The Constitution of the United States grants each state the right to govern itself. When it comes to breaking the law in Northern Virginia or in any state, though, some criminal cases are heard in federal court and some in state court. What determines whether a criminal offense is deemed a federal rather than a state crime?
What is a Federal Crime?
An action that breaks a federal law—one that is illegal in every state in the nation, no matter where it is committed—is a federal crime. Both federal and state law governs some areas of criminal law; in these cases, federal law takes jurisdiction due to the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Also, if a state law contradicts a federal law, a federal judge will nullify the state law because it is unconstitutional.
If you are arrested for a federal crime, the following will likely happen:
- A federal agent, such as an FBI agent, will arrest you.
- A U.S. Attorney in a federal district court will prosecute you.
- If you are sentenced to confinement, you will serve your time in a federal prison.
In comparison, if you are arrested for a state crime, this is the scenario:
- You will be arrested by a state officer, such as a police officer.
- You will be prosecuted in state court by a district attorney or other state prosecutor.
- If you receive jail time, you will serve your sentence in a county jail or a state prison.
Federal crimes can generally be described in one of the following ways:
- The crime takes place in more than one state.
- The crime involves national welfare or security.
- The crime violates a federal statute.
- The crime takes place on federal property.
Not only the trial location and personnel differ for federal criminal cases. Rules for the trial procedure and evidence are also different from those for state cases. A different procedure is used to determine sentencing, including minimum sentence guidelines. The penalties are usually more severe for federal crimes than for state crimes.
Which Crimes Are Considered Federal Crimes?
This is just a partial list, but here are some of the more common federal crimes:
- Antitrust violations;
- Drug trafficking;
- DUI or reckless driving on federal property;
- Hate crimes;
- Identity theft;
- Immigration violation;
- Insurance fraud;
- International and domestic terrorism;
- Kidnapping across state lines;
- Mail fraud;
- Money laundering;
- Weapons charges; and
- Tax fraud or evasion.
Because federal and state criminal cases are handled differently, if you are charged with a federal crime in Northern Virginia, you need a lawyer who is skilled in the federal criminal justice system. The federal criminal defense attorneys at Taylor Law Company in Fairfax know their way around both federal and state court. We can also serve as local counsel for the Eastern District of Virginia if your own lawyer is not registered to practice in federal court here. Call Ms. Taylor at 703-385-5529 to set up a FREE, immediate, no-obligation consultation.