Certain types of laws are just about the same, no matter through which lens you’re looking at them. Crimes that never cross state lines will almost always be considered state crimes. When the crime is broader and occurs across multiple states, it typically becomes a federal crime. Federal crimes are also any crimes that involve federal property, like government buildings.
Certain types of offenses are always considered federal offenses. This pertains to many white collar crimes, such as fraud involving the IRS or national agencies. Some crimes will generally be handled as federal crimes, such as bank robbery, some hate crimes, many cyber crimes, some child pornography, and the hijacking of an aircraft. Any crimes relating to the US postal service will also be charged as a federal crime, as the postal service belongs to every state and traverses state lines.
In some circumstances, a crime might appear as both a federal and a state crime. When that happens, the crime may be charged in both jurisdictions simultaneously. Federal law is at a tier above state law, and its intricacies and nuances will always dominate those of state laws. There’s no way to have a federal case changed to a state case when overlap occurs.
State cases typically use less evidence. Resources are limited and they use only what they need to make their case. Typically, one person would be able to carry all the state evidence being used against you. The case is laser focused, and the investigations are generally limited to what’s absolutely necessary.
Federal evidence is bountiful. Someone will need a cart to bring in everything a federal prosecutor intends to introduce or use against you. They’re using a fine-toothed comb and a microscope to examine every detail of a case and they leave no stone unturned.
Federal cases utilize every resource and agency made available to them. Their scope is not as narrow as a state’s would be. When something is charged as a federal crime, the goal is typically to get to the source of an issue. This means they want to prosecute everyone involved with the issue and interview as many people as possible. They are exorbitantly thorough, and they work in huge teams.
In state court, jurisdiction is highly local. The broadest it gets is the county, and in many cases, the jurisdiction is as specific as the city where the crime transpired. Federal courts are governed by the United States Code and the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. This means it doesn’t matter where the crime happened or in how many different places – it’s completely unified. This removes the conflict between state laws, so the judge in the case won’t have to deal with contradictory rules and penalties.
A state case only takes the rules and laws of that specific state into account. Different states have different laws, so not every state follows the same procedures that Arizona would follow. Federal law is an ironclad amalgamation of things that may or may not contradict with state law, which typically won’t matter at all in a federal case.
The differences in jurisdictions and case processes won’t necessarily make a huge difference in the technical aspects of the case. They really affect the way a case proceeds from start to finish and the kinds of rules that are used.
There are guideline ranges for certain crimes. In federal cases and state cases, institutions like mandatory minimums and sentencing enhancements come into play. Some states have stricter laws than others when it comes to specific types of crimes. Arizona, for example, goes above and beyond the norm for DUI cases. Ignition interlock device installation is mandatory for any first time DUI recipient. In a state like Florida, ignition interlock doesn’t become mandatory unless the person commits a second DUI offense.
The types of enhancements and punishments that can be used will widely differ between federal and state courts depending on the crime. Typically, federal agencies have more options available to them than state agencies do, no matter how strict the states are.
In state court, your sentencing can be based on your previous convictions. They sometimes call them “historical priors.” Federal sentencing involves a sentencing guideline points system, almost like the DMV does with traffic violations against your driver’s license. The amount of points you accumulate affects the way they can sentence you, and they might view things completely differently from the state.
States decide their own sentencing by ranges they’ve drafted up themselves. In certain states, the judge only has to work between a minimum and a maximum, and has a lot of room to make big decisions independently. The judge can decide whether a specific crime fell at the lower or higher end of the spectrum, or somewhere in the center.
Federal judges have a different set of rules and guidelines than state judges. They use the Federal Sentencing Guidelines to draw up potential penalties for a crime. There may be some conceptual overlap between federal and state sentencing, but ultimately, the federal guidelines will be the determining factor when crafting a penalty for an offense in federal court.
Federal charges can be much more serious than state charges in many cases, but it all depends on the crime. Either way, you’re going to need a skilled, experienced lawyer to represent you. We have experience dealing with both federal and Arizona state charges. When you’re dealing with a federal case, it’s extremely important to work with lawyers like us who understand how the federal system works – not every defense attorney will have the knowledge and competency to efficiently represent you in federal court.
Call us immediately – our phones never close. We’ll arrange a free consultation with you to go over your case and discuss your options. The sooner you act, the better off you’ll be. The best defense begins right now.