Every state has its individual laws governing crimes, while the federal government also sets forth laws that govern crimes throughout all the 50 states. If you commit a state crime, you may also face federal charges, depending on a variety of circumstances.
It is not always easy to understand exactly how state and federal criminal charges work. If the authorities charge you with a crime, you need to understand the nature of your charges and how your case will proceed through the state criminal justice system, as well as the federal system, if applicable.
How state and federal crimes differ
The specifics of a particular crime in one state may not conform to the specifics of a crime in another state. However, federal crimes apply equally across all 50 states. Federal courts have limited jurisdiction. Federal cases include federal crimes such as bank robbery and cases involving guns or drugs. Whether a drug case is a federal crime depends on the specifics of the case. State courts handle drug crimes at certain levels, while more severe drug crimes rise to the federal offense level.
How a state crime can go federal
If you commit a crime in a particular state, but you commit the crime on federal land such as a national park like the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, then the crime automatically becomes a federal crime. Robberies in drug stores also qualify as federal crimes. Drug cases that rise to the federal crime level are particularly serious for the offender, because the federal government puts many resources into prosecution. The potential penalties are also more severe than for a state crime.
Federal crime is a serious matter, and if you are facing federal charges, you need to understand exactly what you are up against. A qualified attorney who works with federal cases can answer your questions about how your case will proceed. A strong and strategic defense can be your best chance for mitigating the charges and avoiding the harshest penalties under the law.