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When Is a Crime Prosecuted in Federal Court Rather Than State Court?

When Is a Crime Prosecuted in Federal Court Rather Than State Court?

Many crimes can be prosecuted under both state and federal law. So what determines which path prosecutors pick for a particular crime? It turns out that multiple factors affect this decision.

  • Geographical jurisdiction: If your case crosses state lines, you may be looking at federal prosecution. Interstate crimes may include white collar crimes, child pornography and drug trafficking.
  • Federal interest: The U.S. government may choose to prosecute a case because of a national interest. Examples include crimes against federal officials or frauds against the United States, including mail fraud, financial crimes and organized crime cases.
  • Type of crime: Certain crimes may only be prosecuted in federal court, such as customs crimes, tax offenses, and espionage or treason. On the other hand, states tend to prosecute any crimes against a person, such as assault, and crimes against property, including robbery.

Who decides whether a crime is prosecuted in federal or state court?

If there is a choice on where to bring charges, state and federal law enforcement officials decide which court is to handle the case. In some cases, the crime can be prosecuted in both state and federal court. Wherever prosecutors decide to try a case, the decision cannot be appealed.

Criminal defense attorneys at the law offices of David Jay Glassman are skilled in representing clients in both state and federal court and understand the differences in procedure and sentencing guidelines for each court, which is crucial to an effective defense. Call for an appointment.