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Discovering the Differences Between Federal and State Crimes

Criminal violations come in all shapes and sizes. From theft and murder to counterfeiting and tax fraud, there are seemingly endless ways to break the law in America. But did you know that depending on what you did or where you did it, your alleged crime could either be considered a state or federal violation? And that this designation could change what happens after you are arrested?

Crimes That Vary from State to State

As each of the 50 states in our country has been given some judicial power to govern itself through state constitutions, it is a natural consequence that states are also able to define the details of what constitutes a crime within their borders.

For the most part, the crimes that states are able to outline are those that do not threaten the entire country, or that do not directly violate the Constitution. These are known as state crimes and may include “lesser violations,” such as:

  • Robbery
  • Assault and battery
  • Traffic violations
  • Family law disputes

If you are arrested for a state crime, you will most likely be tried in a state court nearest the location of your alleged crime. A trial jury consisting of six to 12 people will hear your case as witness testimonies and evidence are brought to their attention. Ultimately, they will present a final verdict and an elected judge will determine fair sentencing. For the most part, state crimes will not be considered a felony and generally carry penalties that are less severe than those for federal crimes.

Crimes Recognized by the Entire Country

For you to be charged with a federal crime, it is most likely an offense that could have repercussions that span across more than one state, endanger the public well-being, or violate the Constitution. Examples of commonly recognized federal crimes are:

  • Counterfeiting money
  • Hate crimes
  • Drug trafficking
  • Intellectual property violations
  • Public corruption

The prosecution for federal crime cases will be headed by a United States Attorney and may involve a grand jury, which consists of 16 to 23 people. These proceedings are not open to the public and, unlike state criminal cases, defendants and their attorneys will not have the right to appear before the grand jury. Federal crimes are generally considered felonies, or a crime that is either punishable by death or imprisonment that lasts for more than one year.

When One Violation is a State and Federal Crime

It is not unheard of for a crime to violate both state and federal laws. When this occurs, the accused can actually be tried twice without violating the Constitution’s “Double Jeopardy Clause.” This is because they will be subjected to two entirely different trials for what are technically two crimes. Due to this loophole, it is possible for someone to get two sentences for one criminal act.

State, Federal, or Both – Attorneys Peacock & Le Beau Can Help You

If you are being accused of a criminal violation of any kind, it is important for you to work with a team that understands your charges and the circumstances that will surround your trial, should it get that far. At the Law Office of Peacock & Le Beau, our Long Beach criminal defense attorneys have over 40 years of collective experience. 

Be sure to contact us today to learn your rights and how they can defend them, regardless of the accusations against you.