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Is it a federal or state crime?

Updated: Dec 17, 2019

If someone you know has been arrested, it's important to know their rights. To start, find out if the charges fall under state law or federal law. The answer will affect everything related to the charges, from which court the case will be tried in to which prison they'll be sent to if convicted.


Federal Crimes Several types of crime fall under federal jurisdiction, including identity theft, credit card and debit card fraud, computer fraud, hate crimes and drug trafficking crimes. According to the U.S. Constitution's Supremacy Clause, if a federal law and state law contradict each other, federal law takes precedence.


Agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service and the Drug Enforcement Agency investigate federal crimes. If you're charged with a federal crime, your case will be prosecuted by a U.S. attorney in a federal court, and if you're convicted, you will complete your sentence in a federal prison.


State Crimes Criminal laws vary from state to state, but many crimes will end up falling under state jurisdiction. If you are charged with a homicide, robbery, grand theft or assault and battery, you will more than likely be tried under state law. A state or district attorney will prosecute the case, and you will do your time in a state prison if convicted.


Whether you or a loved one has been charged with a state or federal crime, the first step is to reach out for professional legal assistance to help you navigate the complex court process.

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