What’s the Difference Between a State and a Federal Crime?

Federal v state crime

Being charged with a crime is a scary experience, regardless of the type of crime. And in order to ensure that you get the best defense possible, it is important to hire the right type of lawyer for representation. Which is one of the reasons why knowing whether you’ve been charged with a state or federal crime is essential.

State vs. Federal – What’s the Difference?

In order to prosecute a person for a crime, the government must have jurisdiction over that crime. Typically, jurisdiction is straightforward – if a crime occurs in Massachusetts that violates a Massachusetts law, the state of Massachusetts has jurisdiction to prosecute the crime. On the other hand, if a crime occurs in a national park or on federal property, the federal government has jurisdiction.

In many cases, though, state and federal jurisdiction overlap. While most of the time a crime will be prosecuted by the state, the federal government may decide to prosecute for crimes involving things like:

  • Immigration-related offenses;
  • Drug trafficking crimes;
  • Firearm-related crimes;
  • Certain white-collar crimes;
  • Mail fraud;
  • Counterfeiting crimes; and
  • Any crimes committed across state lines or on federal property.

In some cases, violent crimes like homicide can also be considered federal crimes. It is essential that you know how your crime is being classified and whether it will be prosecuted by the state or federal government. You should also know that when crimes overlap and both governments have jurisdiction, prosecutors are often free to pursue a conviction in the system of their choice.

Consequences for Federal Crimes

The penalties for a federal crime vary depending upon the type of criminal offense. There are some cases where the penalties for a federal crime may be less severe than the penalties for a state crime (i.e. penalty for tax fraud vs. homicide). When the crimes overlap and the act is illegal under both state and federal law, federal sentences are typically tougher than state sentences.

Understand the Charges Against You and Work with an Experienced Attorney

If you are facing criminal charges, you have the right to defend yourself against those charges. The best defense requires understanding exactly what you’re up against, and the potential consequences of your alleged crime.

At The Law Offices of Paul R. Moraski, our Boston criminal defense lawyer services all courts in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and is prepared to provide you with the quality legal representation you deserve. Attorney Paul Moraski is skilled in numerous areas of criminal law defense. Attempting to defend yourself is never a good idea; call our attorney as soon as possible following arrest.

You can reach our law office by phone at (978) 397-0011, or by sending us a confidential message using the intake form on our website. Consultations are completely confidential and are offered free of charge.