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The differences between being charged at the state vs. at the federal level

Legal jurisdictions are complicated and overlapping, and that can create questions about whether a crime should be charged at a state level or a federal level.

Processes, guidelines, procedures and sentencing, are very different depending on the court system.  That’s why in Denver if you’re charged with a crime at a federal level, it’s imperative that you retain an attorney who is skilled and experienced in handling federal defense cases.

Typically, if a crime happens in a single state, it is considered a state level crime unless it is expressly named as a federal crime.  However, if a crime takes place in many different states, or crosses state lines, or happens on federal property, it will be considered a federal level crime.

In cases where a defendant may be charged with either a state or a federal crime, a “Supremacy Clause” comes into play which states that the federal law will have sway over the state law.  This happens on a fairly regular basis.

Why is it important to determine if a case is a state level crime or a federal level crime?  One of the main reasons is complexity.  Federal level criminal charges are much more in depth, will take longer due to the need to gather more evidence and develop the prosecution’s case.  For a defendant, the costs will be much higher.  Penalties upon conviction are also different at a federal level.  Federal judges use the Federal Sentencing Guidelines to help them calculate penalties for crimes such as kidnapping, IRS fraud, drug trafficking, counterfeiting and immigration offenses.

When seeking representation, it’s important to take note of whether or not an attorney has experience at the federal level and also what kind of cases they have dealt with in the past.  Understanding that the rules and procedures are much different at the state vs. the federal level is one of the most important considerations you need to account for as part of any defense.
Newell & Decker serves clients in Denver and nearby Colorado communities.

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