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What types of charges are brought in federal court?

When many St. Louis residents hear of criminal charges being brought against a person, they may not focus on where those charges are brought. As discussed previously in this blog, however, the difference between charges involving state crimes or federal crimes can make a big difference in the case. Not only do federal and state cases differ slightly in procedure, they also often carry vastly different penalties if a person is convicted of the charges.

Some Missouri residents may wonder, however, what causes a charge to be brought in federal court as opposed to state court. In some cases, the charges may only be brought in state or federal court, because the charge is only defined as a federal crime or state crime. In other cases, the charges could be brought in either state or federal court, or even both, such as in situations involving drug charges, which could violate both state and federal law.

Accordingly, in order to have a case be brought in federal court, the federal court must have jurisdiction over the offense. For example, when it comes to kidnapping, federal courts have jurisdiction over certain types of situations. If a victim is kidnapped and brought across state lines, the charge may then be brought in federal court because it involves an interstate offense.

If the kidnapping only involved allegations that a person was transported within the state, then it may not give rise to a federal charge. In addition, if the kidnapping involved the taking of a minor child by a parent, the offense typically is not a federal charge. Rather, state law would still allow for charges to be brought, but it would be charged in state court instead of federal court.

Ultimately, both state and federal charges can carry long-term consequences. However, it is vital to understand the distinction between the two from the outset of the case and what impact that might have on the matter.

Source: United States Department of Justice, "Criminal Resource Manual 1034 Kidnapping - Federal Jurisdiction," accessed on April 24, 2015

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