Federal and State Charges

Trevena, Pontrello and Associates

What is the Difference Between Federal and State Criminal Charges?

Every state in the United States has its own set of rules it requires each resident to abide by. These rules, which we refer to as laws, carry penalties, or punishments when they are broken. Essentially what this means is that the rules or laws laid out in one state might vary in another. For example, while some states allow marijuana to be consumed for recreational purposes, others prohibit it.

In addition to state laws, we also have federal laws. Federal laws not only apply to a single state but instead, the entire United States. These laws are “bills that have passed both houses of Congress, been signed by the president, passed over the president’s veto, or allowed to become law without the president’s signature.” These laws, when violated, also carry penalties.

If you or someone you know has violated a state or federal law and are now facing criminal charges, the Pinellas County, Florida criminal defense attorneys at  Trevena, Pontrello and Associates are here to help you understand the charges that have been brought against you. 

Identifying the Difference Between State and Federal Charges

To help you better understand the difference between state and federal charges, we have outlined some helpful information for you below.

State Criminal Charges

When a state law is broken, a person is said to have committed a state crime. State crime cases are heard by a state court trial judge, which often carry different titles and these cases are investigated by county sheriffs, state agents, or local police agencies. Some examples of state crimes include:

  • Assault
  • Kidnapping
  • Robbery
  • Sexual battery
  • Driving under the influence (DUI)
  • Murder
  • Theft

When a state law is violated, a case will be brought by a prosecutor or district attorney. Anytime an individual is charged with a state crime, they should retain a criminal defense lawyer in Pinellas County to ensure the charges filed against them are fair. 

Federal Criminal Charges

Federal criminal charges differ from state criminal charges as they are brought by United States Attorneys. When a person is accused of committing a federal crime, one or more of the following agencies may take part in an investigation:

Essentially, “federal courts have jurisdiction over constitutional matters or federal laws passed by Congress.” Cases stemming from federal criminal charges are tried in a United States District Court and are assigned to a district court judge. There are 94 district courts in the U.S. which includes the District of Columbia and territories [Source: United States Courts]. Many states may have more than one district court so the venue in which a person’s case will be held depends on where they live in the state or where the charges were filed. There may also be several courthouse locations within each district.

Some of the crimes that would be classified as a federal crime are listed down below:

  • Crimes that involve narcotics
  • Bank robbery
  • Fraudulent activity that affects interstate commerce
  • Wire fraud
  • Mail fraud
  • Tax fraud
  • Any crime in which the United States is defrauded
  • Gun crimes
  • Environmental crimes
  • Civil rights violations

Important: Depending on the type of crime that was committed, it may violate both state and federal laws. When this happens, the Department of Justice (DOJ) says that the local U.S. Attorney’s Office will work closely with the state and local law enforcement officials to determine whether a case should be brought in a state or federal court. There are times when federal and state laws may overlap which could result in both federal and state prosecutors pursuing the case. 

I was charged with a criminal offense in Pinellas County, Florida? Do I need to hire a criminal defense attorney? 

Regardless of whether the crime is classified as a state crime or a federal crime, you are going to want to retain a lawyer as soon as possible. Each crime you have been charged with carries a list of punishments, and you can count on the prosecutor or attorney’s office who filed the charges to push for the maximum penalties to be imposed. Therefore, if you want to stand a chance at getting your charges reduced so that the penalties aren’t quite as severe or you believe you are innocent, you will need an experienced Pinellas County, FL criminal defense lawyer defending you.

To learn more about how a criminal defense attorney can help you fight your state or federal criminal charges, contact Trevena, Pontrello & Associates today.

With its office based in Largo Florida, Trevena, Pontrello and Associates primarily practices in Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Pasco County, and throughout the state of Florida.

Trevena, Pontrello and Associates is located at:

801 W Bay Drive, Suite 509

Largo, FL 33770

Phone: 727-581-5813

Website: www.trevenapontrellolaw.com