How is a Federal Crime Different from a State Crime?
State crimes are crimes that break state law, and federal crimes are crimes that the United States Government has specifically designated as federal crimes. Federal law has priority over state laws; however, the great majority of criminal trials involve state prosecutions for violations of state law.
If you or a loved one was involved in any of these matters, you should contact our Criminal Defense Attorney for a free case evaluation. You may be entitled to a settlement by filing a suit and we can help.
What are Some of the Most Common Federal Crimes?
Some common examples of federal crimes include:
- Treason - As stated in Title 18 U.S. Code § 2381, treason is defined as "levying war against the United States, or adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort." While rarely charged, treason is one of the most severe crimes committed against the U.S., carrying a minimum prison sentence of 5 years, fines up to $10,000, and a potential death sentence.
- Counterfeiting - The fraudulent copy of money, documents, designer pieces, or other valuable items. 18 U.S. Code § 471 is a federal statute that states that an individual can be fined and/or imprisoned for up to 20 years if they counterfeit a U.S. security with intent to defraud. States have their own laws for the possession of counterfeit items.
- Drug trafficking - The illegal transporting of or transacting of controlled substances. Under federal law, Title 21, Section 841 makes it unlawful for any person to knowingly or intentionally “manufacture, distribute, or dispense, or possess with intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense a controlled substance.”
- Violations of Securities Laws - Each year, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) files hundreds of civil enforcement actions against individuals and companies which break securities laws. Typical infractions that occur include insider trading, accounting fraud, and providing false or misleading information regarding securities and companies which issue them. Violations of securities laws are serious crimes that may result in incarceration and/or substantial criminal fines.
- Violations of Interstate Commerce - 18 U.S. Code § 1951 states that "Whoever in any way or degree obstructs, delays, or affects commerce or the movement of any article or commodity in commerce, by robbery or extortion or attempts or conspires so to do, or commits or threatens physical violence to any person or property in furtherance of a plan or purpose to do anything in violation of this section shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both."
Related Article: Consecutive vs. Concurrent Sentences
Penalties for State and Federal Crimes
Penalties for state and federal crimes can vary. Most federal judges follow federal sentencing guidelines when it comes to handing down a sentence to a defendant. In general, federal penalties are more severe than state penalties, even for comparable crimes.
Persons who are convicted of a federal crime and receive a prison sentence serve their time in federal prison. Persons convicted of a state or local crime may serve time in state prisons or local jails.
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If you or a loved one was involved with any of these matters, you should contact our law firm immediately for a free case evaluation. You may be entitled to a settlement by filing a suit and we can help.