When law enforcement authorities accuse you of committing a crime, you may face charges in either federal or state court. Some crimes are specific to federal court, whereas others are specific to state court. In some cases, law enforcement officials can choose whether to bring charges in federal or state court. Various factors will impact which court handles your criminal charges.
Criminal charges involving very severe accusations of wrongdoing and crimes with extremely high penalties often are filed in federal court. These offenses may include:
- Federal weapons charges
- Interstate drug distribution charges
- Child pornography crimes
A federal court also has jurisdiction over crimes that affect federal agencies, such as bank robbery, Medicare or Medicaid fraud, and mortgage fraud. Criminal immigration offenses also are unique to federal law. Finally, if crimes occur on federal land, such as military bases, federal courts typically have jurisdiction over them. While many federal crimes are felonies, misdemeanor crimes also do exist under federal law, although they may be less commonly charged.
Less high-profile cases tend to be prosecuted in state court. These involve most drug cases, except those that involve large amounts of illegal drugs that may have been distributed throughout more than one state. Crimes with no interstate component also tend to be handled by state courts. These crimes can range in severity from murder to theft to DWI.
Significant differences do exist between criminal cases heard in federal court, and those heard in state court. For instance, a different set of prosecutors handle cases in federal court, as opposed to county prosecutors who handle cases in state court. Federal courts have different judges than state courts, and court proceedings follow a completely separate set of rules that differs substantially from state court rules. Furthermore, the penalties for many crimes under federal law are harsher than those for crimes under state law.
Peek & Toland dedicates a large part of its practice to assisting individuals in resolving their criminal charges. We know that criminal proceedings can be intimidating and overwhelming for those who are facing potential penalties for criminal charges. We will work with you to achieve the most favorable outcome possible in your situation. Call our office today and set up a consultation with our skilled criminal defense attorneys today.