Many questions arise when discussing state and federal laws and how they
can overlap in the criminal justice system. One of the biggest questions
is whether a case will be prosecuted at the state or federal level. In
most cases, if a crime occurs in one state, it is considered a state crime
and is then handled by a state court. However, if a crime occurs in many
states, across state lines, or to or on federal property, it can become
a federal crime.
Generally, state crimes are any conduct that breaks state laws, such as
murder, and other conduct that is completely contained in the state. On the other
hand, federal crimes are specifically enumerated federal offenses, such as
IRS violations, kidnapping, allegations of
drug possession and trafficking, and immigration offenses.
If an offense seems as though it can be charged as either type of crime,
the “Supremacy Clause” included in the United States Constitution
states that federal law trumps state law, and authorities at the federal
level will handle the case. This happens frequently when suspects are
of great focus and interest to federal law enforcement officers.
Penalties and Sentencing Differences in Federal and State Courts
In state courts, state laws dictate penalties and sentencing. While some
states possess guidelines, other states require judges to decide a minimum
and maximum range without guidelines. When state penal codes are enacted,
the legislature is required to place minimum and maximum sentencing penalties.
Then, judges will use these factors to decide whether a committed crime
deserves a low, mid, or maximum penalty and sentence.
In federal courts, judges use “The Federal Sentencing Guidelines”
to calculate the penalties for serious offenses. While these guidelines
are not always used, nor are they mandatory, they are used to make penalty
Enhancement Option Differences in State and Federal Criminal Cases
These differences mostly impact those cases handled by a federal criminal
court since federal courts have point systems that are used to determine
the guideline range of a person’s sentence. This point system takes
into account the following factors:
- Criminal history
- Facts and allegations
The development of facts pertaining to these factors can seriously influence
a judge’s sentencing decision.
Individuals Charged with Federal Crimes Should Contact Legal Representation
Because federal crimes often result in serious penalties, lengthy prison
sentences, and heavy fines, it is in the best interest of a person who
has been charged with a federal crime to contact experienced legal representation
right away. A seasoned criminal defense lawyer who has a track record
of handling federal criminal cases can determine which legal strategies
can best safeguard the rights and future of an accused person.
At The Law Offices of Jed Silverman,
our legal team is equipped with the knowledge and skills it takes to have your charges
reduced or dismissed. Do not wait to
retain the legal counsel you need. Your freedom may be at stake!