charges

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Whether you happen to be prosecuted at the state or federal level is one of the most critical issues that can significantly affect the result of your case if you are facing criminal charges. The judicial system in the United States is unusual because it functions inside two distinct jurisdictions, each having its own set of laws, penalties, and procedures. 

This article will discuss the difference between state and federal charges, the ramifications of each, and how a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer in Las Vegas may assist in navigating the intricacies of the legal system. 

For a free consultation with one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys, please contact Law Offices of Mace J. Yampolsky Criminal Defense Las Vegas at (702) 385-9777 if you need legal assistance.

Shared Federal and State Jurisdictions: The Double Jeopardy Issue

State and federal courts may occasionally share authority over specific situations. Parties in these cases can file lawsuits in federal or state courts. Such things happen when federal and state laws overlap—which frequently happens when federal laws are derived from the Commerce Clause.

Such shared federal and state authority, referred to as “concurrent jurisdiction,” might significantly affect a case.

Although the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment protects citizens from “double jeopardy” or being put in danger of indictment twice for the same conduct, there are occasionally rare exceptions in cases involving shared or concurrent jurisdiction. In other words, federal prosecutors may still file a charge in a federal court even if you are not guilty of a state offense after a trial.

How is that possible?

It is because the U.S. Constitution’s double jeopardy clause only forbids successive prosecutions by the same “sovereign” (possessor of power or control). As separate sovereigns, the state and federal governments have the authority to bring criminal charges for the same offense.

When state laws are contested as unlawful, federal courts are also empowered to consider cases involving those laws.

Federal Law

State VS Federal Prosecution

You might be thinking, “What is the difference between a state prosecution and a federal prosecution?” if you have been charged with a crime in Nevada. State and federal criminal justice systems are separate domains within the US criminal justice system. State crimes are defined as breaking state laws, and they are dealt with by state-level criminal justice systems and tried in state courts. On the other hand, federal crimes involve federal laws or crimes of the government’s interest, like those committed on federal property or in connection with interstate commerce. Federal prosecutors bring criminal charges in federal courts.

Criminal Offenses Under Federal Laws

Federal crimes cover a broad spectrum of offenses, such as those on federal property involving deception or fraud against federal authorities, crossing state lines, or violating federal statutes. Several examples of federal crimes include immigration violations, drug trafficking, money laundering, terrorism, and white-collar crimes like tax evasion or securities fraud. Federal law enforcement organizations, such as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), are looking into these offenses.

The Federal Agencies Role

Investigating and prosecuting federal offenses is largely the job of federal agencies. These agencies have the means and jurisdiction to address complex issues, frequently including numerous states or national implications. To construct cases and provide evidence in federal court, they collaborate closely with United States Attorneys, who are federal prosecutors. Federal offenses can have harsh convictions, such as hefty fines and protracted imprisonment. Federal prisons are another location where those found guilty of federal offenses serve their sentences.

Criminal Offenses Under State Laws

State courts handle the prosecution of state crimes and offenses against state laws. These crimes can encompass a variety of violent crimes, including drug possession, DUI, robbery, assault, theft, and murder. Local law enforcement organizations, such as county sheriffs, state agents, or municipal police departments, are usually responsible for investigating state crimes. Prosecuting those suspected of committing state offenses falls to state prosecutors, including district or city attorneys.

The Local Law Enforcement’s Role

Local law enforcement forces must enforce state laws and preserve public safety. They are in charge of carrying out investigations, obtaining evidence, and executing arrests. To guarantee the efficient enforcement of state laws, state agents, county sheriffs, and local police departments collaborate. After an arrest, the state prosecutor’s office usually gets the case for additional legal action.

Investigation And Arrest Process

Federal Arrest and Investigation

Federal law enforcement authorities start an inquiry when they believe someone has committed a federal offense. Federal investigations may get drawn out and complicated; they can involve a lot of resources and several different jurisdictions. Agents from the federal government, such as those from the FBI or DEA, collect evidence, speak with witnesses, and compile a case against the accused. A federal prosecutor will request an arrest warrant and bring the case before a grand jury if there is enough evidence.

State Arrest and Investigation

Local law enforcement agencies are in charge of carrying out investigations in state cases. They gather evidence, question witnesses, and collaborate closely with state prosecutors to create cases. A judge will issue an arrest warrant if the state prosecutor finds sufficient evidence to proceed with the charges. Following an arrest by local law enforcement on a federal charge, the defendant is taken to a state court to be prosecuted.

Differences In Criminal Charges

The first thing you might wonder if you have been charged with a crime is, “What is the difference between a state and federal offense?” As previously said, state law agencies and prosecutors file state charges, whereas federal law agencies and prosecutors file federal charges. Federal charges are often reserved for more serious felonies like organized crime, drug trafficking, and white-collar crime, while state charges can cover a wider variety of acts, including misdemeanors. When facing charges in any jurisdiction, it is crucial to comprehend the differences between federal and state prosecution and to seek legal advice from an accomplished federal attorney.

Examples Of Federal Charges

Depending on the particular offense, federal charges can differ significantly. Federal charges include, for example:

  • Drug trafficking over state boundaries or international borders.
  • Money laundering involving huge funds or financial transactions.
  • Racketeering and organized crime activities.
  • Insider trading and securities fraud
  • Mail fraud
  • Cybercrimes that are either national or international
  • Crimes involving the illicit possession or trafficking of firearms
  • Concealed weapon crimes

Examples Of State Charges

State charges cover a wide variety of offenses. State charges include, for example:

  • Assault and battery
  • Driving under the influence (DUI)
  • Theft and burglary
  • Drug possession
  • Domestic violence
  • Homicide and manslaughter

Federal And State Charges For The Same Crime

A person may occasionally be charged with one crime on both the state and federal levels. It may happen if the accused conducts actions that cross state lines or violate federal and state laws. The separate sovereign exemption permits prosecution at federal and state levels as they are regarded as distinct entities. Still, the Double Jeopardy Clause of the U.S. Constitution prohibits someone from being convicted twice for the same offense by the same sovereign.

Court System And Trial Process

The U.S. Attorney’s Office and Federal Courts

Federal criminal proceedings are heard by and decided by federal courts. This group comprises the U.S. Supreme Court, district courts, and circuit courts of appeal. The President appoints United States Attorneys to prosecute federal charges on behalf of the government. Appointed for life, federal judges oversee federal cases and render verdicts per federal statutes, and the U.S. Constitution. Federal court trials are conducted according to established rules and protocols, which cover the introduction of evidence, the calling of witnesses, and the making of arguments.

The District Attorney’s Office and State Courts

Trial courts (higher courts) and appellate courts (the Nevada Supreme Court and the Courts of Appeal) are Nevada’s two categories of state courts. At the state level, criminal charges are handled by state prosecutors, like city attorneys or district attorneys. Judges of the superior court, chosen by the people to preside over state cases, base their rulings on the constitution and state statutes. State court trials are similar to federal court trials regarding evidence presentation, legal arguments, and witness testimony.

Penalties and Sentencing

Federal Sentencing Guidelines

Sentencing guidelines provide the basis for deciding penalties within federal criminal cases for offenders. These guidelines include several factors, including the conduct’s severity, the defendant’s criminal history, and any improvements or mitigating circumstances. Within the bounds of the guidelines, federal courts possess the power to inflict penalties according to the particular facts of each case. Federal offenses have a variety of penalties, from severe jail terms to fines and probation.

State Sentencing Guidelines

State sentencing guidelines can differ significantly from federal guidelines and vary depending on the jurisdiction. When deciding on a sentence, state judges consider several factors, including the type of offense committed, the defendant’s prior criminal history, and other mitigating or aggravating circumstances. Fines, community service, probation, and incarceration in a county jail or state prison are examples of state penalties.

Is Federal Crime More Serious Than State?

Whether a crime is state or federal prosecuted doesn’t always mean how serious it is. Crimes committed at the federal or state levels can result in severe penalties, lengthy jail terms, and lasting effects on a person’s personal and professional life. It would be best to speak with a skilled criminal defense attorney who can evaluate the case’s specifics and offer situation-specific guidance.

Additional Differences

Other important differences between federal and state crimes include:

  • Bail: When it comes to state crimes, an individual may obtain bail—a sum of money pledged to the court to avoid jail time while the criminal case is pending. If someone is granted bail or released from custody in a federal case, the terms are typically harsher and may include electronic monitoring or regular contact with law enforcement.
  • Jury: A jury of their peers who reside in the same county or region where the alleged incident happened will hear the case of a person charged with a state offense. In contrast, federal crimes are prosecuted before juries made up of members of a federal district. It implies that jurors could be more diverse and are selected from a wider geographic area.
  • Defense Attorney: Not all criminal defense lawyers qualify to try federal court cases. A lawyer must fulfill certain requirements before representing a client in federal court.

Can you be prosecuted in both state and federal courts?

In certain cases, state and federal laws will be violated. Although cases are often brought in either federal or state court, when the action violates federal and state law, it is not prohibited to prosecute a criminal case in a federal and state court simultaneously.

Some people think that they cannot be charged with the same criminal offense in both state and federal court according to the Double Jeopardy Clause of the United States Constitution.

Despite forbidding the prosecution of an individual twice for the same crime, the Double Jeopardy Clause includes a distinct sovereign exception. Due to the separation of the federal and state governments, a person may be tried in both state and federal courts under this exemption.

For example, a jury in a California state court cleared all four Los Angeles Police officers who were charged with assaulting Rodney King in the early 1990s.

Following federal charges against the police officers, two of them were found guilty in federal court of violating the man’s constitutional rights.

There are state statutes in several places that forbid prosecution in both federal and state courts. For example, when two laws are designed to prevent the same harm, New York forbids someone from facing state indictment for the same offense if they have already faced federal prosecution.

The same level of protection does not exist in the federal system, though. Therefore, federal prosecutors may bring charges against someone who has already been prosecuted in state court for the same offense. When defendants face federal accusations, state prosecutors in Nevada typically drop state charges against them.

Criminal Defense Attorney in Las Vegas

How Can A Skilled Criminal Defense Attorney Help?

Seeking the help of a skilled criminal defense lawyer is crucial when facing federal charges in Nevada, regardless of whether they are state or federal. A knowledgeable attorney can help you preserve your rights, negotiate the intricacies of the court system, and build the most robust defense. They will examine the evidence, refute the prosecution’s case, bargain with the prosecution for a drop of charges or a lesser sentence, and, if required, represent you in court. Having qualified counsel by your side could significantly impact the result of your case.

Free Las Vegas Criminal Defense Consultation

The Law Offices of Mace J. Yampolsky Criminal Defense Las Vegas is available to help you if you are facing criminal charges in the area. Our skilled federal lawyers will give you the tenacious defense you need since they know the nuances of federal and state laws. We provide a free initial consultation to discuss your case and review your legal options. Call the Law Offices of Mace J. Yampolsky Criminal Defense Las Vegas today at (702) 385-9777 to protect your rights.

How To Contact Our Criminal Defense Lawyers

We at the Law Offices of Mace J. Yampolsky Criminal Defense Las Vegas are committed to giving anyone facing criminal charges the best possible legal representation. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you require assistance with your case. Call our criminal defense lawyers at (702) 385-9777 to speak with them. Our goal is to assist you in navigating the legal process and pursuing the most beneficial outcome for your case.

Recall that it is imperative to take prompt legal action and seek the advice of a skilled criminal defense attorney while facing accusations. Having informed counsel on your side could make a huge difference when it comes to matters concerning your future and freedom. For a free consultation and to begin the process of defending your rights, give our law firm a call today.