When it comes to facing criminal charges, few aspects are worse than the uncertainty that comes along with a lack of understanding regarding your charges. Many defendants do not understand whether their charges are at the state or federal level, and if you do know, you might not be entirely clear on what the difference is. There are a few things every defendant should know.
The following are three differences between state and federal charges. Regardless of what level you are facing - be it a misdemeanor or a felony - you should know the following facts and protect your future by consulting with a legal professional.
1. Type of crime
The type of crime is typically the first consideration that a court or judge will look at when deciding whether to charge you with a state or federal crime. Generally, if a crime violates a federal law, it can be charged at the federal level. This is more common for more serious crimes, such as homicide, tax evasion, counterfeiting, kidnapping and some sex crimes.
2. Location of crime
Another factor the courts will take into consideration is the location of the alleged crime. If it occurred in an area that is clearly within state jurisdiction, it may be charged as a state crime simply for that reason. According to the Federal Judicial Center, though, crimes committed outside state jurisdiction — or in designated federal jurisdiction — may be charged federally by default.
3. Potential consequences
The biggest difference between state and federal charges is the potential consequences these respective charges carry. Typically, charges levied at the state level will have a much lower potential for punishment than those levied at the federal level. This includes greater fines and longer terms of imprisonment, so it is important to be aware of what charges you face.