Differences between Federal and State CrimesExperienced Tennessee criminal defense lawyers represent defendants at both the federal level and the state law. Many of the strategies and defenses that apply at the federal level apply at the state level and vice-versa. For example, defendants can argue that their 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination, or their 4th Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures were violated, in both federal and state courts.

There are key distinctions, however. There are federal statutes that define federal crimes and Tennessee laws that define Tennessee state crimes. There are different rules of criminal procedure and rules of evidence. It’s crucial to know the differences so the best possible defense can be presented.

The federal government can punish criminal activity that affects interstate commerce, and therefore drug trafficking and wire fraud can fall under federal jurisdiction.

Crimes are generally categorized as federal crimes if they occur on federal owned lands such as national parks, federal government properties, Indian reservations, and the District of Columbia.

Crimes that involve federal organizations or agencies are also federal crime. Federal crimes are generally brought by the U.S. Department of Justice. Common federal offenses include trafficking, white-collar crimes, Internet and computer crimes, crimes involving weapons, and crimes involving foreign nations or entities. Many federal crimes involve the FBI, the DEA, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms – even the US Postal system.

State crimes usually involve crimes where the alleged criminal conduct happened in one state. State crimes include many different statutes that are designed to protect the person and their property. Common state crimes include homicide, assaults, robbery, sex crimes, burglary, and theft.

The federal vs. state process

Federal crimes are tried in federal courts before federal judges. The cases are tried by federal prosecutors. State crimes are heard in local state courts. Local district attorneys try the cases before state court judges.  In federal court the jurors will come from various counties in the United States Court’s District, while in State court the jurors will be from the county in which the crime is being prosecuted.

The rules for bringing an indictment, handling bail and preliminary hearings, obtaining discovery, trying the case, and handling appeals are different in federal courts than state courts. The rules for what evidence can be presented and how it can be presented also differ between the two court systems.

Significantly, the penalties for crimes differ. Federal penalties are generally more severe than convictions for state crimes. There are federal prisons for offenders of federal crimes and state courts for those convicted of state crimes.

Cross-over issues

Some crimes can result in federal and state charges. In these cases, questions often arise regarding whether both cases can proceed and, if so, which case should be tried first. Normally, the federal case is tried first. However, because federal and state courts have what’s called concurrent jurisdiction it is not a violation of double jeopardy to be prosecuted for the same criminal activity in both courts.

Defendants need experienced lawyers when their lives, liberties, and freedoms are on the line. The Sevierville criminal defense attorneys at Delius & McKenzie, PLLC understand how to defend against federal and state criminal charges. We have been fighting for the accused for 25 years. We work to obtain acquittals, to have charges dismissed, and to negotiate fair plea bargains. For aggressive defense help, please call us at (865) 428-8780 or use our contact form to schedule an appointment. We fight for defendants who live in Sevierville, Seymour, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Greenville and the Tri-Cities areas.