The difference between being charged with a Federal crime and a State crime

When you are charged with a crime, one of the keys to finding the right lawyer is understanding how your case will be charged, so that you can find the right attorney based on their appropriate experience.

Basically, you will either be charged with a state level crime or a federal level crime, meaning that you’ll want an attorney who either specializes as state criminal attorney or as a federal criminal attorney.

But how do you know which level of crime you’ll be charged with, and what are the implications of each?

Typically, if a crime is committed in only a single state, it will be considered a state crime, unless federal law specifically supercedes it. This means, murder, robbery, assaults, traffic violations and the like will be considered state level crimes. Any crime that takes place in more than one state or takes place on federal property will generally be considered a federal level crime. This may include crimes such as drug trafficking, IRS violations, mail fraud, kidnapping, immigration offenses or counterfeiting, among many others.

In some cases, a crime may either be charged as a state or a federal crime. In those instances the US Constitution has a “Supremacy Clause” which means that a federal law will take precedence over state law.

One of the most important distinctions between state and federal crimes involves sentencing after a conviction. While state courts are often guided by state legislation, judges do often times have discretion on minimum and maximum penalties. Federal courts rely on Federal Sentencing Guidelines which are applied in calculating penalties for convicted felons. Federal courts also use a point system when considering enhancements to sentences, based on various factors such as a person’s background, criminal history, and facts of the case.

Dwane Cates Law Group proudly serves clients in Phoenix, Tempe, Glendale, Scottsdale, Mesa and surrounding Arizona communities.