The Distinctions Between Federal And State Crimes

In the United States, we’re subject to multiple layers of law, from local ordinances all the way up to federal statutes. Many crimes violate state law alone. However, there is also a vast body of federal criminal law — much of it dealing with offenses that cross state boundaries.

Whether you are facing state or federal charges, the criminal defense attorneys at the Bellwoar Kelly, LLP can stand up for you. We have a wealth of experience handling both state and federal offenses.

Federal Charges

Federal crimes are those that violate congressional statutes. Examples include:

  • Drug conspiracy and trafficking charges
  • Mail fraud
  • Tax evasion
  • Child pornography
  • Identity theft
  • Illegal firearms trafficking

These crimes are investigated by federal law enforcement agencies (such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Agency or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives). They are tried in federal courts by assistant U.S. attorneys under presidentially appointed federal judges.

Due in part to the lengthy and detailed investigations that go into them, federal crimes carry a 90 percent conviction rate.

Federal courts use federal sentencing guidelines to determine punishments, which are generally harsh. Some offenses impose mandatory minimum sentences in federal prison.

Concurrent Jurisdiction

For certain offenses, state and federal governments have concurrent jurisdiction. The dual sovereignty doctrine allows both entities to prosecute if the criminal actions violated the laws of the state and federal governments.

For many offenses, the federal government will often defer to the state’s judicial authority with more cases being prosecuted at the state level. For certain crimes, often involving interstate matters, the federal government will exert their right to prosecute a person or entity. Depending on the charge, it can be to your benefit to have it tried as a state crime rather than a federal offense.

Learn More

If you are facing state or federal charges in Pennsylvania, our experienced defense lawyers can protect your rights. Please send us an email or call 610-314-7066 to schedule a free consultation at our West Chester or Pottstown offices.