Difference Between State and Federal Criminal Cases

Criminal charges usually fall under two categories, either state or federal. There is a significant difference between state and federal criminal cases.

Based on the type of offense, length of the potential prison sentence, and the resources available to the prosecution, there can be significant differences between state and federal criminal cases. 

Out of the cases filed annually in the United States, 30 million are state crimes, while only one million cases are registered as federal crimes.

State crimes are minor crimes, while federal crimes are more serious.  

It is important to know the difference between state and federal crimes and their consequences, so you’ll know how to protect yourself. Let’s get started!


State Crimes Vs Federal Crimes 

State Crimes Vs Federal Crimes 

The State crimes are minor crimes or offenses that happen too often, such as robbery, theft, rape, murder, and burglary.

State crimes are described by the state criminal codes and involve state prosecution for violations of state law. Each state can have its own rules about how charges are handled. 

On the other hand, federal crimes fall under the fewer classes or classifications and must involve national or federal interest, such as counterfeiting, and are prosecuted by government agencies.

Federal crimes are much more severe and extreme than state crimes, such as federal tax fraud, identity theft, internet crimes, drug trafficking, or any crimes committed on federal property or across state lines. 

Federal crimes also cover many violent offenses that are customarily addressed at the state level, such as homicide, assault, and kidnapping. Non-violent financial crime can also be included under Federal crimes. 

It’s important to keep in mind that some crimes considered state crimes in one state can become federal if the drugs are shipped across state lines. 

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State Vs Federal Jurisdiction 

One of the key differences between State and Federal criminal cases is the court’s jurisdiction.

State courts have broader jurisdiction, as they hear all the cases not specifically selected for federal courts.

On the other hand, federal courts have limited jurisdiction and only hear cases that are against the law of the United States or a Federal interest.

State Vs Federal Defense Attorneys 

When cases go for trial on the state level, they are persecuted by a state or district attorney, while in the federal court, an attorney must be admitted to the particular federal court where the defendant is being charged. 

State Vs. Federal Judges 

State Vs. Federal Judges 

In-state courts, judges have a much higher caseload as they handle both trial and appellate courts.

State judges are usually elected or appointed by the governor for a certain number of years.

Federal judges possess more power than state judges, and their caseload is also less. Federal judges are appointed by the President and serve for a lifetime. 

State Vs. Federal Courts

There are a lot of differences between state and federal courts. For instance, a federal court judge is elected by the President of the United States and is confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Federal judges are given the post for life unless they are removed due to bad behavior.

Federal judges demand a lot of respect and are highly experienced as compared to a state judges.

Also, cases are continued on the day of trial in a federal court. Whereas in a state court, a case may be continued multiple times before it takes place actually.

State Vs. Federal Enforcement 

State or local criminal cases are handled by the city’s police department, county sheriffs, or state authorities.

While federal cases are handled by agencies with the power to investigate federal offenses. The nature of the crime determines which agency is going to be involved.

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State Vs Federal Punishment  

Those convicted of state crimes may face a wide range of punishments, such as being imprisoned in state prison, while those convicted of crimes in federal court are sent to federal prison, while some may be subject to fines or probation.

State Vs Federal Sentencing Guidelines

The sentencing guidelines for both state and federal courts differ. Federal sentencing guidelines are much more strict and are often criticized for their harshness.

This can include enhancements, mandatory minimums, long sentences, etc.

Also, there is no such thing as “parole” in a federal case. State courts are less harsh and even allow parole when compared to federal courts.

State To Federal Case Move

A white-collar case may be transferred from state to federal court.

This usually happens when the incident involves a lot of money, harm done to the government alleges, narcotics, etc.

The prosecutor may have the flexibility to decide whether the case will be moved from state to federal court owing to the acts that are prohibited in both federal and state courts.

Please note that the defense cannot move the case, but only the prosecutor can.

Wrapping Up

So State and Federal criminal cases entail different penalties and procedures, among other things.

In this article on the difference between State and Federal criminal cases, we gave you all the necessary information that you should know. We hope this was helpful to you.

People Also Ask

What turns a criminal case to federal?

A crime is considered federal when the person does criminal activity in multiple states or when the criminal violates the U.S. federal legal codes.

Some examples of the same are drug trafficking, human trafficking, wire fraud, etc.

How likely can a person beat a federal case?

Federal prosecutors tout above a convection rate of 95%. This is because many cases never make it to trial.

Prosecutors often end up taking a plea bargain instead of risking a greater prison sentence. 

What is worse a state case or a federal case?

Federal cases involve more severe penalties as compared to state cases, and if a person is facing federal charges, then they should hire an experienced defendant to save themselves.

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