If you aren't 100% sure of the difference between state and federal crimes, join the club! A lot of people don't know the difference, but we assure you, they are not the same. Essentially, the United States has state crimes and federal crimes. In each state, the state legislature enacts its own laws that apply to that state only.
For example, South Carolina's statute for driving under the influence (DUI) will not be identical to California's DUI statute. Same goes for marijuana offenses – there are drastic variations from state-to-state. To illustrate: possessing a small amount of marijuana is legal in Colorado, but it's downright outlawed in Texas.
Federal crimes are enacted by Congress and they are illegal in all states. What's more, the penalties for federal crimes are the same, regardless of which state a person committed the crime in. So, if you're charged with identity theft on the federal level in Columbia, SC, you face the same penalties as a person who committed the same crime in Alaska.
Can a State Crime Be a Federal Crime?
In a word – yes. Some crimes are criminalized on the state and federal levels; drug trafficking, child pornography, identity theft, and many white collar and fraud-related crimes are illegal under both state and federal laws. Generally, the more serious the crime, the higher the chances of it being prosecuted in federal court instead of state court.
Surely, you're familiar with the Federal Bureau of Investigation or FBI, which happens to be the main federal agency in charge of investigating and prosecuting people who commit federal crimes. The FBI has entire task forces that investigate terrorism, cyber crime, identity theft, organized crime, white collar crime, public corruption, and fraud-related crimes. However, the FBI doesn't always work alone. It often works side-by-side the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and other local, state and federal agencies.
Federal Crimes Are Typically More Serious
As a general rule, federal offenses are more serious than similar, state-level crimes. Meaning, a conviction for a federal offense would incur harsher sentencing and fines than a similar, state-level crime. There are also noticeable differences between the state and federal prisons.
If you ask any convict who's "done time" in state and federal prison, they'll immediately state that federal prisons are "much nicer" than state prison. How come? The state prisons are the ones that house all of the rapists and murderers – the violent criminals. They also have lower security. In contrast, the federal prisons tend to house the college educated, white collar criminals who committed financially motivated offenses, as opposed to violent crimes.
Whether you're facing state or federal charges in Columbia, SC, you need a strong defense. Don't hesitate to contact Masella Law Firm, P.A. today!