The Difference Between State and Federal Crimes
Being charged with a crime is never a positive life experience, but the level of the charge can make a major difference in the total impact a conviction may bring. One of the primary differences in criminal charges is the government level of filing. Anyone facing serious criminal charges on either side is fighting an uphill battle, but many defendants fare better in state cases than federal cases for the most part. In addition, many charges can be both state and federal, leaving the agencies to determine which would be the best level to prosecute. Regardless of the government agency filing the charges, it is always vital to have an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Philadelphia representing the case for a reasonable outcome.
State and federal charges both follow the same format in general. They begin with arraignment followed by a hearing to discuss the nature of the charges and evidence discovery. Rules regarding evidence acquisition with respect to search and seizure and standard of proof are the same, but the procedures are not always consistent. Jury selection for a trial is also very similar when a defendant wants to use their full rights to criminal defense. Each case is unique in some way, but the basic prosecution methods are set by constitutional standard on both levels.
The primary difference in the level of charges is how conviction and punishment are handled. Sentencing guidelines differ for state and federal courts, with states having the authority to implement probation and parole policy independently. Punishment schedules are also much more stringent in federal cases, and actual incarceration is served in a federal facility instead of being housed in the state system. Federal cases will commonly require interstate activity for both levels, and the seriousness of the activity can determine if the defendant is prosecuted federally or within the state jurisdiction. Many laws overlap according to the codes, and double jeopardy could be a problem for prosecutors if they do not work together ensuring the case is valid and evidence is admissible.
A major difference in federal cases is that the federal parole board handles all activity regarding prisoner release. States have the authority to handle their own parole and probation status for each defendant, and many times it is much easier to receive probation within the state system. Federal prisoners must typically serve more time before being considered for parole, then being evaluated every 18-24 months. Probation could be available, but only based on the seriousness of the crime. Given that federal charges are almost always more serious than state charges, receiving a probationary sentence is rare in the federal court system although it can happen.
Another major difference in the two levels of government is that all attorneys are licensed in the state in which they practice, but defendants must have a federally authorized attorney when defending federal charges. Federal defendants in Pennsylvania should always contact the legal professionals at Brennan Law Offices for comprehensive criminal defense in Philadelphia.