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Federal Crimes: How They're Different From State Crimes


When it comes to criminal law, most illegal offenses under state law are also illegal under federal law. More often than not, the state will hold jurisdiction over prosecuting a defendant and, if convicted, their punishment. There are certain circumstances, however, when the federal government may take control of criminal investigations, prosecution, and punishment. These cases are generally more serious in nature than common state crimes, and they can pose very serious penalties. The manner in which they are handled also differs from the state’s process.

The federal criminal justice system may hold jurisdiction over certain types of offenses. For the most part, these include crimes committed against the U.S. government (such as fraud against a federal agency), crimes committed in multiple states or across national borders, and crimes that occur on state property.

Statistics from the Federal Bureau of Prisons illustrate the most common types of crimes in the federal criminal justice system. These include:

The procedures involved in federal criminal justice are quite different from those in the state. From investigation and indictment to pre-trial, sentencing, and supervision, there are a number of different rules and protocol. Additionally, government agencies that investigate suspects for federal crimes – including the FBI, DEA, IRS, SEC, and Secret Service – have extensive resources they utilize in building cases against a defendant. A United States Attorney, who works for the U.S. Department of Justice, rather and a state or district attorney, will prosecute defendants most often for offenses that are illegal under Title 18 of the U.S. Code, rather than a state’s criminal code.

Federal cases have gained notoriety for resulting in harsh penalties. In fact, some federal crimes pose mandatory minimum sentences. Most mandatory minimums affect drug crimes, although they can also be present in certain gun, pornography, and financial offenses. Additionally, judges use federal sentencing guidelines to determine a sentence for a particular offense and individual. Guideline sentences are advisory, but they can be very severe.

Because federal criminal cases are very different from state cases, and because the stakes are high, it’s crucially important to work with attorneys who have verified experience handling federal charges. Additionally, lawyers need to be admitted to practice in federal courts – and not all attorneys are.

At The Hammer Law Firm, LLC, Attorneys Mark Hammer and Nicole Chiravollatti are former prosecutors who zealously defend clients charged with a wide range of federal crimes. Attorney Mark Hammer has also honed his experience practicing in federal courts across the country, including the U.S. District Court for the Eastern and Western District of Missouri, as well as the U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th and 9th Circuit.

If you or someone you love is currently being investigated for a federal crime, or have already been charged, we encourage you to reach out to our firm as soon as possible. Our legal team is available to help you understand what lies ahead, and how we can help defend your rights and future. Contact us today to discuss your case during a FREE and confidential consultation.

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