Federal Criminal Cases vs. State Criminal Cases

Last updated on May 23, 2023

What Is The Difference Between Being Charged With A Federal Crime As Opposed To A State Crime?

The penalties and possible sentences for federal crimes are much more severe than what one will typically face under state law. Federal law also has significantly different legal procedures and one needs an experienced federal criminal defense attorney who has experience in federal court to navigate this complicated system.

Difference Between Federal and State Prison

Federal prisons, run by the federal government, are facilities that confine individuals convicted of breaching federal laws. These are the places where those individuals who have committed or stand accused of federal crimes serve their sentences. Federal crimes often involve activities that cross state lines, offenses against government personnel, agencies, or establishments, and white-collar crimes such as money laundering, racketeering, and fraud.

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On the other hand, state prisons, managed by state governments, detain individuals who have been convicted of contravening state laws. These institutions are for those who have been accused or convicted of state law violations, typically offenses committed within a single state and dealt with by state law enforcement agencies. Example of crimes that could lead to incarceration in state prisons encompass offenses like murder, rape, and firearms-related violations.

Here are a few additional points of distinction between state and federal prisons:

  • There are more state prisons than there are federal prisons.
  • Those convicted of violent crimes are more likely to be found in state prisons.
  • Federal prisons are generally perceived as safer and usually house inmates who are considered less violent and dangerous.
  • State prisons are often seen as less secure than federal prisons due to having a larger population of violent offenders and may have less funding than federally funded prisons.

Federal and state prisons in New York differ in terms of jurisdiction, types of crimes handled, sentencing lengths, and facilities and resources. Furthermore, the federal system abolished parole, while many state systems still have active parole systems. Recognizing these differences emphasizes the distinct roles and functions of federal and state prisons within the criminal justice system.

Differences Between Federal and State Prison Details
Authority Federal prisons are managed by the federal government, while state prisons are managed by state governments.
Jurisdiction Federal prisons enforce federal laws, whereas state prisons enforce state laws.
Types of Crimes Federal prisons confine individuals convicted of breaching federal laws, such as offenses crossing state lines or white-collar crimes. State prisons detain individuals convicted of contravening state laws, like murder, rape, or firearms-related violations.
Population Federal prisons generally house inmates who are considered less violent and dangerous compared to state prisons, which often have a larger population of violent offenders.
Safety Perception Federal prisons are generally perceived as safer, while state prisons may be perceived as less secure due to a higher number of violent offenders.
Funding Federal prisons are federally funded, while state prisons are funded by state governments.
Parole System The federal system abolished parole, whereas many state systems still have active parole systems.

What Happens After I Have Been Arrested And Charged With A Federal Crime?

Very often, when someone is arrested in federal court, it is the result of a federal agent having secured an arrest warrant and made the arrest pursuant to that warrant. This is unlike most state arrests where the officer will arrest someone after observing them commit a crime. Once someone is arrested in the federal system, that defendant has to be brought before a magistrate judge without unnecessary delay. Once at the federal courthouse, the arresting agents bring the defendant to the U.S. Marshals Service and the deputy marshals will allow the individual to speak to their attorney if they already have one.

A pretrial services officer will speak to the defendant prior to the defendant’s appearance in court and that officer prepares a report which includes a bail recommendation. The report is made available to defense counsel in the courtroom. Once in the courtroom, the defendant and their attorney will review the complaint and the pretrial services report. The defendant is advised of what the charges are against them but they do not enter a plea at this time and bail conditions are set. The final matter that arises during this first court appearance is the question of scheduling what’s called a “preliminary hearing” or a “probable cause determination.” The defendant is entitled to this hearing and it has to be held within 14 days of the defendant going into custody and or within 20 days if the magistrate judge releases the defendant.

Should I Try To Work With Federal Authorities In My Federal Criminal Case?

Whether it be in federal court or state court, you should only be speaking to the authorities with your attorney involved every step of the way. It’s a very fact-specific determination whether or not you should try to work with the authorities in your case. Under the right circumstances, cooperating with the authorities can be to person’s advantage. If one eventually pleads guilty to a federal crime, one of the things considered at sentencing is any cooperation that the defendant has provided to the government.

How Do Sentencing Guidelines Work In Federal Court? Am I Ever Eligible For Probation?

The Federal Sentencing Guidelines are extremely complex and arcane. They are probably the single biggest difference between practicing in state court and federal court. They are one of the biggest reasons why one needs an experienced federal criminal practitioner who fully understands how these guidelines work. Entire books and manuals are published on how to interpret the guidelines. A federal judge is not strictly bound by the guidelines but does take them into account at sentencing. In terms of probation, it’s less common in federal court than it is in a state court but, for certain offenses, probation can be available.

Why Do I Need An Attorney Who Specifically Handles Federal Criminal Cases?

One would be mistaken if they believed that the practice of criminal law is the same at the State and Federal levels. At the Federal level, law enforcement are generally better trained, better funded, and when they bring charges, they have already been observing the individual and building their case for a period of time. There are important differences in the legal procedures in Federal Court with which a lawyer who has only practiced in state court may not be familiar. In addition, the Federal Sentencing Guidelines are very complex and are very difficult to interpret without experience. The federal criminal justice system entails much longer sentences and you need an attorney who has experience in this area and is ready to take on the federal government on your behalf.

For more information on Federal Criminal Cases In New York, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (631) 259-6060 today.

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