State and federal convictions
As a Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyer, I am often asked about the difference between state and federal laws, and how it’s determined under which a client will be prosecuted. The truth is that this is not necessarily a simple question, but we have decided to put this short criminal defense blog out there with key points about the differences between state and federal convictions and how prosecutors decide to choose either path. The first thing to understand is that many crimes can be prosecuted under both federal and state laws. It will be up to the prosecuting attorney, however, to decide which way to prosecute the defense; and there are several pervading factors that will affect the prosecution’s decision either way. For the purposes of this article, we will explain the three main factors in choosing between state and federal court. The first is geography. If a case crosses state lines, such as an abduction between bordering states, the prosecution may decide to federally prosecute. Other crimes that cross state lines include drug trafficking, some white collar crimes, and even child pornography in some cases. To play on the first point, the second main determiner is the type of crime. In fact, some crimes may only go to trial in federal court. These crimes include offenses such as treason, espionage, tax evasion, and customs violations. Additionally, there are crimes that are almost always tried specifically at the state level. Examples of state prosecutions include crimes like assault and theft. The third main point for prosecutors to consider when deciding between a state and federal prosecution is the federal interest in the case. And sometimes, if the federal government believes it would be in the nation’s best interest, it is automatically considered a federal case. Some of the crimes that might be in the “federal interest” include mail fraud, organized or “mafia” crime, or financial crimes such as laundering and embezzlement on larger scales. If there is a choice to be made about where the case will be handled, state and federal law enforcement and prosecutors will decide. In some instances, a suspect can be tried in both courts. It is also important to know that once a decision is made on which court to bring the case, the decision is not up for appeal. If you have any more questions about the difference between state and federal prosecutions, please call The Law Offices of Gary E. Gerson today for a free preliminary consultation at (412) 281-3380 .