If you are charged with a crime in Pennsylvania, you will most likely face charges in state court. There are some exceptions where you may be federally charged for criminal offenses.
Most criminal laws are in the province of the state legislatures, which is why they are prosecuted at the state level. Other offenses, such as those that involve interstate commerce or take place on federal lands, could be prosecuted on a federal level.
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What Happens with Federal Criminal Charges?
For a federal criminal charge, your offense must be part of a federal issue. An example is if you face state charges for dealing drugs that you brought into Pennsylvania from a different state or country.
Federal criminal charges are also imposed for some white-collar crimes. These may include tax fraud, mail fraud, or wire fraud. Additionally, crimes committed on federal property, such as a U.S. Post Office or a military base, will mean you will face criminal charges on the federal level.
Certain criminal offenses will only be considered state criminal charges or federal criminal charges, but for some, you could be charged under both state and federal laws.
What You Need to Know About Federal Jurisdiction
Criminal offenses prosecuted at the state level typically include arson, robbery, theft, and murder. The state of Pennsylvania has the power to decide these cases.
With federal criminal offenses, there are fewer types because federal legislators may only pass laws that deal with something of national or federal interest. This is why counterfeiting is considered a federal crime rather than a state criminal charge.
What is the Difference Between State And Federal Court?
There are many differences between state and federal courts. State court judges must be re-elected to keep serving, while the U.S. President appoints federal judges to serve in their positions for life. Additionally, federal criminal charges bypass the local police force and are investigated by federal agents from agencies such as the FBI, DEA, ICE, or ATF.
By contrast, if you commit a state criminal offense, you will be investigated by the local police or state agents. If prosecuted for your charge, it will be by the city attorneys or state district attorneys.
Is It Possible to Be Prosecuted in Both State and Federal Court?
Yes, there are some cases that can be filed in both state and federal court simultaneously. Many people find this confusing because of the Double Jeopardy Clause found in the U.S. Constitution.
While this clause prohibits someone from being tried twice for the same offense, it also contains an exception. The exceptions states that a person can be tried in both state and federal courts for the same crime since these governments are separate.
In some states, the laws prohibit people from being prosecuted in both courts. For Pennsylvania, under 18 Pa. C.S. § 111, you cannot be prosecuted in state court after having already been prosecuted in federal court for the same crime. However, it’s not completely cut and dry. The federal system does not include the same type of protection, which means federal prosecutors may prosecute someone who was charged in state court for the same crime. Typically, the prosecutors of Pennsylvania will dismiss the state charges if you are charged federally.
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State Criminal Charges vs Federal Criminal Charges
Generally speaking, federal penalties will be more severe than any imposed by the state. Federal judges must follow federal sentencing guidelines when they sentence the defendants.
With federal criminal charges, you can expect to face longer penalties, and if you are convicted, you will be sentenced to federal prison. Those convicted of state criminal charges will be sentenced to state prison.
According to Media Criminal Defense Lawyers Giribaldi & Manaras, you should work with an experienced attorney for the best possible outcome of your criminal case.