Federal vs State Charges in Arizona: What’s the Difference

federal vs state chargesState laws are often different from the federal laws that apply to similar crimes. This is why many people want to know what’s the difference between state and federal prosecution in Arizona. Which jurisdiction will apply to a specific case? Is it possible to get prosecuted under the more lenient legislative framework?

State crimes in Arizona make up most of the crimes prosecuted. Federal crimes and punishments are relatively rare in comparison but they tend to carry a lot more serious sanctions.

What Is a Violation of a Federal Law in Arizona?

A federal crime is defined as an activity that will be illegal throughout the country, regardless of your location in the US or the local regulations.

Terrorism is an example of a federal crime. The same applies to conspiracy.

This will lead you to the logical conclusion that most crimes are prosecuted under both state and federal laws. Very often, the federal government will defer to the state of Arizona and allow local law enforcement authorities handle the situation.

The federal government tends to exercise its right to prosecute (even if Arizona also has the jurisdiction) in a couple of specific scenarios. Whenever a crime is committed on a federal property, federal authorities will take over. The same applies to crimes that have been committed over the territories of multiple states.

To make things simple, federal criminal proceedings occur whenever the nation’s welfare is concerned. This means that a large-scale crime has taken place or the criminal activity has a massive impact on the US national security.

Statistics show that the most common federal criminal cases include white collar crimes, drug crimes, fraud and firearm-related crimes.

Many federal crimes carry very harsh penalties. In some instances, these even include life imprisonment without parole.

Click here for information on the differences between federal, state and local laws.

A Few Other Important Differences between State and Federal Crimes

State and federal crimes differ in many other ways.

The investigators responsible for collecting evidence differ in the case of state and federal crimes. When it comes to Arizona state crimes, the investigators include Arizona police officers. For federal crimes, the investigation will be carried out by entities like the FBI or DEA.

For an Arizona state crime, the judge will be appointed by the governor. The judge is subject to election. Federal judges are appointed for life by the US president and confirmed by the US Senate.

One other very important difference revolves around prior criminal records and history. In the case of an Arizona crime, you face harsher penalties if you already have a criminal record. When it comes to federal procedures, a sentencing guideline points system will be employed. The number of points accumulated will affect the severity of the sentence. In this sense, the federal process is somewhat similar to the way in which the DMV deals with traffic violations.

Can You Face Both State and Federal Charges?

Whenever state and federal laws overlap, defendants worry that they’ll have to go through two separate legal processes. This isn’t the case.

A person cannot be tried more than once for the same crime in the same jurisdiction. This means that you’ll either have to go through the Arizona court or through the federal process. Your right to be tried just once is protected by the Fifth Amendment of the Bill of Rights.

Still, both Arizona and federal authorities have jurisdiction over such a case. This means that even if you get acquitted on the state level, you can be tried under federal law.

It’s very rare for federal prosecutors to bring charges against people who have already been found guilty on the state level. Talk to your Arizona criminal lawyer if you’re concerned about such prospects. A good criminal defense attorney will know how to approach such complicated situations.

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