What is the Difference Between State and Federal Charges?
Interviewer: What about lower level cases? Let’s say I live in Missouri, and while driving to Kansas I get pulled over and arrested for DUI. Would something like that ever become a federal case?
Paul: That is very unlikely; only if you are unfortunately stopped on federal property. I represented an individual who got a DUI as he was driving to the veteran’s hospital to visit an aging relative. He had something to drink and he was stopped on the grounds. So that is a federal case because it is on federal property.
But, let’s consider your run of the mill DUI or someone stopped and found to have a personal use quantity of marijuana in the car. Those types of cases will always be prosecuted at the city, county or state level rather than the federal level.
Interviewer: What about Internet or phone related crimes? You are crossing state boundaries in a way, but in a way you are not. How is that viewed by authority?
Paul: Anytime someone in one jurisdiction is reaching out to someone in another jurisdiction, crossing state boundaries, the Federal Courts can claim jurisdiction.
Suppose someone is engaged in some type of online economic fraud, where they are advertising goods or services that they do not deliver. They are set up in Kansas City and have customers/victims from several different states.
This is the type of criminal activity that could be prosecuted at the federal level; as opposed to someone running the very same sort of fraudulent scam that is all concentrated in the same jurisdiction or same county.
For example, there was an individual charged not long ago with a substantial amount of money – tens of thousands of dollars – from several people after a strong summer hail storm. He collected all this money as down payment for roof repairs. Then, he disappeared. When he was ultimately found, he was prosecuted in the district court because all of his victims were in this jurisdiction, and all the criminal conduct – the advertising, the work orders, the payment of monies – all occurred here.
Interviewer: Does the federal government only want bigger crimes; and just let smaller ones go?
Paul: I think the United states Attorney’s Office tries to focus their resources on large scale crime with greater volume and crimes that affect more than one jurisdiction. I do not think they want to let lower level offenses go. However, oftentimes if we have a close or questionable case, the U.S. Attorney may say, “Well, we’ve staffed this case. We’ve reviewed the case, and we’ve concluded that this type of case is perfect for the county attorney to handle.”
Interviewer: So do they kick the case down to the county attorney?
Paul: Yes; they will refer prosecution to the county attorney in the jurisdiction where the offense occurred. The U.S. Attorney’s Office prefers to reserve their resources for the higher level, more complicated cases.
“The Importance of Aggressive Federal Criminal Defense”.
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