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Differences between state and federal criminal cases

On Behalf of | Jan 3, 2020 | Criminal defense |

Virginia authorities and federal authorities have different resources and processes when it comes to investigating, charging and convicting someone of a criminal offense.

According to the ABA Journal, state agencies are much less likely to have the resources to investigate a crime than federal agencies, and even among state and local agencies, resources vary widely.

A small town may employ only a handful of law enforcement officers, while a large city may have a large department with many experienced detectives to investigate crimes. Federal agencies such as the FBI or the IRS have the resources to conduct in-depth investigations lasting months and may call on other federal, state or local authorities for assistance, as well.

When it comes to trying cases, federal and state courts may differ, too, FindLaw explains. Jurisdiction is the primary difference, as state judges are likely to try cases involving state law violations. For example, a defendant is likely to face a state prosecutor in a robbery case or for a traffic violation because these are state-level offenses. Federal judges may try cases involving the following:

  • Offenses against the United States
  • Offenses committed on federal property
  • Drug trafficking crimes
  • Constitutional violations or federal offenses
  • Interstate disputes that involve amounts greater than $75,000
  • Bankruptcy, intellectual property or maritime law

A case with state jurisdiction may end up in federal court if the defendant feels that the law violates a constitutional right, but otherwise, a person facing state-level charges will face a state judge.

There are about 30 million state cases filed each year, and around 1 million federal cases.