What’s the Difference Between Federal Crime vs State Crime in Arizona?

federal crime vs state crimeDepending on the type of crime you’re facing charges for and the circumstances around the crime, you could be tried in federal court instead of Arizona court. This is important because it could affect the type of attorney you choose. Not all attorneys can represent clients facing federal charges, so know your attorney’s limitations before choosing an Arizona criminal defense attorney.

What makes a crime federal?

Your criminal case could go to federal court if it crosses state lines. For example, if you are charged with shoplifting in multiple states or send law enforcement on a high-speed chase across state lines, your case could move from state court to federal.

Furthermore, some criminal activities have federal laws governing them instead of state laws. Some examples of federal crimes include:

  • Immigration and customs violations: If you’re being charged with human trafficking that involves immigrants or crosses territory lines between countries in some way, you could be charged federally. The same is true for child pornography that you import from another country. Adding the international aspect to your case would make it federal instead of a state violation even if you were importing the pornography into Arizona.
  • Crimes on federal property or involving federal officers: If you commit a crime on federal property, such as a national forest or military base, you’ll be charged with a federal crime and not a state crime. Additionally, crimes involving federal officers are charged as federal crimes. This could include assaulting a DEA agent or other federal personnel.
  • Crimes where the victims are in other states: In some cases, the perpetrator might be located in one state, but have victims across the country. Internet fraud is an example of this where the individual charged with the crime is staying in one state, but those affected by the crime are in various states.

How do state and federal procedures differ?

So what can you expect when facing federal charges versus state charges? There are some key differences between state and federal procedures that you should be aware of.

The president appoints federal judges and their appointment is for life. In contrast, the state governor appoints state judges but those judges must go through re-election at regular intervals.

Furthermore, in the case of federal charges, you’ll have an assistant U.S. District Attorney prosecuting you. And, federal agents, such as the FBI or DEA, will be investigating your case. In-state courts, state district attorneys will prosecute you and local enforcement, such as police or sheriffs, will be investigating.

A key difference between state and federal court is that the process often takes much longer for the federal courts.

Click here for an article on the difference between a state crimes vs federal crimes.

Can I be tried in both state and federal court?

Facing both state and federal charges for the same criminal act is extremely rare. However, in those very specific circumstances where the crime crosses both jurisdictions, Double Jeopardy does not apply because of what’s called the “separate sovereign exception.”

This exception allows for someone who has been found not guilty in the state or federal court to undergo trial again in whichever court they had not be tried in yet. The crime must be able to be defined within both courts though.

Is there a difference in punishment between state and federal?

Just like in state courts there are federal guidelines for how severe a crime is in federal court. A judge can rule that you are to serve punishment within these given guidelines. Generally speaking, federal sentences are more severe and longer than state sentences.

Because these crimes are treated differently depending on whether they are state or federal, you should find an attorney with experience defending cases like yours.

Click here for an article on fraud law in Arizona.