What are the Differences Beteween Federal and State Crimes?
We often hear people say things that indicate that they did not know that there was a difference between the federal criminal system and the state criminal system where they live. We hear things such as "I may have committed several state crimes but this is my first time in the federal system" or "my crime was first prosecuted in the state courts and then it got dismissed and I was federally indicted" or I never spent time in state prison for these crimes but when I was recently indicted by federal authorities I got enhanced for my priors" or "I didn't think that violent crimes were charged federally, only things like white collar crime or insider trading."
While many might know that there are differences between state crimes and federal crimes, they might not know what those differences are until they find themselves facing federal charges in federal courts.
There are a number of key differences between state crimes and federal crimes.
What is the difference between Federal crimes and state crimes?
Federal crimes are offenses that have been specifically enumerated by congress in the United States Code. Federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction over these violations, and they are typically prosecuted by the United States Attorney's Office in a given region or in some cases, an assistant Attorney General. Some examples of federal crimes include drug trafficking, money laundering, mail fraud, identity theft and tax evasion. Certain crimes that happen on an indian reservation can also be prosecuted federally.
The Federal Court System was established by the Constitution and consists of the Supreme Court, several lower courts, and various appellate courts. Federal criminal cases typically involve more than one state, so it makes sense for them to be tried in a federal court. Federal prosecutors also have more resources than state prosecutors, so they may be better equipped to bring those resources to bear against an accused person.
State crimes, on the other hand, are offenses that have been established by state legislatures. These crimes are typically prosecuted by district attorneys' offices. These laws cover a wide range of topics, from murder to theft to sexual abuse. State crimes are investigate by state and local police departments, and they are prosecuted in state court. In some cases, state crimes can also be prosecuted in federal court if they involve interstate commerce or other federal laws.
What are the Differences Between Federal Prosecutors and State Prosecutors?
Federal Prosecutors and State Prosecutors can be very different. Federal prosecutors work with the United States Attorneys in their area or the Attorney General's Office. All of these are part of the Department of Justice. Federal prosecutors handle cases that involve violations of federal law and usually have years of experience prosecuting cases in the state courts before moving to the United States Attorneys' Offices in their region. Federal prosecutors have power to take state cases that involve "interstate commerce" and re-indict them as federal cases in certain situations. Examples of this can include felon in possession of a weapon and certain drug cases.
State prosecutors handle cases that involve violations of state law. State prosecutors are hired by the district or county attorney in their region. Sometimes, the state prosecutors begin working with little to no prior prosecution experience or experience of any kind.
Federal courts are subject to harsh mandatory minimums
Federal courts are subject to harsh mandatory minimums, which dictate the minimum amount of time a person must spend in prison for certain crimes. These are prevalent in many different types of crimes, including drug offenses, certain sentencing enhancements for things like the Armed Career Criminal Act and weapons cases. These mandatory minimums have been criticized for being too harsh and inflexible, as they often result in lengthy prison sentences for non-violent offenders. In addition, federal courts are also bound by sentencing guidelines, which further restrict the discretion of judges when it comes to handing down sentences. This can often result in unfair and unjust outcomes, as judges are unable to take into account the unique circumstances of each case where mandatory minimums are involved.
There is no parole in the federal court system
There is no parole for federal prisoners. Once an individual is convicted of a federal crime, they will serve out most their sentence in a federal prison. There are a few exceptions to this rule, such as halfway house, home confinement and the FIRST STEP Act but for the most part, federal prisoners do not have the opportunity to be released early. This can be a difficult reality for federal prisoners, who often have to adjust to the long-term confinement and lack of hope for early release. However, federal prisons do offer some programs and services that can help federal prisoners make the most of their time in custody. For example, many federal prisons offer educational opportunities, job training programs, and substance abuse treatment. While federal prisoners may not have the chance to earn their freedom back through parole, they can still take advantage of these programs and services to improve their lives while in federal custody.
Whether a person receives parole in their state depends on the parole laws in their state, whether they have a crime that is ineligible for parole and the standards on how long an inmate must be imprisoned before they can receive parole in their state.
What are the differences in prison systems for those convicted of state crimes vs federal crimes ?
Persons who are found guilty by federal judges must serve their time in the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BoP). There are 122 prisons in the Federal system. Federal inmates may be sent anywhere in the country. While the FIRST STEP Act does provide that federal inmates must serve their sentence close to home, those provisions are subject to caveats like the safety and good working order of the prisons, making mandatory enforcement limited.
State prisons may be much more forgiving with their prison terms and distance to families.
In conclusion, there are several key differences between state crimes and federal crimes. Federal crimes are typically more serious in nature and are subject to harsher mandatory minimums and sentencing guidelines. In addition, there is no parole in the federal court system, which means that federal prisoners will serve out most of their sentence in a federal prison. State prisons, on the other hand, may be more forgiving with their prison terms and allow for inmates to serve their sentence closer to home. State prisons also usually offer more programs and services to help inmates improve their lives while in custody.