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Federal Crimes vs. State Crimes

Criminal prosecutions are brought in a variety of jurisdictions: municipal court, county court, state court and federal court.

State court prosecutions are for violations of common crimes such as burglary, robbery, assaults, sex offenses and thefts. Federal prosecutions are for violations of crimes which have been declared by Congress to be federal in nature. These crimes include violations of the tax laws, drug/controlled substances laws, frauds (mail or wire fraud for example), bank robbery, etc. There are many laws which can be prosecuted in either State or Federal court. For example, the robbery of a liquor store can be prosecuted in either state or federal court. For the federal court, there must be an interstate commerce connection. The liquor store owner buys his inventory and it is shipped in interstate commerce. This is enough to grant federal jurisdiction to prosecute the simple liquor store robbery.

Drugs/controlled substances is another area which can be prosecuted in either state or federal court. However, the federal court usually will not bother unless the number of drugs/controlled substances involved reaches multi-kilo amounts or there is a drug trafficking organization involved, such as a cartel.

The federal government has also jurisdiction over the following criminal offenses:

  1. Any crime which occurs on federal land or involves federal authorities, such as homicide in a national forest or on an Indian reservation, a theft in a federal bank, or an assault against Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officer.
  2. A crime where the offender crosses state lines, such as an individual who takes a kidnapping victim from Colorado to California.
  3. A crime where the criminal conduct crosses state lines, such as trafficking drugs throughout multiple states.
  4. Immigration and customs violations, such as international human trafficking or importing child pornography.

In federal and state prosecutions, federal judges are appointed for life by the U.S. president, while state court judges are appointed by the governor and are subject to re-election. Federal crimes are prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys and investigated by federal authorities, such as the DEA, ATF or FBI. State crimes are investigated by county sheriffs, state agencies, or local law enforcement, and prosecuted by state district attorneys or city attorneys.

If you are under investigation or charged for a violation of a federal offense in Colorado, contact the Law Offices of David L. Owen, Jr., P.C. and schedule a free consultation with our federal criminal defense lawyer today.